Report Reveals Fragrance Allergies On the Rise | Seventh Generation
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Report Reveals Fragrance Allergies On the Rise

Author: Seventh Generation

A new report by the women's health advocacy group Women's Voices for the Earth has found that allergic reaction and sensitivity to fragrance chemicals is more widespread than previously thought. According to the report Secret Scents: The Allergens Hiding in Your Scented Products, fragrance is one of the most frequently identified allergens, and tens of millions of people in the U.S. are sensitized to common fragrance ingredients found in household and personal care products. However, it is nearly impossible for the public to avoid specific fragrance allergens because companies are not required to disclose the tens to hundreds of ingredients that make up a scent.


The report notes that children have been experiencing increased incidents of allergic contact dermatitis, once a rare skin condition and quite common now. Eczema has also seen worldwide increases in the last decade. Overall, girls have higher rates of chemical sensitization than boys.  Women, who are more likely to use more perfumed personal care products and cosmetics, are 200-300 percent more likely to have fragrance allergies than men. They are two times more likely to report adverse symptoms from exposure to fragrance.


"Too many people, particularly women, are adversely affected every day by the chemicals kept secret in fragrance", says Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research for Women's Voices for the Earth. "Knowing what chemicals are used in scented products could reduce the burden of allergies and other health impacts for millions of people."


Choosing fragrance-free products leave few options for allergic consumers. The report found that fragrance is found in 96 percent of shampoos, 91 percent of antiperspirants and 95 percent of shaving products. Companies making fragranced products currently do not reveal allergens on product labels because disclosure is not required by U.S. law. But, the manufacturers of these same household products are required to disclose the presence of 26 common fragrance allergens for their products sold in the European Union.


Some companies in the U.S. do voluntarily provide this information to their customers.  A survey of a cosmetics database conducted by Women's Voices for the Earth found more than 200 personal care product companies are already disclosing fragrance allergens on their product labels.  Far fewer cleaning product companies, who purchase about half of the total fragrance ingredients sold worldwide, are doing this. Seventh Generation, a leader in the "green" products category, has been disclosing all fragrance ingredients, including allergens, since 1998.


"We've always believed that consumers have the right to know what's in the products they buy," said Ashley Orgain, Manager of Corporate Consciousness for Seventh Generation.  "We also take great care in the ingredient choices that we make so we are proud to list them on our labels."


Two legislative solutions were introduced in Congress that will require greater ingredient transparency in consumer products. The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, which will be introduced this year by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), will require that cleaning products disclose all ingredients, including fragrance ingredients and allergens on the label. The Safe Cosmetics Act would phase out chemical ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm and require fragrance ingredients to be disclosed. 


Are you or someone you love affected by fragrance in cosmetic or household products? 


Photo: atomicpuppy68


Rodella picture
I am very affected by fragrances and often use Seventh Generation Products that are free and clear, laundry and dish washing products. I have not tried your scented products, nor will I and even though I was told they are quite benign due to essential oils being used, often times the essential oils are very noxious, people who live near temples where incense is being burned have more health issues (partly from smoke, partly from fragrances of crap being burned) and I can't stay in the room with someone wearing patchouli.
likes natural picture
likes natural
The Seventh Generation sanitizer stinks! Please find a more pleasant fragrance for it! Can't stand to use it! Would love for you to make another option, please.
TamiMCSSufferer picture
Yes, I get migraines when I am exposed even briefly to many fragrances from perfumes, colognes, deodorants, moisturizers, scented candles, soap, detergents, shampoo, conditioners, hair spray, body spray, cleaning products, you name it. And it is difficult to avoid these fragrances. Nearly everything has added fragrances, and I must avoid certain people and have a hard time going out in public. Some of my favorite products recently added or changed their fragrances and I can no longer use them. Because fragrance ingredients aren't listed, I am not even sure which ones I need to avoid or tell my friends about. Co-workers and friends often don't understand that their fragrances make me physically sick. Whatever happened to a regular clean fresh soap smell? Why add all of the strong chemicals that ruin that? I don't want to be a hermit, or wear a mask when I go out in public. What can be done to stop the fragrance war? The chemicals can't be healthy for anyone. It seems it is all marketing hype.
Anita Rinehart picture
Anita Rinehart
My husband is very affected by different scents. He avoids the detergent, cleaning products, perfume, ect. There is a certain cologne that must be very popular with women. Whenever he smells it, he feels like a cloud comes over him and he will get a headache. I do not were any type of cologne and neither does he. I always buy unscented detergent and hand lotion.
Elizabeth  picture
In recent years, especially since I had a baby, I have become sensitive to chemical fragrances. I have to be very careful what I buy and there are not many options on the market. Also because I have small children, I do not want any chemicals in the house for safety reasons. I mostly use vinegar and baking soda for cleaning and unscented (and uncolored) laundry detergents and toiletries. I can't buy any regular name brand diapers (huggies, luvs, etc) because they are often scented but do not label their packages as such. It's no fun being sensitive to fragrances, as it's limiting in many respects.
Jude113 picture
I personally don't care for many fragrances, plus I have sensitive skin, so I try to buy as many unscented personal care and cleaning products as possible. Though sometimes unscented isn't an option, so I am left picking the most tolerable scent of those available. And for that matter, why do personal care products (especially those made for babies/kids) need to be scented in the first place? Natural cleaning products are often worse as some of the natural ingredients used smell hideous, like thymol or vinegar. I love 7th generation disinfecting bathroom spray but I never use it without first turning on the fan and cracking a window. I also try to be conscious of people around me who are sensitive to scents. I gave up perfume over 10 years ago when I found out two of my co-workers got migraines when exposed to perfume.
klhprice picture
I use mostly peroxide, vinegar and baking soda as cleaners in my house. I use unscented laundry detergent and softenter but have even cut way down on those and use borax and washing soda along with peroxide (instead of bleach), vinegar and baking soda instead. I can barely walk down the laundry aisle in the grocery store without sneezing. I haven't worn perfume in over 25 years once I realized that was what caused my almost daily headaches and congestion. I use unscented anti-persperant and body lotion as well. I have to be picky about shampoos/conditioners because I can only tolerate certain fragrances and won't use anything heavy or anything that leaves a heavy scent in my heair. Rarely use hairspray and very little other hair products due to fragrance. Don't forget about scented candles! Regular wax scented candles also wreak havoc with my nasal allergies causing me severe congestion, then runny nose (like a faucet) and headaches. I have found that I can tolerate soy candles much better but only certain scents. I have no problem with natural spices or the fragrance from fruits and vegetables. I will simmer apple or orange peals with cinnamon on the stove if I want to add scent in my home. I wish there were more unscented choices out there, for everything. I wish more manufacturers would consider how unhealthy the scents and chemicals they use to disperse the scents are to the general public. Mostly I wish more PEOPLE would consider the affect their scented products (hair products, perfume, cologne, etc) have on the people they come in contact with and not use so many conflicting scents and not SO MUCH perfume/cologne. A LITTLE bit goes a long way people! If your scent lingers more than a minute you're wearing too much.
tracesboys picture
For years I had been trying to find out why I felt so bad. I've had tests for illnesses from MS to Lupus and more. Finally, I was diagnosed this year with an allergy to Balsam of Peru, which is found in some fragrance mixtures. It was in all of my personal products and cleaning products. Removing those allergens has improved my health and my life considerably. Greater visibility of the actual ingredients in the "fragance" mixtures would make it much easier to find products to use.
jlsalexandria0746 picture
I have had fragerance issues for ten years. My doctor calls them sensitivities, but he has not been able to correct the problem. I use fragerance-free everything I can find. My friends think I am weird. picture
As someone who has been dealing with chemical sensitivities and allergies for over 25 years, anything that can be made to inform and enlighten consumers (the act mentioned at the end of your article) is progress. I, too, spent a long time with the labels and the stigma attached to something that a lot of people, the medical community and public in general knew nothing about. There are a lot more options today then there were at that time. Manufacturers should be more consistent in providing more fragrance-free otc toiletries. There is a difference between fragrance-free and unscented. "Natural fragrances" in things can be problematic to very sensitive individuals (myself included.)
jillc2230 picture
I was a hairdresser and got MCS 5 years. One day I was fine the next day sick. I didn't know what was wrong with me and it was an absolute nightmare. Doctors are not familiar with this and look at you like your crazy. I am so glad that this article is available to make the public aware that this illness and allergy is real and is in this world. We need to keep awareness of this just like any other illness.
tacosner picture
My 10 year old daughter has been dealing with this. She just had a patch test to confirm the allergy to fragrance and fragrance mixtures. Unfortunately noone takes it as seriously as it is. She has even started clearing her throat excessively when she smelled things. It caused a facial rash for years that even the best dermatologists couldn't figure out. It's very frustrating!
wiccer picture
The only scents I can handle is citrus and lavender. I have had to take a shower because I shook hands with someone who had to much perfume on and couldn't get the smell off me. The older I get the worse it gets. I will leave a store if they have perfume testers because my throat starts to swell. I hate being this sensitive. Chemicals in the old cleaning stuff get me too. I use seventh gen products and tons of vinegar.
VMWH picture
I have been dealing with this for 30 years to the point where I cannot use most NATURAL floral or herbal scents either. That is why I steer clear of the 7th generation soap products etc. and stick to purchasing air filters and mini mates through you. Interestingly, two chemicals I am NOT yet reactive to when using are clorine bleach and ammonia. (Of course I know not to mix them.) For most of my cleaning I have to depend on totally unscented products. I am also diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and it is a better diagnoses than the old one for us which was, "You are a hypocondriac." And I do have a Doctor who treats MCS. He is in the next state.
rawind picture
This has been a problem for me for over 40 years. The allergists still call is a "multiple chemical sensitivity" and not a true allergy. Personally, I think they just don't want to take the time to treat it.