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Deceiving Our Noses: Dangers of Household Products

22 Jul. 2011 Posted by Hannah Mich in phthalates, fragrance, perfumes, dangers chemicals, household products
fragrance, dangers of perfume, household products

Now most of us know that sticking our noses in a bleach bottle is harmful to us and that drinking any household product is equally as dangers, if not deadly. But what about wafting and smelling the scents left behind, from the smells of our fabric softener to the air fresheners strategically placed throughout our homes? Although we are made to believe that all of these smells equal fresh and clean, these smells are the result of chemicals. They are deceiving our noses and us.

A 1991 “Environmental Health Perspectives” article said it best,

“The perfume and cosmetics industry is built on stimulation of human response through odorants…deodorizers and air fresheners are commonly used for purposes of odor masking in residences and restrooms of office buildings.”

Most of these fragrances in household products like your lemon scented dish soap or your “spring breeze” scented clothing detergent are chemicals tricking your olfactory bulbs in your nose, and your brain into thinking that these smells and products are clean, healthy and good. When instead, these fragrances or scents should be sending off warning signals that this is not a “natural” spring breeze scent or lemon scent.

Chemicals such as limonene [mimics the smell of oranges or citrus] and paradichlorobenzene [or that mothball smell] are just a few of those smelly chemicals. Other chemicals used in household products are phthalates, Alkyl phenol ethoxylates [APEs], Glycol ethers, Ammonium quaternary compounds, and Monoethanolamine [MEA]. Now that you can see the actual names of these chemicals, it probably does not look like something you want to smell or expose yourself to on a daily basis. But we do!

The Women’s Voices for The Earth reported that in 2005 the U.S. household cleaning industry was a 14.4 billion dollar market, which is up three percent from 2004. A 2010 “Alternative Medicine Review” article reveals that approximately 18 billion pounds of phthalates are used each year, making it one of the world’s highest produced chemical families.

We have been made to believe that using household products that contain these types of chemicals [which is the majority of them] make our homes clean and safe. Instead we are exposing ourselves to substances or chemicals that increase our risk of asthma, allergies, cancer, infertility, and possibly increase our risk of chronic diseases, which are on the rise.

I am sure many of you reading this are asking yourselves, why did I not know about the dangers of these chemicals. Well, one reason is powerful companies are not going to openly share this information. Secondly, they do not have to put these ingredients on the labels; instead it is perfume or fragrance -- which sounds more natural than limonene.

So avoid products that have perfume or fragrance in their ingredients. This means avoiding “smelly” household products. To provide a clean natural scent, use natural oils like lavender, instead. It appears that some people are fighting to get rid of phthalates out of products, but the process is slow and it is just the beginning as you can tell from the list of chemicals I mentioned, which is not all inclusive. On a positive note, the market for more environmentally healthy and human healthy household products is growing. In the meantime, we need to make healthy product decisions and not allow our noses to be deceived.

Call To Action: 

Purchase fragrance-free products
Use natural oils for eliminating odors
Research products and companies before buying


Women's Voices of The Earth; Household Hazards

"Environmental Health"; Self-reported chemicals exposure, beliefs about disease causation, and risk of breast cancer in the Cape Cod Breast Cancer and Environment Study; Ami R. Zota, et al.; 2010

"Environmental Health Perspectives"; Health Effects of Indoor Odorants; James E. Cone, et al.; 1991

"Alternative Medicine Reviews"; Toxic Effects of the Easily Avoidable Phthalates and Parabens; Walter J. Crinnion; 2010

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