Volume IV, Number 6 November/December 2004 Halifax, Nova Scotia, has established fragrance-free policies in most pub- lic offices, schools, public transpor- tation, plus many private businesses. So, you might ask, isn’t U.S. gov- The Next ernment regulation protecting us from these toxics? Unfortu- S T E P nately, no. The FDA doesn’t require pre-market testing, and almost any chemical can be used as a scent. Fra- Toward a Healthier Future grance formulas are “trade secrets,” so companies aren’t required to even identify ingredients on the label, let A Bi-monthly Newsletter of the Sebastopol Toxics Education Program alone warn about toxic items. They can merely list “fragrance.” It’s only through lab analysis and other means Perfume Dreams ness, headaches, reproductive harm, that people have been able to iden- nervous system damage, and cancer. tify the contents of some scents. It is designated as hazardous waste. Even when problems are high- Like an idealized suitor, perfume ads entice with flowers, beauti- A wide variety of beauty and lighted, the government is slow to re- ful natural scenes, romance, and household products carry syn- spond. In 1986 the National Academy even outright seduction. But, un- thetic scents, including laundry de- of Sciences identified fragrances as derneath their natural façades, most tergents, dishwashing liquids, air one of six chemical categories that perfumes are created not from plants fresheners, disinfectants, shampoos, should be a high priority for neuro- but from petroleum-based syn- soaps, deodorants, cosmetics, sun- toxicity testing. (The other groups thetics that can cause immediate screen, aftershaves, and colognes. were insecticides, heavy metals, sol- and long-term health harm. The EPA reportedly even found chlo- vents, food additives, and certain air roform in fabric softeners! pollutants.) The FDA still has not In fact, of the more than 3,000 chemicals in fragrances, approxi- While each exposure might taken this advice. Instead, the indus- mately 80–90% are made from petro- seem small, they quickly add up, try does its own tests — which leum. These include toxics, that and folks are increasingly having ad- haven’t included assessing respira- are known to cause cancer, birth de- verse reactions. The National Acad- tory, neurological, or systemic harm fects, infertility, nerve system dam- emy of Sciences estimates that “15% — or the cumulative and synergistic age, including toluene, ethanol, of the population experiences hyper- effects of our multiple exposures. acetone, limonene, formalde- sensitivity to chemicals found in They aren’t required to make the tests hyde, benzene derivatives, and common household products.” public or submit them to the FDA for hexa-chlorophene. As one website Exposure symptoms can in- review. They’re also not required to declares, perfumes are “as ro- clude: headaches, weakness, flu and report customers’ adverse reactions. mantic as hazardous waste.” “hay fever” symptoms, sinusitus, diz- The industry regulates itself and sim- ziness, difficulty concentrating, mood ply claims that its products are safe. Take, for example, toluene. An Environmental Protection Agency changes, depression, rashes, swollen lymph glands, muscle aches and So What Can You Do? (EPA) study found toluene in every fragrance sample tested. The EPA said spasms, heart palpitations, nausea, s Check your beauty and house- it “was most abundant in the auto stomach cramps, vomiting, inability hold product labels. If they refer parts store [and] the fragrance sec- to breathe, neuromotor dysfunction, to fragrances but don’t say that tion of the department store.” A po- seizures, and loss of consciousness. they’re from a botanical source (such tent solvent used in gasoline, tires, Up to 72% of asthmatics report their as natural essential oils), then they glues, and paints, toluene can trig- asthma is triggered by fragrance. likely are petrochemical scents. ger asthma attacks and cause dizzi- These toxics are also tied to long- s Phase out your use of syntheti- term diseases, including cancer, cally-scented products, especially liver disease, birth defects, and Mul- around the young, elderly, ill, or preg- tiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), a nant. Consider replacement prod- debilitating disease often initiated by ucts that indicate “no artificial fra- exposure to everyday chemicals. grances.” For inspiring perfume op- Like second-hand smoke, these tions, see Natural Perfumes, by Mindy toxics can also impact others. Green. Also see TNS IV/1 for ideas for That’s the reason hospitals, schools, naturally scenting your cleaning churches, and events are increasingly products. (Note: Some chemically- asking people to avoid wearing sensitive people have also become scents. And it’s the reason that See Perfumes, over ... the next s t e p Scent-sitivity attending this game, including the Managing Ants team’s 6 – 8 year olds and their fami- lies, were in the emergency room that Growing up, I didn’t have allergies night with acute asthma, including With the rains, ants seek shelter or rashes; like most Boomers, I didn’t my son and me. (We’d never had like the rest of us. Unfortunately, that hear the word “environment” or think can mean they decide to come into asthma before; asthma used to oc- about the future much until the our homes. It can be tempting to pull cur genetically but not pop up in 1970s. In the 1980s, some of my out a pesticide spray, but as our TNS adulthood. The epidemiologists don’t friends started making noises about make that claim anymore.) I/4 issue discussed, pesticides are no the scent “peelers” in department more effective than household store mailings, or about not being There might have been some con- cleansers, and they expose you and able to walk down the supermarket’s nection between that experience and your family to neurological toxics that detergent aisle. Some of them looked the fragrance experience; or maybe can harm your health. sickly and wore carbon masks. it was a coincidence. What’s known For our key ant strategies, down- is that sensitivities and allergies are I tended to think of those folks as immune disorders, and one toxic that load TNS I/4 at <www. healthyworld. a separate gene pool from me — I’ve damages your immune system can org/STEPIndex.html>. Approaches always loved perfumes and weird include plugging ants’ entry holes make you newly sensitive to other smells. Then one day I was in my and keeping your kitchen very clean. toxics, and vulnerable to other im- usual morning aerobics class at the (I call them Housekeeping Ants, be- mune system disorders. Since we gym and noticed a woman near me cause they show me where I need to have so many of these toxics around had a strong antiperspirant smell; us all the time, it seems essential to increase my attention!) nothing unusual. But I started to get minimize our exposure, and work to Here are some more approaches a sharp headache and dizziness. that folks have found effective: lessen their existence. The next time I went to the class, I s Put scout ants (the first ants you Speaking of sensitivity being a noticed the smell again — and the see) outside right away — before “disorder” — not everyone thinks of dizziness-headache came again. This it that way. It’s actually good for the they can make a scent trail and re- time I moved to another part of the rest of us that some people are more turn to the nest for their co-workers. room, and felt better. Time after time, sensitive, so they can notice what is I tested what happened when I was s Place cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, unhealthy around us. These “canar- chili pepper, or fresh rosemary or close to her and farther from her. And ies in the coal mine” are becoming lemon at the ants’ entry point or on I finally was persuaded that there was quite numerous, and are starting to their routes to disrupt their trails. indeed a substance that bothered me. have a demographic consumer voice. That was in the 1980s, and since s Move the outside garbage can If we can help them get dangerous farther away from the house. then I’ve realized that that experience products corrected or removed, we’ll occurred not long after I was exposed help ourselves before we all start feel- s Put a spoonful of honey out- to an agricultural spray at my son’s ing symptoms. side in a dry spot, so they get fed soccer game. The majority of those without having to come inside. ~ Rebecca Dwan ~ Patricia Dines ABOUT STEP Perfumes, continued This article includes suggestions from: Bar- bara Chasteen, Bill Wilson, Diane Darling, The Next STEP (TNS) is published six times Dian Hardy, Sheryl Munger, and Wildflower. a year by the Sebastopol Toxics Education sensitized to natural essential oils Thank you for your input! Program (STEP). STEP is a project of the and other botanical materials.) City of Sebastopol, implemented by local s Ask your government repre- citizen volunteers. STEP’s mission is to sentatives to require better perfume More Seasonal Tips support city residents in reducing their toxic use and exposure, creating a healthier and labels and standards. And write the Do you want to know more about safer Sebastopol for everyone. FDA in support of the citizen label- how to manage mold or create a Past issues of TNS are at <www.ci. ling petition. (See <www.ehnca.org/ healthy home for the holidays? sebastopol.ca.us>; look under Programs. An FDApetition/bkgrinfo.htm>.) Download past TNS issues that ongoing index by topic is at <www.healthyworld.org/STEPIndex.html>. s Share this information with oth- cover these and other topics us- Newsletter Editor and Layout: Patricia ers. Avoiding synthetic scents can ing our ongoing index at <www. Dines, Email <PDines@compuserve.com> help clear everyone’s air. The body healthyworld.org/STEPIndex. Newsletter Editorial Team: Rebecca you save may be your own! html>. And remember, win- Dwan, Craig Litwin, and Patricia Dines ter is the time to cut back ~ Patricia Dines your blackberry bushes. Newsletter Design Concept and Logo Design: Lyn Bouguereau For more information, see <www.ehnca.org> See TNS IV/3 for more about STEP Founders: Michael Black, Patricia and <www.fpinva.org>. A list of common our tests using vin- Dines, Rebecca Dwan, Jeff Edelheit, Nan chemicals in scents is at <http://users.lmi.net/ egar to prevent Fuchs, Craig Litwin, and Larry Robinson. ~wilworks/ehn20.htm>. Thank you to Lynn Lawson, Barbara Wilkie, and Betty Bridges for regrowth. STEP, P. O. Box 1776, Sebastopol CA 95473 your assistance with this article! Printed on recycled paper.