By Kevin Onuma
InformAfrica – Africans, did you know perfume and cologne could be hazardous to health? I had to blog about this because I’ve noticed many Africans, especially our women, do not step out of their homes without smelling good – thereby spraying their body or clothes with synthetic perfumes. Well, allow me to inform you why perfumes could be a health risk to you and those around you, while suggesting alternatives.
First of all, Africans ought to cultivate the habit of not consuming things they have no clue what it contains or no information about the source. Perfumes and colognes are one of those products that manufacturers are not required to list its ingredients on the labels, neither do they have to reveal the specific ingredients that qualify as “fragrance” to regulating authorities because they are protected under “trade secrets” laws.
A loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 explicitly excludes fragrances from needing to list their ingredients as part of keeping their “trade secrets.”
Side Effects of Perfume
According to reports, an independent laboratory in Califotnia, Analytical Sciences, tested 17 popular fragrances, including Coco Chanel and Armani Acqua Di Gio, and found 40 chemicals in the products – but 38 of those chemical ingredients were not listed on the label. They discovered some of those chemicals are linked to hormone disruption and allergic reaction, like diethyl phthalate, a chemical that has been linked to sperm damage and many other scary side effects.
Searching through the web I found that some of the most common chemicals in perfumes and colognes are ethanol, acetaldehyde, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, a-pinene, acetone, benzyl alcohol, ethyl acetate, linalool, a-terpinene, methylene chloride, styrene oxide, dimenthyl sulphate, a-terpineol, camphor, and limonene. Some of these chemicals cause irritability, mental vagueness, muscle pain, asthma, bloating, joint aches, sinus pain, fatigue, sore throat, eye irritation, gastrointestinal problems, laryngitis, headaches, dizziness, swollen lymph nodes, spikes in blood pressure, coughing, and burning or itching skin irritations.
All the toxic fragrance chemicals mentioned above can enter the body through inhalation and ingestion through the nose and mouth, and absorption through the skin. Once in the body they are absorbed into the bloodstream and transported throughout the body. With the use of common sense you can imagine what the outcome of all those toxic chemicals in the body would be – in the long term.
FYI: Cologne aka Eau de Cologne is a popular perfume originating from Cologne, Germany that has since become a generic term for scented fragrances in many places. This is why am using the term interchangeably with perfume in this article.
In a 1997 article titled “Sweet Poison: What Your Nose Can’t Tell You About The Dangers of Perfume” and published by Health & Environment Resource Center, Andrea DesJardins reported the love of fragrance has allowed advertisers to reach their audience by linking fragrance with a desired quality such as ‘sexiness,’ or ‘freshness,’ or ‘innocence.’ This message is so pervasive that many men and women feel it necessary to wear a fragrance in order to be desirable or feel sexy.
She also mentioned advertisers and marketers also know that there is a very powerful connection between scent and memory, as well as scent and emotion, and they use this frequently in their promotions. The result is that fragrance is considered a ‘normal’ component of our everyday lives.
One of the widely used chemicals in perfumes ‘acetaldehyde’ have already been linked to cancer. In animal studies, it crosses the placenta to a fetus. The chemical industry’s own Toxic Data Safety Sheets list headaches, tremors, convulsions, and even death as a possible effect of exposure to acetonitrile, another common fragrance ingredient. In animal studies, styrene oxide causes depression. Toluene (also known as methyl benzene) is a well known neurotoxin that can cause loss of muscle control, brain damage, headaches, memory loss, and problems with speech, hearing, and vision. Musk tetralin (AETT) has been shown to cause brain cell and spinal cord degeneration.
Research confirms that many of the ingredients in fragrances are neurotoxins, meaning that they have poisonous effects on the brain and nervous system. Additional studies link other negative emotional, mental, and physical symptoms to various fragrance ingredients. Because of the strong connection between scent and memory, fragrance products can cross the blood brain barrier.
This means chemicals fragrance in perfumes and cologne have the potential to affect, and possibly damage brain tissue. This kind of effect is called ‘neurotoxicity.’ For example, Linalool, the most abundant chemical in perfume and fragrance products, is known to cause lethargy, depression, and life threatening respiratory effects.
Also, pregnant women should avoid the use of perfume and cologne. A recent study reported by BabyMed.com, cited a possible link between fetal male development and perfume usage during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. According to the study, male rats born to mothers who were exposed to perfume during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy were more apt to suffer from infertility or undescended testes. No human studies have been conducted to support this effect in human fetal development; however it is thought that the chemicals in perfume may block androgen release, which is crucial for the development of the male fertility system.
Perfume and Cologne Alternatives
In my opinion, the best and only alternative to perfume are fragrance from certain essential oils – it is that simple. Perfume are synthesized in an attempt to artificially duplicate natural fragrance from a specific plant. However, essential oils are extracted from the vital essence of aromatic plants either from the flowers, fruits, sap, and seeds as well as the bark, leaves, roots, resins of certain trees. Most essential oils naturally contains unique and various therapeutic properties that are beneficial to the health.
Some of the reasons why Africans, especially our women, wear perfume and cologne is to smell good and feel sexy; but of what benefit is that if it could be potentially detrimental to ones health and that of their loved ones or people around them? If anyone desires to smell good, it makes sense to seek natural alternatives such as essential oils which are even less expensive than perfumes or colognes. Africans in diaspora and at home, you have been informed why perfume could be hazardous to health, especially when used in excess. We are in the age of enlightenment. Spread the awareness, knowledge is power!
This informative article is filed under ‘Health‘ section of InformAfrica.
- Are chemicals in perfume and cologne harmful? -Mother Nature Network
- The Toxic Effects of Perfume – Care2 Healthy Living
- Sweet Poison: What Your Nose Can’t Tell You About The Dangers of Perfume – Health & Environment Resource Center