Perfumes and Health - Intolerance and Fragrance Allergies

We use perfumes in one form or another for thousands of years. Many cultures regard them as almost necessary in everyday socialization. As they are so omnipresent it is smart to ask ourselves do they influence us in any other way except social. Here are some health facts about perfumes and how they can affect us.

Picture Of Purple Perfume Bottle
  • Individuals that have severe or atopic asthma can get asthmatic reaction from perfumes that have certain types of fragrances.
  • Some fragrances can cause other symptoms like headaches, or nausea in some people.
  • Some chemicals used in perfumes under some circumstances can cause allergic skin reactions. Linalool, a naturally occurring terpene alcohol chemical found in many flowers and spice plants, irritates skin but only if not used with antioxidants or when its concentration is too high. Furanocoumarin, which is obtained from grapefruit or celery, can make skin very sensitive to sunlight.
  • Some ingredients in perfumes don't have fragrance but are used as scent enhancers. Phthalates is one of these substances and is often used because it is cheap. “European Commission on Endocrine Disruption” marked it “a Category 1 priority substance” because it can cause early puberty in girls, reduced sperm count in men, and reproductive defects in the developing male fetus.
  • Some statistics say that every tenth person has a chronic allergic reaction to perfumes. Many people have some, milder or stronger, allergic reaction to perfumes.
  • There are laws in the United States that say what can or cannot be used in perfumes but they are not enforced. Loopholes say that tens or even hundred chemicals can be listed as “fragrances” on bottles of perfumes without listing of these chemicals because they are considered “trade secrets”. So anything can be in them.
  • Different synthetic musk fragrances, which are a replacement for natural musk, were found that can could cause cancer on some animals that they were tested on but they are allowed for continued use in cosmetic products because they don't present safety concerns for human health.
  • When laboratories analyzed some of the top selling perfumes they found around 14 chemicals per perfume that were not listed and some of them were known allergens and chemicals that can affect hormones.
  • There is even a level of toxicity in some perfume ingredients. Tricyclodecenyl allyl ether is toxic to insects and is a part of some synthetic perfumes.
  • Some synthetic masks are used in larger quantities because they are cheap. Those that are used to cover the smell of laundry detergents have been found in human fat and milk. They have also been found in the waters where waste waters have been dumped, like Great Lakes.
  • Europe has a law since the 2005 that materials from the list of 26 known allergens must be listed on the product if they are present in the product in quantities larger than 0.001% for products intended to remain on the skin, and 0.01% for those intended to be rinsed off. Because of that many old perfumes had to be reformulated.
  • There are thousands of perfumes with different formulas in the world. There are many more chemicals in them and many of them were never tested for toxicity, alone nor in combination.
  • Most of the synthetic chemicals found in perfumes are derived from petroleum.
  • Limonene is irritant, sensitizer and carcinogenic. It is used in perfumes, cologne, disinfectant sprays and other cosmetic products.
  • Benzyl alcohol causes headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, and CNS depression. It is also used in perfumes, cologne, soaps, shampoos and other cosmetic products.
  • Benzaldehyde is irritant, local anesthetic, and CNS depressant. It is also known that it can cause kidney damage. Also a component of many cosmetic product.