Axe the Fragrance!

by | Feb 12, 2020 | Chemicals, Toxins | 0 comments


When I sat next to a young man on the train the other day I was overcome by his strong “parfum” scent.

The majority “synthetic/artificial fragrance” offenders are in shampoos, face/body lotions, perfumes, laundry/cleaning detergents, deodorants…made for contact with our largest absorption organ, our skin. Take a minute, grab a bottle, read your label on your favorite products. I bet you find “fragrance”!

It got me to thinking, should I let him know what “fragrance” could do to him (think sperm damage in adult males), or what they are doing to our general health and environment? Think allergies, asthma, infertility, cancers, degenerative disorders, hormone development disruptions, reduction in brain synapses, contamination of drinking water and harm to our wildlife…

Peee uuuuu…fragrances stink!

What can I Do

KTB Learning opportunity:

Educate myself – Change my behavior – Make a difference

What is “fragrance”?

  • Synthetic/artificial fragrance (SF) is derived from petrochemicals and 3,100 other industry chemicals.
  • Natural fragrance (NF) is derived from essential natural oils from plants
  • Synthetic/artificial fragrance will only be listed as “fragrance” on your package due to, no big surprise, a loophole in our outdated 1973 federal fair packaging laws. This law requires corporations to list their ingredients but allows “fragrance” to be used as a naughty non-disclosed chemical catchall.
    USA worlds largest perfume market
  • What’s in “Fragrance” (aka SF)

Quick fragrance timeline:

  • 8000 BC– Ancient Egyptians used plant distilled fragrance to scent their air, their dead and in their body lotions
  • 13th century – Crusaders brought fragrances back to England, Italy and France from Palestine
  • 17th century – Europeans realized the healing properties of natural fragrances
  • Late 1800s – The first synthetic perfume was nitrobenzene, made from nitric acid and benzene. This synthetic mixture gave off an almond smell and was often used to scent soaps.
  • 1920 AD – By the 20th century, perfume was a popular product and was widely distributed. Until this time, most scents had always been made of natural materials, such as oil from flower petals. In 1920, the introduction of a new product would change the perfume market and produce a fragrance that was made of synthetic materials. The result was Chanel No. 5: the first perfume of its kind to offer a scent different from natural substances. The light aroma was produced; giving a fresh scent that became extremely popular.
  • 1970s – today – Approximately 95-100% perfume formulations are synthetic (man-made).
  • They use crude oil or turpentine oil as the base material, synthetics are usually derived from chemical reactions.

Learn 3 fragrance facts.

  • Not all “fragrance” ingredients are created equal
  • Jasmine scent in some fragrances is actually produced by using a synthetic material named Indole, which is derived from coal tar…I am so bummed!
  • The fragrance industry is primarily self-regulated. Safety tested before marketing is not required and ingredients used in fragrance formulas do not have to be disclosed even to regulatory agencies. More than 80 percent of the chemical ingredients in these fragrance products have never been tested to see if they are poisonous to humans.

Who can keep me informed?


The Environmental Working Group’s mission is to empower people to live healthier lives in a healthier environment. With breakthrough research and education, we drive consumer choice and civic action.

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

Since 2004, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has used smarts and sass to pressure the cosmetics industry to make safer products.

Think Before You Stink

Think Before You Stink

An educational resource for reducing your chemical and fragrance footprint, improving your health, and making your home or business safe and accessible.

Action Items


Consumer advocating


Read labels


Purchase products instead that use essential oils for fragrance

Measure my impact:

  • Changed cleaners, shampoos, body lotions, sun tan lotions.
  • Changed deodorants for entire family
  • Stopped purchasing synthetically scented candles
  • More changes to come, impact is hard to measure, but logically less exposure to synthetic chemicals will likely have a better health outcome…

Jeanine Behr Getz, author and founder of Kids Think Big LLC. She is committed to environmental advocacy locally, nationally and abroad. Jeanine works with other organizations to raise awareness and improve the health of our children and the natural habitats that teach, inspire and sustain all.