Shocking Report Reveals Secret Chemicals in Popular Perfumes, Is Yours One of them?

ewg fragrance chemicals

Credit: EWG

Is the same cologne that's turning you on damaging your sperm? According to a new report released by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, seventeen name brand perfume products were found to contain a "complex cocktail of natural essences and synthetic chemicals - often petrochemicals," including diethyl phthalate, a chemical linked to sperm damage in adult men and abnormal development of reproductive organs in baby boys. Lab results revealed an average of 14 chemicals secretly lurk in common fragrances; some of which have been linked to hormone disruption and allergic reactions while others have not even been assessed for safety in personal care products.

So whether you apply a dab of your mother's Chanel each morning or stroll by Abercrombie & Fitch's store on Fifth Ave in New York City--which you can smell from blocks away--this report is a must read:

Number of Chemicals Found in Common Fragrances Not Listed on the Label


Source: Environmental Working Group analysis of product labels and tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Health risks from secret chemicals depend on the mixture in each product, the chemicals' hazards, that amounts that absorb into the body, and individual vulnerability to health problems. Caption and Image via EWG

Prior to World War II, the perfume industry used only natural methods and oils to craft fragrances. But due to the revolution in the chemical industry, it became dirt cheap--and dirty--to produce pleasant scents. Today we have fresh scents comprised of any number of the fragrance industry's 3,100 stock chemical ingredients. A perfume's exact concoction is kept secret from the consumer; This is made possible--and legal--due to a loophole in the Federal Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973--a little outdated, no? The Act requires companies to list ingredients on cosmetics, not fragrances.

Chemicals from perfumes, cosmetics, and personal care products are absorbed through the skin and inhaled with applied or sprayed. This pollution begins in the womb: a 2009 EWG study found synthetic musk chemicals Galaxolide and Tonalide in the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants.

Results for all Fragrance Ingredients Combined (Disclosed on Label or Revealed in Tests)

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Source: EWG analysis of 91 chemicals in 17 products including 51 chemicals listed on product labels, and 38 unlabeled chemicals found in tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics combined with analysis of chemical hazard and toxicity data from government and industry assessments and the published scientific literature. Caption and Image via EWG

The FDA does not have the authority to require manufactures to test cosmetics for safety; the $50 billion cosmetics industry is free to manufacture, market, and sell scents, body sprays, and aftershaves, that may cause health problems. The report reveals that the fragrance industry has published safety assessments for only 34% of the unlabeled ingredients: "Chemicals range from food additives whose safety in perfumes has not been assessed to chemicals with limited public safety data, such as synthetic musk fragrances, which accumulate in the human body and may be linked to hormone disruption."

It is not only the hidden chemicals that are a concern, chemicals listed on labels raise safety concerns, too. According to the EWG analysis, such chemicals include sunscreen and ultraviolet-protector chemicals, linked to hormone disruption and 24 chemical sensitizers, that can cause allergic reactions.

The report concludes that "laws must be changed to require the chemicals in fragrance to be fully disclosed and publicly accessible on ingredient labels." Until then, we suggest avoiding fragrances when possible--try making your own perfume from flowers in your garden--and getting informed; Visit EWG Not So Sexy for details on specific products and to view the full report, which is 44 pages in length.

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