Fragrance is a huge thing for me. It has actually been one of the hardest things to let go of when going non-toxic and natural in our home. I miss the lovely floral, fresh linen and ocean breeze scents of some of the old cleaning products I used to use. Most of those smells in store-bought cleaning products are from chemical and synthetic sources, though, so they are no longer an option for my family.
Now that I am making a huge effort to combat mold, in addition to removing toxins from our cleaning products, I am in an even harder position. Those “clean” smells that most people are used to in their laundry, are not a choice for me. In fact, most of those fragrances actually permeate your clothes and can be hard to remove. The perfumes can also seal in bacteria, making biological odors, like body and food odors difficult to remove. So, even though your laundry is fragranced with “fresh linen,” it is, in fact, full of biological odors. That’s pretty gross, right?!!
It is also notable that, because many fragrance compounds are considered “trade secrets” in the fragrance industry, companies are not required to display the list of what comprises the scent on the packaging. For example, on the back of a Crystal Rain-scented Windex bottle, the list of ingredients reads as follows: Water, cleaning agents, carriers, wetting agent, pH adjuster, fragrance, dyes, SCJ formula #35 17344. What? Does that tell you anything about what is in the product? Not me. I have less understanding than before I read it!
After concerns started to arise about these chemicals and how much was unknown about them, in 2008, the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) issued a master list of over 3,100 known chemicals that are used by the fragrance industry. Among those on the list are carcinogens, hormone disruptors like galaxolide and tonalide (both synthetic musks), the phthalates diethyl phthalate (DEP) and di-isononyl phthalate (DINP), which have been shown to cause reproductive and developmental harm in laboratory animals, and are linked to similar impacts in humans, and disinfectants, like triclosan and ammonium quaternary compounds, which might contribute to the development of antibiotic-resistant germs, interfere with hormone regulation, or be harmful to the immune system. Not surprisingly, numerous allergens are also included in the list. That list alone is enough to terrify me. Unfortunately, there is no data provided on how commonly these chemicals are used, by what amount, or even by type of fragranced product. That’s even scarier to me.