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What's In My Perfume?

In the beginning, there was purity. The word "perfume" comes from the Latin phrase per fumum, which means "through smoke." The basic components are alcohol, water & fragrance or oil. The first fragrances were created with natural things-flower essence and other natural sources. These were (and are) called "essential oils". This process was time-consuming and costly, but much better for your health. Fewer people have sensitivity to "essential oils" than to perfumes.

Around 1885, scientists discovered that natural oils could be recreated synthetically. It was the time of the Industrial Revolution. Prior to this, only wealthy people could afford to purchase perfume. With mass production and more people with more money, an industry was born. A chemical that can smell just the same is quicker. It is also more dangerous. We can call this (humorously) "Better Living By Chemicals". In the 1800's, a perfume may have been made up of a small number of substances. Today a perfume may have 500-600 substances in it, including formaldehyde. Why would the perfume industry use toxic chemicals in their perfume? First of all, the fragrance industry regulates itself. There is no Government body overseeing it. Second, these chemicals "do the job". They recreate or carry the scent needed and do it cheaply. Toxic chemicals found in fragrances include acetone, ethanol, toluene, camphor, methylene chloride, benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, benzyl alcohol, formaldehyde, limonene, linalool, g-terpinene, beta-phenethyl, musk amberette, musk xylene and musk keytone.

Ninety-five percent of the chemicals in today's perfumes have a petroleum base. These are the same toxic chemicals that are on the hazardous waste lists of the EPA (Environmental Protective Agency), and the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act. In 1992, the US Food and Drug Administration did chemical analyses on a number of products. The report is called, "Polar Organic Compounds in Fragrances of Consumer Products". Of the fragrances tested in this analyses, Giorgio cologne for men, Giorgio perfume, and Chantilly spray mist contained ninety percent of the chemicals listed in the EPA's hazardous waste list.
Fragrances exist because people enjoy them. They enjoy wearing them and hope that others enjoy smelling them. I don't "hate" fragrances-I just can't tolerate them (my respiratory system reacts to them.) It's a health issue for me, and I'm not alone. We all share the same airspace. Do we all have rights to that airspace? In other words, if you are in my office, and you repeatedly wear a fragrance that makes me physically ill, do I have any right to tell you to leave my office area? Even more drastically-can I sue you for polluting my air? It's been done- and we'll look into that next time.

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