What’s in Fragrance and Parfum

what's in fragrance parfum

HINT: Mountain air and meadow flowers are not actually used in your air freshener.

We’ve been sold on the idea of a clean smell. So we use air fresheners, room sprays, plug-ins, candles and dryer sheets to add fragrance to our home. But the ingredients used to create those “Mountain Fresh”, “Spring Meadow”, and “Lavender Vanilla” scents are not as natural as their names imply. Instead, conventional fragrances are created with synthetic chemicals, some of which are known or suspected carcinogens, hormone disrupters, and asthma or allergy-inducing chemicals.

Commercials even suggest that we can leave a month’s worth of take-out containers and old gym bags in a car – but it’s OK, because there’s a product that can cover up the smell. How did we get to a place where this sounds reasonable?!

What We Know

I tried to find what ingredients make up a “fragrance” or “parfum” in common household products. On Proctor and Gamble’s website (manufacturer of products such as Swiffer, Pampers, and Tide), there’s a document with 19 pages of chemical names that are used as potential fragrance ingredients. Spot checking this list, I found hormone disruptors, potential carcinogens, and allergens.

While present in small quantities, chemical fragrance often includes phthalates to help make them last longer and dissipate the scent into the air. Phthalates are a group of chemicals also found in PVC (like shower curtains and medical tubing) and some soft plastic children’s toys. In high doses, phthalates have been found to cause cancer and fertility problems in animal studies. The Canadian Cancer Society also reports a connection with hormone disruption.

In addition, synthetic musk compounds, which are found in fragrances of common household items, are persistent environmental toxins (classified by Environment Canada), and are showing up in fish and sediments in the Great Lakes.

To make things more complex, “scent-free” or “sensitive skin” on a product doesn’t necessarily mean it’s free from fragrance. Because of the other chemicals in conventional products, some fragrance is needed so the product smells scent-free. Note that essential oils are commonly used in “natural” and DIY recipes. These are more natural than chemical fragrance ingredients, but can also trigger allergies. Consider foregoing them too, or choose high quality organic brands and always test them first for allergies and sensitivities.

What We Don’t Know

According to Ecoholic’s Adria Vasil, of the 80,000 chemicals on the market for personal care products, only 7% have received toxicological testing. Obviously no company wants to release a product that causes noticeable reactions or harm, but there are less obvious impacts that take more time to show up.

Very little is known about how these chemicals interact with each other. But scientists are finding that, especially with hormone disrupting chemicals, even the low doses in our household products are enough to cause health concerns. We also often don’t learn of ecological impacts until it’s too late (like triclosan and microbeads).

What You Can Do

Many employers are starting to adopt a scent-free policy to promote a healthier work environment and help those with allergies. Even if you don’t have known allergies, consider doing the same in your home to help avoid the potential problems with chemical fragrances. Help reduce your exposure to potentially harmful chemicals by avoiding any product with undisclosed fragrance ingredients. These can be hiding in air fresheners (sprays, plugins, and candles), personal care products, cleaners, and laundry detergent. Train yourself to read labels – look on all sides of the package and go beyond the marketing hype.

 

Have you gone scent-free? What have been your challenges or wins?

Post a comment


Many "Green Cleaners" actually contain toxic ingredients that you won't find on the label.
This quick guide spills the details on popular brands like Method, Live Clean, Green Works, Ecover, and more...

Environmental Engineer and mom, Emma Rohmann from Green at Home tells you how healthy 11 "green" brands really are.
INSTANT ACCESS
By signing up, you agree to receive emails from Green at Home to help you detox your home for your health, simply. If you only wish to see the Cleaners List and don't want any other awesome info and support, ask me for it here
close-link
This list of products may surprise you!
So many popular brands misuse terms like "natural", "green", and "organic". 
Stop wasting your money on greenwashing.
Find out whether brands like Live Clean, Green Works, Seventh Generation,
and 9 other popular brands contain harmful ingredients in this free download.

Grab the list here:
Get the Green Cleaners Product List Now
close-link
Send me my free patient/client downloads on toxins at home!
By signing up, you agree to receive emails from Green at Home with free resources, the latest reserach, and special promotions.
You may unsubscribe at any time.
close-link
Do you want great healthy home tips like this delivered to your inbox?
Join our community now!
Yes! I want to create a healthier home, stress-free.
By signing up, you agree to receive emails from Green at Home. You may unsubscribe at any time.
close-link
Are your body and skincare products as healthy as you think?
So many popular brands misuse terms like "natural", "green", and "organic". 
Stop wasting your money on greenwashing.
Find out whether brands like Lush, Live Clean, Arbonne,
and 30+ other popular brands contain harmful ingredients in this free download.

Grab the list here:
Grab Your Healthy Body Care Product List Here
close-link
Yes! Tell me when I can grab my spot in the program!
By signing up, you agree to receive emails from Green at Home featuring free resources, content, and promotions. You may unsubscribe at any time.
close-link
Which cleaners are actually healthy?
Send me the list
Get the real scoop on popular brands
By signing up you agree to receive emails from me full of great home detox tips.
If you only want to receive the cleaners list and don't want any more emails, ask here for it  here.
close-image
Grab your 'Top 5 Air Purifier Guide' Now
Yes please!
close-image