Perfume: lovely scent or deadly poison?

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group on high street fragrances showed the products contained 38 secret chemicals and some were highly toxic.
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June 8, 2010 - PRLog -- When we think perfume, the thought of pleasant odour and scent enters our minds.  Perfume fragrances are the ways we identify with our surroundings, people and even memories.

We know that perfume is made up of alcohol combined with a fixative, essential oils or chemical scents but what else is added to this simple formula and what impact might this have on us all, perfume lovers?

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group commissioned laboratory analysis of 17 big-selling fragrance products. Those tests showed the products together contained 38 secret chemicals.  The brands to top the list of sinners were American Eagle 77 with 24 secret chemicals, Chanel Coco with 18, Britney Spears Curious and Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio with 17.

The study claims that some of the unlisted compounds include 10 sensitizing chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions, 4 hormone disrupters in each product and a dozen chemicals not tested for safety by the government or the fragrance industry either.

When sprayed or applied on the skin, many chemicals from perfumes are inhaled or others are absorbed through the skin.  Either way, many chemicals are abosrbed into the body.  Consumers have no way to know what they put on their skin unless they send their perfume to a laboratory but who would actually take the time to do that, not mentioning that it costs money.

In the US, a gaping loophole in a 37 year old federal law allows the makers of perfume to conceal the chemicals that comprise the fragrances.  However in Europe, those marketing fragrances are required to fully disclose common allergens.  In 1999, the European Commission´s Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-Food Products (SCCNFP) published a list of well known allergenic substances comprising of 24 chemicals and 2 bontanical preparation and must be listed on the product label.

The report lists the possible allergic effects associated with exposure to fragrance products: headaches, chest tightness, mucosal irritation, reduced pulmonary function, asthma, sense organ irritation, dermatitis, thyroid disruption and potential infertility.

Shortly after the report was published, the Fragrance Material Association in the US issued a damning statement saying "there is nothing secret about the ingredients being found in fragrances." Cathy Cook from the Association added "Scare mongering through the use of ´suggested´or ´potential´association between fragrance materials and toxicities is deplorable, particularly when presented in a document that purports to be scientific."

In Europe, the European commission is proposing a ban on the use in cosmetics of two of the most potent forms of phthalates amid fears they are responsible for genital abnormalities affecting up to 4% of male babies.   Scientists believe the phthalates could be absorbed into women’s bloodstreams through the skin or inhalation.  But is the danger as real as they claim?

Cooltribe asks Dr Chris Flower, Director-General of the Cosmetics Toiletry and Perfumery Association (CPTA) about his views on such claims,

“Scare stories about the safety of cosmetics usually include a few true facts wrapped up in a lot of misinformation.

Fragrance ingredients are labelled using the term "parfum" so that any consumers wishing to avoid fragrance can do so. It is true that 26 ingredients, which are thought to have a greater chance of causing skin reactions, also have to be labelled if they are present above certain concentrations. Two thirds of these substances are actually found in natural essential oils and extracts.

All cosmetic products, including fragrances are required by law in Europe to be safe.  Millions of people enjoy fragranced products every day without any problems at all.

Phthalates make up a family of chemicals each with its own unique properties. Some phthalates will possess useful properties while some possess undesirable properties. Any phthalates considered to represent a risk, however remote, by the European Commission's own scientific experts have already been banned from use in cosmetics in Europe.”

For more information about the CPTA, visit

So it looks like the debate continues.

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