home
RSS
May 12th, 2010
11:05 AM ET

Fragrance companies withhold chemical information

By David S. Martin
CNN Medical Senior Producer

Perfumes commonly list “fragrance” as an ingredient, rather than naming the specific chemicals involved, withholding information that could cause allergic reactions and other health effects, a report released Wednesday asserts.

Looking at 17 popular perfumes, colognes and body sprays, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found an average of 14 unlisted ingredients in each of these products. By law, companies are not required to list chemicals used to create their fragrance.

“We as consumers have a right to know what we’re putting on our bodies,” says Sean Gray, senior analyst with the Environmental Working Group, which conducted the study for The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Some of those hidden chemicals you don’t know about have human health impacts.”

The fragrances tested contained, on average, 10 chemical sensitizers, which can trigger reactions such as asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis when they are breathed in absorbed into the skin.

John Bailey, chief scientist for the Personal Care Products Council, the Washington-based industry group, said the chemicals in question were sensitive only at very high doses.

“I think they’re misusing information at several levels,” Bailey says. “They report the so-called secret materials in products and they don’t report the levels. As an analytical chemist, you have two jobs. One is to identify chemicals. And the other is to identify how
much is there. The quantity is critical.”

In Europe, 26 substances must be listed on the label even if they are part of the fragrance. Of those 26 substances, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics study found 22 in the products it tested.

In the report, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics called on Congress to rewrite the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973 to require all the chemicals in a perfume or cologne to be listed.

But Bailey says that’s unrealistic. He says there wouldn’t be enough room on labels to include all the ingredients used to create a fragrance and that the information would be meaningless to consumers.

Bailey says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and other agencies have the authority now to restrict or ban any substance used in cosmetics consider unsafe.

In the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics study, 12 of the 17 fragrances tested also contained diethyl phthalate, known as DEP.

Phthalates are generally classified as endocrine disruptors, meaning they can interfere with the chemical signaling system in the body, and some studies suggest they may interfere with the reproductive development of boys in the womb.

But Bailey says DEP is not a health concern in the amount it is used in cosmetics, and DEP deemed safe by American and European regulators.

“Fragrances have been used for centuries. We know a lot about the composition. There’s really a basic tool chest of materials being used,” Bailey says. “It’s not as though we don’t have any experience with them.”

In December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency named eight phthalates to a new “chemicals of concern” list, citing adverse effects on the reproductive system in male laboratory animals and human studies showing associations between phthlates and health problems in people. DEP was not among those phthalates cited by the EPA.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition of non-profit groups, including the Environmental Working Group, Alliance for Health Tomorrow, the Breast Cancer Fund, Commonweal, Friends of the Earth and Women’s Voices for the Earth.


soundoff (103 Responses)
  1. Cathy Cook FMA

    The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics report is self-published, rather than being submitted for publication in a peer reviewed scientific journal in which the merit of the statements being made could be judged. The latter is the accepted practice within the scientific community, and insures that innuendo and unsupported claims cannot be passed off as scientific fact.

    This report acknowledges, but without specific citation, that the fragrance industry has published a listing of more than 3,000 fragrance ingredients that are currently being used in all forms of consumer products – not just perfumes, colognes and body sprays. The Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) is responsible for all aspects of the safety of these materials. Based on RIFM’s scientific findings, the stewardship of these fragrance materials is administered by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA), which maintains a strict Code of Practice for fragrance manufacturers. These groups have been in existence for more than 40 years, and maintain a database of many thousands of individual safety tests that have been conducted in support of the continued safe use of these 3,000+ ingredients.

    So, in fact, there is nothing ‘secret’ about the ingredients being used in fragrances. Any consumer, or special interest group such as The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, can access this list at http://www.ifraorg.org.

    The fragrance industry has repeatedly offered to engage interest groups in a dialogue about the industry’s safety program. In fact, industry representatives have even sat cordially across the table with several of the groups which contributed to this report. We are, therefore, shocked to see the continuation of inaccuracies perpetuated in this document concerning our safety program and its effectiveness.

    Scare mongering through the use of ‘suggested’ or ‘potential’ associations between fragrance materials and various toxicities is deplorable, particularly when present in a document that purports to be scientific. Facts are not ‘secret’, and good science is very objective; an objective review of the facts confirms that an industry safety program that has been in place for more than four decades provides assurance of safe use of the fragrances contained in consumer products.

    For more information got to http://www.fmafragrance.org

    May 12, 2010 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Wendy Harper

      Obviously Cathy Cook is not one of the thousands of people who suffer intensely from Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Disorder, many of whom – including myself – get migraine-like headaches and shortness of breath from the poisonous chemicals used in most modern fragrances. These days it seems we cannot escape them in public, as these unnatural fragrances are added to virtually every cleaning product, and the popularity of perfumes and room fragrances is on the rise. Oh, and please note: MCS is NOT an allergy, and there is no effective treatment at all that the victim can take to alleviate the symptoms. All you can do is avoid the triggers. That means staying away from offices, restaurants, malls, grocery stores, clubs, or any other place you might encounter chemical fragrances.

      The solution is simple, if corporate toadies like Cathy will get their collective heads out of the sand. The cosmetic and fragrance companies must be held accountable for cleaning up their products. In Europe there are already laws prohibiting the use of certain toxic chemicals in fragrances and other products. Here in America, the fragrance industry is virtually self-regulating, and the results are clear. Asthma is WAY on the rise in this country (yes these same fragrances can also trigger severe asthma attacks), and MCS is spreading as the use of chemical fragrances spreads.

      For god's sake, give us a break!!!

      August 9, 2010 at 18:23 | Report abuse |
  2. Megan

    I believe in transparency when it comes to consumer products. Ingredients should be listed whenever applicable, same goes for nutritional information – including on alcohol. If the chemicals are no big deal, why *not* list them? What do they have to lose?

    Also, I personally do read labels and I do educate myself on ingredients. Many people do.

    May 12, 2010 at 13:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. snow cone

    If you're concerned about what chemicals are in these fragrances and what may or may not be getting on and in your body, then DON'T USE THEM. Simple as that. Your health and well being will thank you.

    May 12, 2010 at 13:10 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Alex

      It is not so simple as you state. With 80,000 chemicals in use based on the rule of "innocent until proven guilty" (per USA Today), any "concerned" individual would have to basically stop buying and using almost all products. A better approach would be for us to get away from the outmoded philosophy of "a better life through chemistry" and treat new novel chemicals as "guilty until demonstrated safe".

      June 6, 2010 at 22:30 | Report abuse |
  4. Kathrynne

    I don't personally use these chemicals or any personal care product with fragrance, snow cone, yet I'm extremely concerned about what's in them when OTHERS wear them in my vicinity. I can't control that, though I'd love that ability.

    I'm allergic to perfumes and their ilk. Pretty badly allergic, actually, to the point where I had to drop morning classes in college because my classmates thought they were supposed to do the "Jean Nate Splash" each morning. Though I deal with other year-round allergies, perfume is the only one that can rob me of any semblance of health in minutes.

    If they don't want to reveal their ingredients, ban 'em. Ban 'em anyway. Fragrances have been used for ages to cover poor hygiene, but there's little excuse for that anymore.

    May 12, 2010 at 13:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. sickofu

    It is a daily occurrence to have our senses assaulted in public by inconsiderate morons doused in all sorts of strong fragrances. Who hasn't had to stand in line at a store near someone's horrible perfume cloud? Whether scientists agree they are toxic or not is not the real issue. If they make others uncomfortable or irritated when exposed to them, then they are not fit for public use. Remember when we all had to endure second-hand smoke at supermarkets, in airplanes, and at restaurants?? Then why do we still have to endure others walking around in a cloud of questionable perfumes that in many cases can be noticeable from over 10, 20, 30 feet away?? Its a public nuisance at best, and police should start handing out civil fines to offenders in my opinion.

    May 12, 2010 at 13:43 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Rob

    Useful input snow cone! And when you buy some toxic sh!$ from china that contains say, methlene chloride, and you come down with skin cancer then we can all tell you, "you should'nt have used it!"

    May 12, 2010 at 13:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Chris

    I don't generally have trouble with allergies, and have been around lots of nasty chemicals in the workplace, but there are many perfumes and colognes on the market that I simply cannot be near. They're horrible. They may smell good, but I don't want them anywhere near me.

    And the punch line: I have no idea what chemical or chemicals it might be that cause this. THEY'RE NOT ON THE LABEL!

    May 12, 2010 at 14:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. rachel

    But Bailey says that’s unrealistic. He says there wouldn’t be enough room on labels to include all the ingredients used to create a fragrance and that the information would be meaningless to consumers.

    It wouldn't be meaningless to me, and last time I checked, I'm a "consumer." I haven't bought a perfume in years because of all the unlabeled chemicals.

    May 12, 2010 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Gabs

    People today seem to have a mental block with regard to their impact on others. The main purpose of these chemicals is to SPREAD the scent(i.e., you DON'T keep your stench to yourself). People marinate in this garbage; so much so, that you can smell it when a person drives by in their car! Some of us can't even work a regular job because people have given up the practice of bathing in water only to bathe in chemicals. A person can't even go into a doctor's office to stop their asthma attacks when second-hand exposed to this crap, because the nurses actually believe that if you spray enough Fabreeze, you will kill germs!

    May 12, 2010 at 14:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. bg

    These intentional odors are ridiculous to begin with and this does say something about those who chose to use them.

    May 12, 2010 at 14:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Leo

    I don't need a report to tell me that most of these artificial fragrances and dyes can cause allergic reactions. Most artificial fragrances, including the ones found in detergents, aerosols, and mostly perfumes, cause me and several of my friends to have respiratory problems. I get asthma-like symptoms and lung congestion (and I'm a distance runner, so don't try to say it's because I'm out of shape or some garbage like that), and some of my friends have even had complete asthma attacks. My wife gets skin rashes and itching from dyes and perfumes.

    We end up buying scent-free and dye-free products for our household, but we still have to deal with the effects of artificial scents and dyes when we go anywhere else. So... HEY SNOW CONE... sure, I don't use the scented garbage, but I still have to deal with it every time I go out in public. Have you ever been stuck on an elevator with an old lady wearing an excessive amount of cheap perfume? Well, to YOU, it merely smells bad. To ME, it's a health hazard.

    May 12, 2010 at 14:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. genflen

    We're talking low-dose exposures, people, and they all add up. We're not just spritzing ourselves once, we're doing it over days and years. Add to that the rest of the products we use in a single day and over our lifetime, combined with the pollutants in our food and drink and air, and that's a lot of chemical exposure.

    We absolutely deserve to know what's in our products and to have proper regulation (and not some industry-funded panel, which is the case now) of them.

    And we certainly shouldn't have to be chemists to figure out what to buy in the beauty aisle. I recommend you all visit and join the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, http://www.safecosmetics.org and start researching safer alternatives at http://www.safecosmetics.org/skindeep

    May 12, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. WinterClover

    If you are looking for lotions and sprays that smelll good that are not horrifying, try Bath & Body Works and Victoria Secrets...both companies do not test on anmials and actually list what is in them! And Cathy...it sounds like you work for the perfume industry!! I bet you do!!

    May 12, 2010 at 14:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Teresa

    Like Megan, I carefully read the ingredients on everything I buy.

    A few years ago I stopped using all cosmetics and grooming products that don't list everything, being already aware of the "fragrances" cop out. I also avoid products containing the usual suspects like parabens and sodium laurel sulfate. As time goes on those of us who are careful have more and more options.

    May 12, 2010 at 14:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Guest

    Megan, what these companies have to lose is their competitive advantage in the market place. Every fragrance is a work of art that is composed of tens of essential oils and aroma chemicals and takes months to perfect. For fragrance companies their formulas are their trade secrets, the same way as technology companies hold patents on their work. So what they have to lose is their livelyhood, since exposing the formulation will allow competitors to create cheap knockoffs without investing in the knowledge base of experienced perfumers and the time that development takes. This would be the equivalent of Apple realeasing the exact specifications of their iPhone and allowing people to copy it without the protection of patents.

    May 12, 2010 at 14:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Gilbert

    John Bailey gives us a fine example of what he means by "misusing information at various levels." He comments that "“Fragrances have been used for centuries. We know a lot about the composition," but fails to point out that many of the chemicals used in today's fragrance packages are NOT natural, DO NOT exist in nature, can only be manufactured in a laboratory, and are used primarily based on their organoleptics without regard to any consideration that no organism on this planet has evolved in their presence. Furthermore, as a scientist in this field, he must know that only a handful of the thousands of fragrance chemicals have been subjected to any meaningful scientific testing as to whether they are LUNG sensitizers, despite the fact that the respiratory tract is their intended target.

    May 12, 2010 at 14:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. DMoser

    In response to "snow cone", choosing not to wear fragrances is not "simple as that." I get headaches from fragrances and they can cause me to have a runny nose and burning eyes. Not all do this, but enough that I steer clear of them. Simply not wearing perfumes does not solve the problem though. Fragrances are not only found in perfumes and body sprays. Consider a few other sources: hand soup, shampoo, body soap, dish soap, dishwasher soap, candles, "plug-in's", laundry soap, dryer sheets, makeup, lotion, cleaning chemicals (kitchen, bathrooms, floors – they all have fragrance!), chapstick, deodorant, even facial tissues can even have fragrance added. Some of these products have "fragrance free" versions, but not all.

    When I enter a person's house sometimes I get a headache just from all the different smells coming from the products they use in their home. When I use a person's bathroom and the only hand soap they have is something smelly, I sometimes get headaches from that too. In crowded situations where I have to sit close to other people, say, on an airplane, people's lotions and sprays that they have on can trigger a headache and a runny nose too. Not to mention having to walk through a perfume/makeup section in a department store. Yikes!

    So it is not "simple as that."

    To anyone who is suffering from headaches or allergies, I would recommend getting rid of all products with fragrance in them that you have and see if they improve. I suffered from allergies all through high school and they miraculously disappeared when I stopped wearing perfume. I noticed in my early 20's that I got headaches on days when I wore hairspray – fragrance is in those too.

    I think a lot of people would not have to take pain medication for headaches or allergy medication for allergies if essential oils were used instead of fragrances in products.

    May 12, 2010 at 15:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. bob

    Obviously, this fragrance issue is not as simple as "if you're concerned about... fragrances... don't use them".

    We have been well-trained by the fragrance industry to abhor natural smells, masking them continuously with artificial, feel-good, false odors.

    Yet among us there is a rapidly escalating population who have been stricken with multiple chemical sensitivities, meaning that they experience migraines, nausea, respiratory irritation, etc. from exposure to such man-made fragrances (you know, the ones whose names are too long to even fit on a label). To learn more, check out http://www.multiplechemicalsensitivity.org/ or http://www.ourlittleplace.com/mcs.html

    Fragrances don't just stay on the body, clothes, or furnishings of the person who uses them, but instead drift into the airways of everyone who passes nearby. We carry these chemicals with us.

    I know a wonderful lady who can no longer attend public functions (school plays, parties, even church!) because (in the ever-escalating battle of the scents) all the fragrances the other attendees apply to themselves trigger her chemical sensitivities, knocking her down with a 2-day migraine, sore throat, fatigue, body aches, etc. That's right, attending church makes her sick, yet she really wants to be there.

    Europe has forced manufacturers to rid consumer products of known sensitizers, which can trigger such chemical sensitivities. But the industry has fought hard to keep this issue below the radar in the U.S., as the article and initial comment shows.

    Regardless of the industry's best interest, we don't have to wait for more casualties. Instead, the next time you reach for that cologne, perfume, body lotion, hair potion, laundry detergent, dryer sheet, room deodorizer, air "freshener", etc. (think about it – the list is VERY long), consider all their man-made ingredients that the industry does not want you to know or think about, and that might be pushing you or someone you care about closer to devastating health effects.

    There is a much healthier way.

    May 12, 2010 at 15:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Gillian

    I have seen the Campaign for Safe Cosmetic's website, they are a non-profit coalition of health groups that take on public health issues.

    FMA is for profit, can I really trust FMA when the priority for you guys is the bottom line?

    May 12, 2010 at 15:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Megan

    Guest that replied to me – Yes, I know what they have to lose. It was more of a rhetorical question. Statements are made that they can't disclose this stuff because it's not a big deal, it's not in high enough concentrations to do damage, there isn't room on the packaging, and if all that is true then they shouldn't have an issue releasing it because it's just 'not a big deal'. But we all know those are not the real or most influential reasons.

    May 12, 2010 at 15:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. Jassy

    I would love to see what is in these fragrances.
    I'm a physician who has a chemistry degree and I had to give up my medical practice and work in another setting because patients wear fragrance to my office and wouldn't stop. Even though we politely ask they would say it was "natural" or" I only used a little".
    It is not a true IgE mediated reaction (allergic rx) but a huge chemical sensitivity. I wheeze, cough, sneeze, have severe headaches and end up on prednisone (a steroid) to survive. I went to work in an office and it was the same. My allergist said there is nothing they can do.

    Now I have a work from home job as a non practicing physician. Not what I spend 15 years education to do but I had NO choice. They can not give you allergy shots or pills to prevent this. I've even checked out of fragrant rooms in hotels and left airplanes after sitting next to people with perfume.
    I am so glad to know I am not alone.
    It isn't that I don't like it, I just can't handle it.

    May 12, 2010 at 16:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. Ed

    What else is new. The FDA, the government, etc. They all are keeping the Amerian people out of the loop. They want us to be sick, and overtaxed. They could care less about "the people".

    May 12, 2010 at 16:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. Cindy

    Wow, does the chemical industry really think we all buy their "it's not enough of a chemical dose to matter" line anymore? When modern science is crystal clear that small doses DO in fact have the potential to harm our health - particularly during vulnerable periods like when you're pregnant, or going through adolescence?

    May 12, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. Brenda

    Thank you CNN for reporting on this important issue. I for one haven't used fragranced products for years because they give me headaches and trigger my asthma.

    I'm outraged that the fragrance industry is hiding behind assertions that we're too dumb to understand the ingredients if they were listed.

    I for one am smart enough to realize that if a company is afraid to share what is in a product it is selling I should avoid it.

    I read labels and won't buy products for myself or my kids that don't say exactly what is in them.

    May 12, 2010 at 16:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. LaVerne

    I also just read this report and it looks to me that neither of the industry's self-policing safety boards (CIR or IFRA) have reviewed the safety of around half of the chemicals in the report. Clearly this system's not working.

    Industry, what are you hiding? If your products are all safe and fully tested for safety, why not share all the ingredients in a product (the internet has plenty of room for you to list ingredients if you think there's not enough room on your product) and share all of your safety data publicly?

    May 12, 2010 at 16:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Ann

    I would love to know the chemicals! I am allergic to some fragrances, but now I just have to avoid all of them. i have to be care of what brand of shampoo, lotions, laundry soap, etc I buy. Thankfully none are life threatening.

    May 12, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. Edward Mooney

    I am seriously sensitive to certain chemicals – and they almost disable me. My throat swells. I have to carry an epi-pen. I am not alone, yet the "rights" of people to "smell" good are held in higher esteem than my right to breathe. Why? Profit.

    I cannot go to a restaurant or to the mall without getting a major headache and swelling of sinus and throat tissues. But these people can sell these chemicals freely. Why? Profit.

    My wife has a narrow range opf personal care products that she can use. Why? Profit. You see, a lot of the chemicals that hit me in the face are cheaper than using higher quality ingredients. I do not have these reactions to natural scents such as real rose. There's the profit.

    And I spend large amounts of money of expensive prescriptions to counter this insanity. I know I sound bitter, but this affects everything in my life. I cannot even do laundry without checking for these chemicals.

    May 12, 2010 at 16:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. Evan

    I wish I knew what I was allergic to. So many chemicals in our lives, it is difficult to know what causes swelling and itching of various parts. Bah.

    May 12, 2010 at 17:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. swschrad

    there is a growing body of evidence that pthalates, in any concentration, should be avoided. what other nasties are in there?

    list 'em all, folks. we've got the web, you know. if we want to look up methyl ethyl sulfonamate or anything else, and get the risk sheet, we can.

    May 12, 2010 at 18:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Paul Ronco

    The information would be meaningless if placed on labels? How stupid does this man think the American people are? Just because the name of a chemical may be long and difficult to pronounce, we are to believe this man's hype that Americans will not be able to deduce meaning from its inclusion on a label? Oh and by the way, if the label does not have enough space to fit these chemicals' names, which is another stupid argument that this man proposes, then how does Europe manage it?

    May 12, 2010 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Paul Ronco

    >> If you're concerned about what chemicals are in these fragrances and what may or may not be getting on and in your body, then DON'T USE THEM. Simple as that.

    You're right, snow cone. The same applies for food, baby accessories and cars. For example, if you are concerned about what pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics and E. coli you may be putting into your body, then DON'T EAT. If you're concerned about the safety of your baby's crib, then HAVE IT SLEEP ON THE FLOOR. If you have a problem with the safety of your vehicle, then DON'T DRIVE. Simple as that.

    The fact is Americans have created a free market system for the purpose of having a right to products, and they have a right for those products to be safe. We ensure compliance through federal regulatory agencies. It's actually one of the reasons we form governments.

    May 12, 2010 at 19:53 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. Dr Bill Toth

    Cathy Cook makes a good point...the list of 3000 chemicals is available and by themselves – individually – they may be "harmless" in some amounts. However, even a very basic high school chemistry class would show one that "harmless" chemicals – When COMBINED – produce toxic or explosive effects. Example; There are the many disagreements regarding the "harmless" components of aspartame. And the same "logic" is applied to our food sources and components as well. Bottomline; the consumer is largely at a loss when it comes to what exactly they are putting on or into their bodies...heck even the formula for Coca-Cola is a "trade-secret." Buyer Beware.
    Live with Intention,
    DrBilltoth.com/blog

    May 12, 2010 at 20:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Nikki

    It also sounds like buying some products made in European countries might be a good idea, too, if the EC has regulations in place to get rid of allergy triggers.

    May 12, 2010 at 22:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. Amy

    How far do we have to go to accommodate a few people who have allergies to fragrances? Ban anything that smells good? It's like the people who want to totally rid the world of peanuts.

    May 13, 2010 at 00:31 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Michele Robles

    You know after reading the responses here, I've come to the conclusion that human beings aren't happy unless they have some enemy in their midst. Now it's cosmetics. I work in an office place and I don't know where these people work, but I've yet to come up against people who are "bathing in perfumes." Before it was smoking. What amazes me is a lot of Europeans complain about these things, but they puff up cigarettes more than any other people I know. I can't even go out to bars in Europe because I can't bloody breathe around all their cigarette smoke.

    We have chemical plants, have cars burning fossil fuels day in and day out, work in companies where the buildings state that there are components that cause cancer in their construction, cigarette smoke (people who smoke outside and come back inside reeking of cigarette smoke), chemicals in our water, in our food, organic food that spreads salmonella and other bacteria that makes people sick. But no, the evil cosmetic companies are what's killing people now. Give me a break.

    I've dealt with synthetic perfumes and natural perfumes. There are essential oils which cause asthmatic symptoms, burns, sensitization just like synthetic fragrances are being accused of doing. I don't "bathe" in these items. Perfumes really should be applied to the clothing. Are they causing people to die, I don't think so. If they are, I think there are items in our world that would kill them before their perfume will.

    I have a very sensitive system. I suffer from severe allergies and asthma. My perfumes don't cause my symptoms. I can spill them on my hands, they don't do anything. My allergies are caused by drops in temperature, when I go out in nature, I suffer asthma, I can't be around cats or pet stores or certain trees. These places are what darn near kills me and sends me to the ER. I can't camp out because I get sick.

    I'm wearing my perfume oils, I will smoke my occasional cigar (which doesn't give me asthma), I will wear my MAC makeup. If you guys care so much fine, but I don't want any of you near me or speaking for me. I'll make my own mind up.

    I swear people aren't happy unless they're campaigning against something or bitching about this health crap, and I've had more organic only, health nuts drop dead from undiagnosed heart conditions, anneurysms, just plain sickly human beings than any other. Honestly, I believe there are some people with some legitimate allergies, the rest just love to complain. They claim they have allergies just so they can be with the "in" crowd of fighting the evil cosmetic companies. Maybe if any of the literature made any sense, I would take it seriously, but the anger and rabid zealotness of the people supporting these measures turn me off and makes it hard for me to take anything serious. Like those idiots over at PETA and don't get me started on them.

    May 13, 2010 at 01:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. ATL sneezer

    I am very allergic to fragrance. Just walking through the cosmetics at Lenox Mall means Flonase and Proventil to the rescue. Can't wash my hands in the Kroger bathrooms because of Caress soap. Looks like I have the measles and I sneeze for up to 30 minutes; runny nose, and my eyes swell. Several other brands do the same thing; even Ivory soap.

    Funny, but for perfumes–I am allergic to the same flowers. Multitudes too. Nothing scented in my house. Use white vinegar and baking soda to do a lot of cleaning. Can't walk down the laundry product aisle at Kroger; take a deep breath and go get what I need and hurry out.

    Nothing scented in my house–not even cat litter. I can tolerate cinnamon and vanilla; the rest cause all kinds of problems. Can't walk on the same side of the Mall as B&BW, and those candle stores. Life is much harder than it was in the 50s when I was a child. Few items scented back then.

    Those scented perfume ads in magazines–have to leave mail on the back porch to air out before I can bring it in the house. Macy refused to stop sending scented ads with their bill; so I refused to use their card. A few magazines have a separate scent free mailing and I make sure I am on it.

    I have the most problems with HS boys and scent–they put so much on you can taste it as they walk past. Also, as they walk past, I can tell what kind of laundry detergent and softener they have on their clothes. For years, I did hall duty–could smell that cigarette smoke and know what brand they were sneaking in the bathrooms.

    May 13, 2010 at 01:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. susie

    Exactly, Bob. The perfume industry lies about how toxic their ingredients are. I am not allergic to perfumes, but I get severe migraines from them, including vomiting. I can't go to the movies, out to dinner, even the grocery store without some inconsiderate jerk making me sick with their stench.

    You aren't supposed to be able to smell someone else's perfume across a parking lot or in an outdoor seating area of a cafe when they are 30 feet away from you, yet so many people bathe in the stuff it's impossible not to.

    I'd like to personally punch Calvin Klein and the makers of that god-awful Giorgio from the 80s.

    May 13, 2010 at 02:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. peyote

    Hey Bob has your friend tried praying about these smells and the ability to overcome them. Maybe god is trying to send your friend a message through these smells. Personally I applaud these fragrance companies putting chemicals in their product to prevent fertility is one of the most responsible things i have seen in a while. If these breeders can not be stopped they will over populate and destroy are planet. I am a eco minded conservationist and believe that the time to rise up against this army of breeders begins today. The fragrance companies have announced the call to arms who will answer

    May 13, 2010 at 03:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Dene Godfrey

    I see a lot of the typical comments here that either state, or imply, that synthetic chemicals are dangerous and, by further implication, natural chemicals are safe. This is total nonsense. There is no black and white, only shades of grey here. You may be interested to know that, of the 26 "fragrance allergens" designated by the EU, 18 are natural-occurring chemicals.

    Most of you didn't read the post earlier that gave the link to the list of fragrance compounds, and rant on as though it didn't exist, judging by the further comments regarding secrecy. If you are not going to follow up on information provided, why bother contributig to this discussion?

    Many fragrances contain dozens of different chemicals (and "chemical" can be natural or synthetic – EVEYRTHING in existance is chemical!), and it IS impossible to guarantee listing on the pack. There is far too much paranoia.

    I sympathise with people who are allergic to fragrances, but please don't compare it to exposure second-hand cigarette smoke – the health effects bear no comparison. A bit of tolerance wouldn't go amiss for some people.

    The mainstream cosmetics industry is VERY transparent about the ingredients used. The worst offenders are the small organic/natural manufacturers. If you don't believe me, visit a few web sites and see how much transparency you get on their ingredients.

    May 13, 2010 at 03:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. carol

    Yes, it would be good to know what is in perfume/fragrence products. Some folks react to these products with itching, rash and headaches. With no labeling one has no way of figuring out what ingredient causes sensitive reactions.

    May 13, 2010 at 07:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. dcook140

    There are more and more crazies out there who object to anyone around them causing them "pain". This whole thing started with the second hand smoke stuff about 6 parts per billion or something causing cancer. The scent study mentioned is self-published, which means that it could say anything. I suggest that all those folks that suffer from the "scent woes" should stay indoors in sealed rooms to protect themselves. When venturing out, be certain to wear the tin foil to ward off the evil scents. Oh, and send some money to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Write Obama requesting a Scent Czar to address this vital problem.

    Get a life!!!!!

    May 13, 2010 at 07:37 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. Tom Paine

    For more about this topic read the book "Slow Death By Rubber Duck" which exposes the chemcials in everyday items.

    http://middleofthefreakinroad.com/2010/04/29/slow-death-by-rubber-duck/

    What we are exposed to is truly frightening.

    May 13, 2010 at 17:57 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Thomas Paine

    I dread sitting next to old ladies (and some younger ones too) on airplanes because I know their overuse of perfume will ruin my flight. It happens everywhere: restaurants, movies, stores. They just don't get it.

    May 13, 2010 at 17:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Tien

    If you are afraid of cosmetic fragrances affecting your body then do not use them.

    May 13, 2010 at 22:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Jeff

    Mr. Bailey's comments in the article are patronizing, clearly in the interests of corporations, and insulting to consumer intelligence.

    May 14, 2010 at 00:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Duke Liberatore

    On our radio show http://dukeandthedoctor.com/ we often hear from listeners who are bothered by reactions of unknown origin. We contend that the causes are many times likely to be chemicals that we come in contact with in our enviroment or consume in food. This is perpetuated by the failure of our labeling laws to allow us the ability to determine the source. Fragrences without full disclosure of ingredients is a perfect example. We should have the right to know the exact ingredients in all consumer products!

    May 14, 2010 at 10:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Kathrynne

    Those poking fun at people with allergies, saying we're lunatics or exaggerating the effects, aren't even worth the effort required for argument. You know not of which you speak.

    @dcook: tin foil doesn't block scents. I have, however, tried wearing face masks at work when I had an idiot coworker whose perfume could be smelled strongly 30 feet away–and my desk was 3 feet from hers. She kept "forgetting" and my boss claimed he couldn't do anything, and I just kept getting sicker and sicker. She then had the audacity to complain about the products I paid a fortune for in an effort to stay ALIVE.

    I'd love to come across a real gas mask at a surplus store for wearing in obnoxiously stinky places. Perfumes of all sorts are literally poison to me.

    Anyone claiming they're allergic yet continuing to use these products without problem should check out the concept of tolerance-building. Continued exposure to an allergen can help build physical tolerance to it, just like allergy shots. I can live with certain of my allergens, but need to balance their use so I don't hit my tolerance level and get sick. One intense exposure to fragrance throws my whole body out of whack, though, because that's my strongest allergy and exposure is nearly impossible to control. I wish I could build some tolerance to the stuff, but I'd likely die trying. Yes, I'm aware that would make some of you quite happy.

    Unfortunately, fragrance users also build tolerances to their own scents. Their ability to smell the fragrances diminishes as their receptors get accustomed to them, so they use more over time. THEY think they're using perfectly reasonable amounts, but the rest of the world can smell them from further and further away.

    Perfumes are meant to be smelled by your lover during an embrace, not by everyone in the building.

    May 14, 2010 at 12:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Thalia

    Dear Industry Spokespersons,
    I would like to demolish your disingenous arguments about product labeling.

    It is possible to provide full disclosure of ingredients on the smallest of products. USA fair packaging and labeling law says, "if the package is too small to present the required information in the required font size, MAKE THE PACKAGE BIGGER." Also, there are fold up labels which are attached to the product with a dot of adhesive.

    Disclosure of frangrance ingredients does not cause loss of competitive advantage. Ingredients are listed in descending order of weight, but the exact proportions are still secret! Any company that wants to reverse engineer a competitor can take apart the chemical in a laboratory, including the percentage by weight.

    So there!

    May 14, 2010 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Lori

    It's about time this information eeks out to the general public. Prior to my breast cancer diagnosis two years ago, I practically bathed in Chanel's Coco perfume. A coincidence? It was probably just another contributor to the toxic milieu that built up in my body from exposure to mainstream consumer products.

    As a 25 -year health educator, I now have a deep personal interest in the chemicals used by millions of Americans in their daily lives. I am thankful to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics for the work they have done. A total of 12 different hormone disrupting chemicals were found in the fragrances (and an average of four in each product). Depending on the dose and timing, exposure to hormone disruptors has been
    linked to a wide range of health problems, including an increased risk of cancer, especially breast and prostate cancers; reproductive toxicity and effects on the developing fetus; and predisposition to
    metabolic disease such as thyroid problems and obesity.

    Health educators must now add "What goes ON your body goes IN your body" to their existing mantra about low-fat diet, fruits & veggies, and exercise.

    May 16, 2010 at 23:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Maureen

    I recently traveled to Hawaii and bought a plumeria lei...the scent was wonderful and I wore the flowers all day! And although I have tried to stay away from fragranced products, I wanted to take the scent with me, and bought a small bottle of plumeria lotion. When I put it on my neck, I was immediately hit with a horribly naseous feeling and my neck broke out in hives.

    Figures that the ingredients in the lotion only listed "fragrance" and a bunch of chemicals... and the flowers, with their strong natural scent, didn't bother me at all!

    May 18, 2010 at 19:33 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3

Leave a Reply to leah


 

CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

Advertisement
About this blog

Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.