Responsible Living

Creating a healthy space for you and your pets

Synthetic fragrances can be found in virtually everything these days. Most cars have at least one Little Tree or Scentsy.  Febreeze can be found in most washrooms in people’s homes and businesses. Air or drawer fresheners are commonly used in most households. Everything from doggy poop bags, maxi pads/tampons, toilet paper to laundry detergent, personal care products, and even clothes (Justice clothing for girls) contain fragrances.

I was inspired to write a post about the dangers of synthetic fragrances because I’ve been to veterinary clinics where it feels like you walked into a Little Trees factory. I just imagine what those toxic chemicals are doing to those poor animals. I’ve also had many customers tell me that they have sensitive skin or have eczema. Artificial fragrance causes dermatitis. As many of you know, I am a vegan. I’ve noticed that many of my fellow vegans use air fresheners or personal care products that contain synthetic fragrance just because they are vegan and cruelty-free.

Synthetic fragrance is not safe for all animals. Human or not.

What are synthetic fragrances?

Do you know that synthetic fragrances are extremely harmful and toxic to your health and your furry friends?

The Environmental Working Group rates the ingredient “fragrance (parfum)” 8 out of 10, which is very hazardous. While links to cancer and reproductive and developmental toxicity are less hazardous, synthetic fragrance is highly linked to allergies and immunotoxicity. Synthetic fragrances have been linked to birth defects, hormone disruption, and endometriosis as well.  Groups such as the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners have written extensively about the harmful effects of synthetic fragrances. 

“When animals come into contact with synthetic perfumes, their bodies will begin reacting to them. Symptoms to watch out for are sneezing, and nasal and eye discharge. The liver can become toxic, affecting digestion, and immune and musculoskeletal symptoms can also emerge. Chronic disease may result, or the eventual development of cancer or organ failure. Itching is another sure sign of a reaction to the chemicals your companion has come in contact with.” Dr. Deva Khalsa adds that “gastrointestinal symptoms can also occur, but most veterinarians don’t attribute these signs to toxins and chemicals in the environment.” Here is another post about dogs and artificial fragrance.

When you see the ingredient “fragrance (parfum)” in the ingredient list, it contains about 300 chemicals, which are mostly harmful. There are no regulations surrounding what chemicals companies can use; companies use the excuse “trade secrets” to avoid disclosing what is in that one ingredient. In Netflix’s Stink!a father becomes concerned purchasing some pajamas that were doused in fragrance from Justice. He could not get answers from the company as to what ingredients were used, but was assured that the chemicals are safe. Unsatisfied with the company’s response, he sends the pajamas to a lab to get tested. They discovered many toxic chemicals, which have been banned for use, were sprayed on the pajamas. 

Phthalates are found in most synthetic fragrances to prolong the smell. They are one of the many toxic ingredients found in “fragrance (parfum)”. 

Natural vs. Synthetic Fragrances

It is very confusing for the average consumer to differentiate between natural and artificial fragrances because of the way companies market their products.

First of all, the term “natural” is not regulated, so any company can use that adjective and still use synthetics. 

The easiest thing to do is to scan the ingredient list for the ingredient “fragrance (parfum)”.  If the list contains this ingredient, they used synthetic fragrance. Many popular companies, such as Lush, Scentsy, Live Clean*, the Body Shop, Method, Arbonne, and Aveda claim that they only use natural ingredients and essentials. Some of these companies do in fact use some, but they mainly use synthetic fragrance to make their fragrance smell stronger and last longer. If a product (such as cleaning products) does not disclose their ingredients, don’t buy it. What are they hiding?

What are the differences between fragrance oils and essential oils?

The only truly natural fragrances are essential oils. Essential oils are extracted from plants. They are much more expensive than synthetics because they are difficult to produce. For example, it takes about 250 000 rose petals to produce 5ml of rose essential oil. This is why even the most expensive and fanciest perfume or products use synthetics. You can always tell if an essential oil is used by the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients (INCI) by the name of the ingredient. For example, rose essential oil would be “Rosa damascena”.  Finally, the fragrance from real essential oils does not last very long while artificial fragrances lasts forever.

Fragrance oils are usually a mixture of essential oils and synthetic fragrance, which means that they are not truly natural. Companies like Air Wick and Scentsy use these synthetic fragrances.

How can I make my space smell nice (or not be stinky)?

  1. Deodoroc – These bricks or pucks are miraculous in taking away unwanted odours. They are Canadian-made, environmentally responsible (you can reuse them forever), and they are children and pet safe. Very affordable.
  2. Use leftover lemon or orange peels.
  3. Use baking soda.
  4. If you like fragrance, only use real essential oils in a diffuser.
  5. There are air purifiers that destroy VOCs (such as synthetic fragrance). If your living space contains synthetic fragrance, getting one of these might be your best bet. Modern Alchemy is based in Ottawa and most of their units are produced in Montreal. If you choose this option, it will be an expensive investment.

*This company has NOTHING clean or green about them. They mostly use harmful chemicals (including synthetic fragrance) and have repeatedly lied about being vegan. You can look at their reviews and comments (they keep deleted negative comments).