Think Before Using Fragrance

I recently had  Jeanne post a comment about the problem with scent in her everyday life. Do you know there’s a fairy large percentage of the population that suffer from CS or MCS (Chemical Sensitivities or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities)? If this is a new acronym for you  – it won’t be for long before you hear it discussed regularly with the number of people removing chemicals and fragrance from their lives. A person with MCS can become physically sick when exposed to synthetic chemicals, normally exposed via artificial fragrances. I think many of us will now wrinkle their nose when walking into a house after air freshener / Febreze has been sprayed or Lysol has been used to clean a small space because it’s becoming the norm to remove these toxins from homes. The amount of information about how to reduce household chemicals is starting to out-weigh the companies still trying to green-wash or convince people that ‘killing germs or odor’ is a good idea. As we all become more sensitive to airborne contaminants, imagine a person that becomes seriously debilitated from exposure to very small amounts of chemicals in the environment?  This is what happens when a person with MCS comes in contact with small amounts of these chemicals.

With three years of reducing the amount of chemicals in my own home, I’ve noticed I’m becoming more Chemically Sensitive, all the time. I am not reduced to becoming debilitated, but I’m affected enough that my heart feels for the people severely effected with these more serious symptoms. What can you do to help?  Make a decision to limit your level of fragrance. In many schools and work-places this has probably already happened in your community. I feel very strongly about scent-free schools because it’s where our children spend so many hours of their day.  Maybe this can be an Earth Day initiative your school can start working towards?!  Earth Day is a wonderful time to make suggestions and while you can explain to your employer or school principal this idea is great for the planet; the concept of scent-free will actually improve the health of children and school staff.  In my boys school I know there is Lysol that is sprayed on desks for cleaning purposes. My children come from a home that hasn’t sprayed chemical cleaners in over 2 years so I asked them if the scent of those cleaning products effects them in anyway – both answered they get a headache. I don’t think teachers spray on perfume anymore, but products like fabric sheets (heavily chemically scented) can be detected on clothing if you have a chemical sensitivity, as well as shampoo, soap, or deodorant with heavy fragrance (Axe products, etc.). By declaring a school scent-free you are not taking away individual expression – you are improving an environment for learning. I’m currently researching cleaners that have less fragrance, but meet licensing specifications for declaring a school ‘clean’ that can be used by janitorial staff…I will update when I know. For regular desk cleaning for students, I don’t know why a vinegar solution couldn’t be used.

Another example of how scent can affect a person who is chemically sensitive happens at my daughters’ pre-school. We take turns washing hand towels used by the children to dry their hands to reduce costs and waste with paper. However, many people use fabric sheets or softener and that smell is still attached to the towels when they arrive at my home for wash. The smell gives me an instant headache. I’ve been sensitive to dryer sheets for awhile (can smell them walking outside in a neighborhood with houses that use them) but I’ve noticed my level of tolerance of fragrance has recently heightened. While walking on a busy seawall last weekend with my family I could detect soap, shampoo, and hair conditioner scents as different people quickly walked by me. I didn’t get a head ache but I was curious to understand that my nose can even detect soap people have used…and I was outside! I’ll say again I’m so thankful I don’t become debilitated, but with becoming so sensitive I can really empathize with those who suffer. What about people that live in shared space like apartments? With people smoking and spraying room deodorizers, cologne, etc. and that going through shared vents, windows, etc. I cannot imagine how that would affect a person with CS. That must be why people with extreme cases are often homeless or rendered incapable of sharing space.

Jeanne forwarded me the website Think Before You Stink and it contains lots of helpful information for ways we can help. Here are four of the most important changes you can make recommended by the Think Before You Stink site:

1) Stop using perfume, cologne, body spray, and scented aftershave.

2) Use only fragrance-free laundry products, including detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets. Even better, don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets at all.

3) Stop using commercial air fresheners in your home or car.

4) Quit smoking.

I thank Jeanne for sharing her story with me and I was happy to research this article because reducing fragrances will simply improve your health.  Instantly.  If you find many of the articles out there confusing about reducing toxic exposure with beauty products, household cleaners, personal care products, etc. – just do one thing and it will help you. Use your nose when you shop. Eliminating fragrance will instantly improve your health and the health of your family.


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7 Responses to Think Before Using Fragrance

  1. Heather Hamilton April 5, 2011 at 9:29 am #

    Great post! I grew up with asthma and all of these fragrances made me wheeze! It is amazing how over the past 5 years as I have eliminated about every source of fragrance from our home, how sensitive I have become again. My mother-in-law uses fragranced laundry detergent and sometimes washes my kid’s clothes when they are at her house. The smell is so strong, I have to rewash the clothes when they come home!

    I also make organic skincare products and use organic essential oils. My nose has become so accustomed to what “real” natural fragrance is that I can detect those synthetics like a bloodhound. 😉

  2. suzanne April 5, 2011 at 10:48 am #

    Thanks Heather – your bath tea for babies looks amazing! I haven’t heard of it before..can you please tell us more?

    Mommy Footprint

  3. Jeanne April 5, 2011 at 11:12 am #

    Thanks for a great post! One thing to be aware of is that essential oils can be super assaultive to people’s systems as well. I was at an event with a friend who opened a Young Living Oil bottle and started applying it. I had to leave immediately to deal with the assault on my system.

    Natural isn’t always safer, but the absence of fragrance always is!

    I’m lucky that I don’t react to orange in detergent, or even lavender, but some people do.

    I hope that more schools, especially my son’s, who serves vulnerable kids will heed the call and become a safer school. Time will tell.

  4. Shayne April 5, 2011 at 11:17 am #

    Thanks so much for this post! You gave me the nudge to tell my mom’s story on my blog today. Her migraines were always linked to fragrance.

    Love the idea of a school safe from chemical cleaners. My son has asthma, and as he gets ready to enter Kindergarten, I worry about what he’ll be exposed to.

  5. Tanis Frame April 6, 2011 at 9:05 am #

    Hello Suzanne, Another great post as usual! As for the cleaner your searching for- there are a number of great options out there for great scent free cleaning products. In the school environment try BENEFECT as it has the bells and whistles in terms of accreditation that meets licensing requirements but all natural and fragrance free. Also it’s important to note that institutions often use a disinfectant or sanitizer that meeting licensing requirements in places where simple all purpose cleaners are fine (this includes being fine with their licensing requirements) so having your school review what needs to be CLEANED vs what needs to be SANITIZED is important so they aren’t using stronger products than required for various cleaning tasks.
    Let me know how it goes.
    Cheers, Tanis

  6. Christine McNeil April 6, 2011 at 10:00 am #

    I am one of those people debilitated by fragrances, air fresheners and more.

    I have serious asthma attacks when exposed, several exposures can take weeks for me to get over.

    I appreciate every initiative to limit these products in social settings. It is the only way that I can aspire to having a life outside my home.

  7. Delores April 14, 2011 at 9:33 am #

    Have you heard of Norwex? Our society has affiliated the smell of chemicals with cleanliness. We removed all harmful chemicals from our home 5 years ago, using Norwex. Check it out and ask me if you have any questions. It has changed the way we clean and live.

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