Harmful Effects of Synthetic Fragrances on our Environment & Health

We all use synthetic fragrances in our daily lives and so, we are vulnerable to its dangers on our health. You might say that you don’t use perfumes or scents that often. But the fact is this- ‘Most of the cosmetics and cleaning products in our house contain these toxic fragrances’. And there are no strict regulations for your safety (from them) in almost all the countries of the world.

So now, it is very important to find out the disadvantages or to say the DANGERS of these artificial perfumes. Not just for your health, they are bad for our environment also. 

What are Synthetic Fragrances?

Synthetic fragrances are ‘chemical’ combinations that are used to provide a unique Scent to the products they are used in. They are present in most cosmetics and cleaning products. About 95% of the ingredients in them are derived from petrochemicals. The commonly used chemicals contain phthalates, benzine derivates, and aldehydes.

They are present in detergents, shampoos, floor cleaners, air fresheners, perfumes, handwashes, scented candles, just to name a few. We get exposed to them either by

(i) Inhaling (since they are volatile) or by

(ii) Direct Contact (applying on the skin or touching something cleaned by such products).

Why are they used?

They are used to such an extent in our household items because of some simple reasons as follows: –

  • They are Cheaper: Finding a natural alternative will cost more and add up in the MRP of the product. 
  • Same Smell Always: ‘Chemically’ manufactured fragrances will smell the same because they are made with the same formula. On the other hand, natural fragrances’ smell will differ depending on the process of extraction, cultivation of raw materials and some other natural factors which humans can’t control.
  • Cover-up the odor: Some products don’t smell good on their own due to the chemical already present. So, these are used to cover-up that unpleasant odor.
  • Adding Aroma- Sometimes, these fragrances are not required at all. They are just added to introduce an aroma which will be used as a ‘marketing feature’.

Harmful Effects of Synthetic or Chemical Based Perfumes on our Health

Now, let’s discuss the harmful effects of these fragrances on our health. 

  • Birth Defects: Phthalates are an important part of these toxic chemicals. It can affect our nervous system in a hazardous manner, which might result in defects in the child’s hormonal balance. Especially for Pregnant Women, they should take proper precautions to avoid getting coming in contact.
  • Endocrine Disruptors: The chemicals disturb the endocrine system of the body, affecting reproductive organs, pancreas and thyroid.
  • More dangerous for Children: CEHN, an international organization for children’s health, has pointed out several reasons to avoid using synthetic perfumes. Children play on the floor, uses hand-washes, which are common ways they come in contact with such products. A child’s immune system is not that developed and hence, there is more possibility of them getting affected. This will result in a long-term impact on their health.
  • Respiratory Issues: These might cause problems to our respiratory system, especially for Asthma patients by interfering in the inhalation and exhalation processes.
  • Cancer: Breast Cancer Prevention Partner recommends avoiding using them as much as we can, since some components of these fragrances are ‘carcinogens’, leading to higher chances of breast cancer.
  • Allergies: These are very familiar allergens that cause headaches or skin irritation to affected people.

How they Are Toxic for Environment?

They contaminate our environment by both Air Pollution and Water Pollution. When released in the air, they react with other pollutants and create a new, more lethal compound.

They are called VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds) in scientific terms and it is estimated that more than 20 thousand kilos of VOCs in released every day. Also, they ‘poison’ our lakes and oceans, when they go down the sink. Even modern filtration techniques can’t remove such particles, which means they return to our water systems and we also consume them afterward. 

Alternatives for Synthetic Fragrances

One solution will be to use essential oils, which are extracted from natural raw materials such as flowers, herbs, spices or barks. They are pure and of therapeutic-grade. It is just required to do some research before using them. And instead of artificial perfumes, you should go for Natural Attars, which are made from these essential oils. Oils are diluted to make attars for making them ‘skin-friendly’. They are long-lasting as well.

Rise of Natural Attars As Alternate to Synthetic Perfumes

As described above, Attars are extracted from different flowers, spices, herbs or from a mix of all. They possess the same aroma as the raw material/s used to manufacture them. They are very popular in gulf nations because they are alcohol-free and are gaining more traction in western countries in recent times.

With the recent trend towards natural and eco-friendly products, Attars are expected to attract more novice people in coming years. Not only they are good for our nature, but they also are long-lasting and lingers more in the air. And not just that, they offer plenty of benefits to us. The ‘fragrance of attars’ helps to relax the mind from any stress and uplift the soul during meditation.

There are no strict rules or regulations for prevention from the usage of Synthetic Fragrances in most countries. They are written on the labels as ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum’ and there is no law that requires companies to reveal the chemical components. They consist of more than 3,000 unknown chemicals and we still are unaware of what these are. We can’t even find out how toxic they are since they are kept as a ‘secret formula’ by these companies. Let’s hope in the future, things will change. 

It is not easy to ditch such products and switch to a better option because that will be a tedious task and also heavier for our pockets. But try to make some smart decisions wherever you could and find some new ways to prevent you and your family.