You maybe don't look at the ingredient list on your perfume or cologne. I never used to. But then a few years ago, I did start worrying about the ingredients in my personal products. After a bit of research, I noticed that lots of organizations recommended that individuals avoid the ingredient "fragrance" in personal products. Because fragrance is treated as a trade secret, manufacturers are not required to disclose the exact ingredients of whatever substances constitute their fragrance. And some of those ingredients ain't good for you.
The Environmental Working Group and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recently released a report describing the results of the laboratory tests of 17 name brand fragrance products. Although this report focuses on fragrance products like perfume or cologne or body sprays, what they say about the use of the term "fragrance" is true for all personal products, meaning that the "fragrance" in your favorite shampoo probably includes some unhealthy chemicals.
Here are a few highlights from the report (emphasis mine):
Many scents are actually a complex cocktail of natural essences and synthetic chemicals – often petrochemicals.
The average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals not listed on the label. Among them are chemicals associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety in personal care products.
Also in the ranks of undisclosed ingredients are chemicals with troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues. These include diethyl phthalate, a chemical found in 97 percent of Americans (Silva 2004) and linked to sperm damage in human epidemiological studies (Swan 2008), and musk ketone, a synthetic fragrance ingredient that concentrates in human fat tissue and breast milk (Hutter 2009; Reiner 2007).
Fragrance secrecy is legal due to a giant loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels but explicitly exempts fragrance. By taking advantage of this loophole, the cosmetics industry has kept the public in the dark about the ingredients in fragrance, even those that present potential health risks or build up in people’s bodies.
Even if your shampoo or lotion says "hypoallergenic," "natural," or "unscented," it may still have "fragrance" as one of the ingredients. If you want to avoid undisclosed ingredients, check the list of ingredients when shopping for personal products, and avoid any product that lists "fragrance" as one of its ingredients.
Going Green Gradually?
Next time you run out of deodorant, shampoo or lotion, try to replace it with a personal product without "fragrance" in the ingredient list.
What's in your fragrance?