The fragrance industry, known to be irresponsible, has dared to name a toxic fragrance after Loki, a deity whose lore includes a horrific story of his sufferings from poison. Apparently independent perfumers on Etsy are following suit. Sigh… As a Lokean and as a person with environmental illness, I’m thoroughly appalled. My UPG? Loki, the arch foe of hypocrisy, would not be a fan of any of this.
For an ecological and spiritual take on this, see My Gods Are Fragrance Free.
And if you’re not convinced that fragrance chemicals equal poison, here’s some science. These are just a few of the studies and articles out there.
Fragrance and Essential Oil Toxicity: Recent Articles and Studies
List Under Construction. Check back often for new articles and studies.
Early Articles, Information
Wallace, L., W. Nelson, E. Pellizzari, J. Raymer, AND K. Thomas. Identification of polar volatile organic compounds in consumer products and common microenvironments. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, D.C., EPA/600/D-91/074 (NTIS PB91182865), 1991.
Wallace, L. Human exposure to volatile organic pollutants: Implications for indoor air studies. Annual Review of Energy and the Environment, 2001 26:1, 269-301
Kendall, J. Health Risks from Perfume: The Most Common Chemicals Found in Thirty-One Fragrance Products by a 1991 EPA Study. 1995. [Flyer based on Wallace, L. 1991 EPA study above and material safety data sheets.]
Wilcox, P.P. Addendum to Julia Kendall’s flyer, above. 1995.
More Recent Studies
Steinemann, AC. National Prevalence and Effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Journal of Environmental and Occupational Medicine, Feb. 16, 2018. doi: 10.1097/JOM.0000000000001272
[Quote from abstract] “Results: Among the population, 12.8% report medically diagnosed MCS and 25.9% report chemical sensitivity. Of those with MCS, 86.2% experience health problems, such as migraine headaches, when exposed to fragranced consumer products; 71.0% are asthmatic; 70.3% cannot access places that use fragranced products such as air fresheners; and 60.7% lost workdays or a job in the past year due to fragranced products in the workplace.”
Steinemann AC, et al. Fragranced consumer products: Chemicals emitted, ingredients unlisted. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 2010. doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2010.08.002
Steinemann, A.C. Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients. Environmental Impact Assessment Review 29(1):32-38 · January 2009.
[Quote from Abstract] “Fragranced consumer products—such as air fresheners, laundry supplies, personal care products, and cleaners—are widely used in homes, businesses, institutions, and public places. While prevalent, these products can contain chemicals that are not disclosed to the public through product labels or material safety data sheets (MSDSs). What are some of these chemicals and what limits their disclosure? This article investigates these questions, and brings new pieces of evidence to the science, health, and policy puzzle. Results from a regulatory analysis, coupled with a chemical analysis of six best-selling products (three air fresheners and three laundry supplies), provide several findings. First, no law in the U.S. requires disclosure of all chemical ingredients in consumer products or in fragrances. Second, in these six products, nearly 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were identified, but none of the VOCs were listed on any product label, and one was listed on one MSDS. Third, of these identified VOCs, ten are regulated as toxic or hazardous under federal laws, with three (acetaldehyde, chloromethane, and 1,4-dioxane) classified as Hazardous Air Pollutants (HAPs). Results point to a need for improved understanding of product constituents and mechanisms between exposures and effects.”
Public Health Advocacy Reports
Chemicals of Concern: Fragrance. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.[Long list of study references at end of article.]
Not Too Pretty–Phthalates, Beauty Products& the FDA. Environmental Working Group. July 8, 2002. [Long list of study references at the end of article. Download PDF of entire report.]
The Addictive Power of Toxic Perfumes and Colognes, John P. Thomas, Health Impact News, May 29, 2019.
The article above references the 1991 L. Wallace/EPA study. The 1995 Julia Kendall handout based on the Wallace/EPA study names the narcotic chemicals commonly added to fragrance ingredients:
(1) ETHYL ACETATE (in: after shave, cologne, perfume, shampoo, nail color, nail enamel remover, fabric softener, dishwashing liquid) – Narcotic. On EPA Hazardous Waste list; “…irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract” …”may cause headache and narcosis (stupor)” …”defatting effect on skin and may cause drying and cracking” …”may cause anemia with leukocytosis and damage to liver and kidneys” “Wash thoroughly after handling.”
(in: perfume, cologne, bar soap, shampoo, hand lotion, nail enamel remover, hairspray, laundry detergent, dishwashing liquid, Vaseline lotion, air fresheners, bleach powder, fabric softener, shaving cream, after shave, solid deodorant) – Narcotic. …”respiratory disturbances” … “Attracts bees.” “In animal tests: ataxic gait, reduced spontaneous motor activity and depression … development of respiratory disturbances leading to death.” …”depressed frog-heart activity.” Causes CNS disorder.
Scent of Danger: Are There Toxic Ingredients in Perfumes and Colognes? n/d. Scientific American.
New Data Reveals One-Third of All Fragrance Chemicals Linked to Human, Environmental Harm. Women’s Voices for the Earth. Sept. 26, 2018. [Press Release.]
Is your perfume making you ill? Science finds growing evidence that the scents in chemicals and cleaning sprays are causing cancer, headaches, and harming unborn babies. DailyMail, 2/22/18.
Meyer, R. The Air Pollutants in Your Medicine Cabinet. Atlantic Monthly, Feb. 21, 2018.
More to come.