Periodically, new studies confirm that scented products contain dozens of toxic chemicals that can have dangerous short term and long term effects (including being carcinogens). These products include but are not limited to synthetic scented candles, air fresheners, perfumes, colognes, aftershaves, lotions, and more. Those most at risk for short term problems are those with allergies, asthma, eczema, and migraines. All of us are at risk for the long term problems.
I am one of those who is sensitive to fragrances, and I have been all my life. I’ve always been at risk of breaking out into a rash if I touched a scented product. Many years ago when I was a newlywed and not yet sick with MCS and Lyme, one of my new in-laws gave me perfume as a Christmas present. I politely thanked her, set it aside, and mentally noted that I would send it to Goodwill as soon as possible. The giver, however, kept pressing my then-husband to tell her how much I liked the gift. He finally had to tell her, “Look, she’s sensitive to perfume. She can’t wear it.” While the gift was given from a place of generosity, it was one that had the potential to cause a reaction for me.
Since Lyme disrupted my health, however, I’ve become one of the estimated 1-2% who are severely reactive to synthetic chemicals. I have a diagnosis of multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). My sensitivities are so severe that I can’t be in a room with a plug-in air freshener or a lit scented candle. If someone gets near me wearing perfume, I have to get up and move or leave the room depending on its size or ventilation. If I don’t, I end up with fibromyalgia flares, asthma attacks and migraines. At one point, the chemical sensitivities were so severe that I became homebound because minor exposures would incapacitate me for days.
So this holiday season, as you think about giving scented products as gifts to others, consider whether or not those items really are the best choice for the recipient or those around them. Scented products can cause short term pain and long term health issues. As alternatives, consider attending a local farmers’ market, visiting a craft festival, or shopping at a holistic store. Investigate options in those places for safer products including natural perfumes, candles, and lotions crafted from essential oils; better yet, consider fragrance free items that are far less likely to cause issues for the person receiving the gift.
© 2014 Green Heart Guidance