INGREDIENTS WE AVOID #6 - synthetic fragrance
Synthetic fragrance is used extensively in a wide range of products – even in seemingly natural brands. You’ll find it in the majority of personal care and household cleaning products. It will be listed as ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ – if ingredients are listed. Companies use it as a cheap way to fragrance their products. How bad can it be if it is used so widely?
The main reason for avoiding it is what is hidden inside. Companies don’t have to disclose the actual components of each fragrance, under the guise that their fragrances are trade secrets. It can be one or more of hundreds of chemicals. But on average 80% of the contents of ‘fragrance’ are derived from petrochemicals. These chemicals are known to cause irritation and illness – including parabens (interferes with hormones), phthalates (carcinogen linked to birth defects, asthma, fertility issues), styrene (causes cancer) and synthetic musks (don’t degrade, stay within the human body and are potentially hazardous). While the concentrations might be low in any one product, the cumulative exposure to these chemicals is definitely not good for your skin, your health or the environment.
The reported side effects are serious – ranging from direct reaction including 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. But the longer-term side effects are the most concerning.
People are themselves making the link between their exposure to these chemicals and their cancer, auto-immune responses and illness. Read the online forums and discussions (links below) to find people linking their own cancers or those of loved ones to use of synthetic fragrance – often within cleaning products or air fresheners.
So why isn’t fragrance better regulated? Research is only just catching up with what’s happening in the population. It was only July last year, when an expert panel from the National Academy of Sciences confirmed styrene causes cancer. And many of the ingredients in fragrance have had no research undertaken. Some countries are banning some of the individual ingredients within synthetic fragrance (like phthalates) but not Australia and the US. It truly is a ‘human experiment’ and may take years of reported linkages to illness before companies voluntarily remove them or they are forced to with consumer pressure or regulations.
The Environmental Working Group assigns ‘fragrance’ one of the highest hazard rankings possible in their score system – and it is certainly one we try to avoid – and one of the reasons we created Bondi Wash – to offer a natural alternative to scented products for the home and body.