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					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 <               ling petition. (See <                healthy home for the holidays?>; look under Programs. An       FDApetition/bkgrinfo.htm>.)                        Download past TNS issues that
 ongoing index by topic is at
 <>.           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 <>             help clear everyone’s air. The body          
 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 <>                See TNS IV/3 for more about
 STEP Founders: Michael Black, Patricia           and <>. A list of common                            our tests using vin-
 Dines, Rebecca Dwan, Jeff Edelheit, Nan          chemicals in scents is at <                       egar to prevent
 Fuchs, Craig Litwin, and Larry Robinson.         ~wilworks/ehn20.htm>. Thank you to Lynn
                                                  Lawson, Barbara Wilkie, and Betty Bridges for
  STEP, P. O. Box 1776, Sebastopol CA 95473
                                                  your assistance with this article!
              Printed on recycled paper.

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