Suspect Sniffs

Pleasing Aromas Harbor Hidden Dangers

A special aroma may be pleasing to the senses and psyche, but some perfume fragrances contain dangerous synthetic and toxic ingredients that can enter the body through the skin and lungs. Scientists at the Hospital General Universitario de Valencia, in Spain, found that about one in every 10 people will consequently suffer allergic reactions that include itchy, scaly, discolored, painful skin and asthma attacks. The European Union Scientific Committee on Cosmetic and Non-Food Products warns against their damage to the immune and endocrine systems, and Greenpeace cautions that the harmful ingredients can enter ecosystems.

Consumers should check labels and avoid sulfates, phthalates, parabens, neomycin, galaxolide, limonene, linalool, bacitracin, cobalt chloride, tolu balsam (myroxylon pereirae), petrochemicals and propylene glycol, as well as anything referred to as “synthetic” or “artificial” fragrance. Instead, the Natural Perfumers Guild (NPG) promotes plant-based raw materials such as herbs, flowers, spices, leaves, bark and seeds; minerals, such as amber; essential oils; and tincture of vanilla.

However, even excessive concentrations of natural ingredients like tea tree, lavender and citrus peel oils may trigger allergic reactions, according to the Environmental Working Group. Moderation is suggested. Look for makers that are members of the NPG or carry the Natural Products Association seal or organic certification by the U.S. Department of Agriculture or nonprofit NSF International.

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