Lourdes Salvador's Column
...Co-founder of MCS America discusses the latest Multiple Chemical Sensitivity issues.
Perfume Harmful for Pregnant Women
by Lourdes Salvador
People are exposed to a variety of chemicals every day, many of which have not been adequately tested for human health effects. A group of such chemicals which are known to cause lowered testosterone and reproductive problems in men1, have recently become a cause for concern in women.2
This chemical group is known as phthalates. Phthalates are diesters of benzenedicarboxylic acid, a "class of chemicals used in many consumer products to impart flexibility and durability or used for their solvent properties."3
Phthalates are found in many products, including personal care products such as deodorant, perfume, hair spray, hair gel, nail polish, nail polish remover, liquid soaps, body wash, and lotions.
Toys and plastics are also a source of phthalates. The National Academy of Sciences provides the following list of common sources of exposure to various types of phthalates.3
DMP Insect repellent, plastic
DEP Shampoo, scents, soap, lotion, cosmetics, industrial solvent, medications
DBP Adhesives, caulk, cosmetics, industrial solvent, medications
DIBP Adhesives, caulk, cosmetics, industrial solvent
BBP Vinyl flooring, adhesives, sealants, industrial solvent
DCHP Stabilizer in rubber, polymers
DEHP Soft plastic, including tubing, toys, home products, food containers, food packaging
DOP Soft plastic
Many studies show widespread exposure to these phthalates as measured by urinary output. A new study completed at the Columbia Center for Children's Environmental Health found that women reporting perfume use had a 2.3 times higher urinary output of phthalates, suggesting that perfume is a significant source of exposure.2
A similar increase in urinary output of phthalates was not seen in women who reported nail polish use, indicating that perfume exposure is more readily absorbed and is harmful for women. This is especially true for pregnant women.
Not to be overlooked is the fact that everyone in proximity to a perfume wearer is also inhaling the perfumes worn by those around them.
Last year, the Centers´ for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) enacted a fragrance free workplace policy banning the use and application of such products by employees in their facilities.
The US Census Bureau has a similar policy and the City of Detroit enacted one this year after a lawsuit.
The conclusion is that perfumes may be a danger to women´s health, particularly when pregnant, and should be avoided or saved for special occasions. There are hidden perfumes, scents, and fragrances in soaps, shampoos, deodorants, lotions, cleaners, laundry products, air fresheners and many other products.
Experts recommend selecting unscented product versions and checking the label for the terms fragrance, flavor, perfume, parfum, scent, and other terms which may indicate perfume has been added.
The problem with most modern perfumes, regardless of how expensive, is that they contain anywhere from 3,000 5,000 chemicals and over 80% of these chemicals have not been tested for human safety. Some of these ingredients found in perfumes in independent studies have identified chemicals which are on the Environmental Protection Agency´s hazardous waste list. There is no independent governing body which regulates these chemicals as a result of an antiquated ´trade secret´ law.
"Though many of us believe that fragrance is a part of being beautiful and getting dressed in the morning, this belief stems from the days when running water was not available and bathing daily was not possible," says Lourdes Salvador. "Now that we have running water to bathe daily, body odor is only a fear and perfume is just not socially acceptable as it used to be."
The City of Detroit learned this lesson the hard way after paying out in a lawsuit settlement which forced it to ban fragrances for employers, visitors, and vendors.
"Employers should not have to force people to think about how they dress in the morning," says Salvador. "We should each be responsible enough to think about it and let common sense prevail. Where perfume used to be socially acceptable, it is now offensive to others. Worse, it damages health. Why would anyone want to jeopardize their health and well-being?"
Pan, G, Hanaoka, T, Yoshimura, M, Zhang, S, Wang, P, Tsukino, H, Inoue, K, Nakazawa, H, Tsugane S, and Takahashi, K. Decreased Serum Free Testosterone in Workers Exposed to High Levels of Di-n-butyl Phthalate (DBP) and Di-2-ethylhexyl Phthalate (DEHP), A Cross-Sectional Study in China. Environmental Health Perspectives. doi:10.1289/ehp.9016 (available at http://dx.doi.org/) Online 27 July 2006.
Just AC, Adibi JJ, Rundle AG, Calafat AM, Camann DE, Hauser R, Silva MJ, Whyatt RM. Urinary and air phthalate concentrations and self-reported use of personal care products among minority pregnant women in New York city. J Expo Sci Environ Epidemiol. 2010 Mar 31. [Epub ahead of print]
The National Academy of Sciences. Phthalates and Cumulative Risk Assessment The Tasks Ahead. Report in Brief. 2008.
For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.
Copyrighted 2010 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America