|Vintage atomizer, Creative Commons|
I wasn’t going to publish anything on my blog without looking into it, and I wasn’t going to promote something if I hadn’t researched it and didn’t believe in it.
So I asked a few questions: “Is going fragrance free really necessary? What’s the big deal?’
The press release that Clean + Green’s company SeaYu Enterprises sent me claimed that:
“the Environmental Protection Association (EPA) states that fragranced products like air fresheners, fabric refreshers and traditional cleaning products contribute to poor indoors air quality, which can lead to health issues, especially for pets with their faster metabolisms and respiratory systems, and close proximity to the ground.”
|Fragonard perfume lab, Eze, France|
According to the EPA, "The EPA Indoor Environments Division (IED) understands that exposure to fragrances can cause some sensitive individuals to experience asthma episodes and other adverse health impacts and therefore notes this potential in several of their indoor air quality publications."
The Journal of Environmental Research International (as published by the US’s National Institute of Health) has studied synthetic musks in the environment, finding they persist and bioaccumulate, and do not degrade in wastewater treatment systems.
If they don’t degrade in wastewater treatment systems, then chances are they stick around in the home environment for a while, too.
We’re exposed to these musks when they are absorbed in the skin as we use soap, cosmetics, deodorants or cleaning products- or when we wear clothes washed with scented detergents.
|Handmade soap, Wikimedia Commons|
Around 8,000 metric tons of synthetic fragrances are made and distributed worldwide each year.
(To give you a sense of perspective, that’s enough to fill more than 44,000 bathtubs. If you were to take a bath a day in that stuff, it’d take you over 120 years to see the end of it!)
The important thing to know about these synthetic fragrances is what they’re made of. It’s a two-part deal. There’s the scent or musk itself, and then there’s the carrier that allows the scent to retain its pungency.
These fragrance carriers are known as phthalates. And that’s important for you to know, because studies have revealed some pretty interesting things about phthalates.
Phthalates are endocrine disruptors. (The endocrine system is made up of glands and organs that regulate the body, such as thyroid, pituitary and adrenal glands.)
When dogs and cats lick their fur - cats especially, since they meticulously groom themselves - they are ingesting phthalates. These phthalates accumulate on their fur through airborne exposure in the home.
A 2010 article published by Environmental Health Sciences explains that “exposure to these chemicals is ubiquitous as demonstrated by the large percentage of the U.S. population found to have detectable levels of phthalate residues.” (By the way, that article was entitled Phthalates May Double Breast Cancer Risk.)
|Cat and dog by Penarc, Creative Commons|
In 2008, the Environmental Working Group did a study on how household chemicals impact our pets.
Here's what this study said:
“Endocrine (hormone) system toxins raise particular concerns for cats, since they include the thyroid toxins and fire retardants called PBDEs.
"Thyroid disease (hyperthyroidism) is a leading cause of illness in older cats (Gunn-Moore 2005).
"The growing use of PBDEs in consumer products over the past 30 years has paralleled the rising incidence of feline hyperthyroidism, and a preliminary study suggests that PBDEs are found at higher levels in cats stricken with this disease (Dye 2007).”
And dogs don’t get a pass either. The study noted that blood and urine samples from dogs were contaminated with “11 carcinogens, 31 chemicals toxic to the reproductive system, and 24 neurotoxins."
“The carcinogens are of particular concern, since dogs have much higher rates of many kinds of cancer than do people, including 35 times more skin cancer, 4 times more breast tumors, 8 times more bone cancer, and twice the incidence of leukemia, according to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Center (2008).”
So, should you go fragrance free? I think these studies convinced me there's room for concern. When I go buy my laundy detergent tonight, I'm going to reach for the fragrance-free stuff.
|Laundry waves in Scotland breeze, Wikimedia Commons|
Next week: Our look at the KittyCam Study
Environmental Working Group report on contaminants in pets
A Whiff of Danger: Synthetic Musks May Encourage Toxic Bioaccumulation
Phthalates May Double Breast Cancer Risk
WebMD: Does Perfume Have Hidden Health Risks?
"Does_Perfume_Have_Hidden_Health_Risks?" EPA study, via National Toxic Encephalopathy Foundation Report
EPA and fragrance
National Institute of Health’s Environmental Health Perspectives, Jan, 2005
National Institute of Health study on bioaccumulation of phthalates (one of several)