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New York Times seduced by fragrance industry

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

perfume.jpgA recent New York Times article glowingly portrays the lucrative business of developing patented fragrance ingredients, likening these new and exclusive fragrance chemicals to patented active ingredients in medications. However, there are a few differences between fragrances and pharmaceuticals. For one thing, new drugs must be screened with batteries of health and safety tests before they reach the market, while no such requirements apply to cosmetic ingredients. There is no FDA approval process for ingredients in fragrance or body care products. Instead, individual cosmetic companies make decisions about what’s safe for all of us. Labeling loopholes further allow cosmetics companies to hide the chemicals making up their secret mixtures from consumers. We know that common fragrance ingredients including phthalates and nitro- and polycyclic musks are widespread contaminants of people, existing in our bodies at levels similar to the prescribed doses of many medications. To reduce your own exposures to these and other untested chemicals, switch to products free of fragrance – check the list of ingredients. You can use our Skin Deep cosmetics database to find products that do not contain fragrance. The Timesarticle claims that using these untested fragrance chemicals is an ecologically sound choice, as it reduces demand for natural resources. Not mentioned: the fact that ingredients in perfumes and body care products that we wash down the drain each day end up contaminating our rivers, lakes and oceans, creating potential problems for local fisheries and aquatic ecosystems. EWG research detected phthalates, common ingredients in fragrance, in wastewater from residences, a nail salon, laundries – and in treated wastewater heading to San Francisco Bay. Phthalates can build up in the bodies of fish and affect the levels of their reproductive hormones. Studies of another common class of fragrance chemicals, nitro- and polycyclic musks, indicate several are toxic to aquatic life at low levels.

An entire article about fragrance without a single mention of health or environmental complications? All that perfume must've gone to their heads.

Photo by Ayala Moriel.