De-Scents-itize Your Home…For Health's Sake, Naturally! – Your Health Detective

  Your perfume (or fragranced product) may be another’s poison?

  You do not have to be wearing perfume, cologne, or a scented product to be negatively affected by it – it merely has to be airborne within approximately a 20-foot perimeter.

  Fragrances have also been studied for their effect on people with chronic lung disease, particularly asthma. Study results differ, but some data suggests that as many as 75% of known asthmatics (i.e. approximately 11 million people in the U.S. alone) have asthma attacks triggered by perfumes. 

  A number of studies have been conducted to show how fragrance affects the brain. Because of the strong connection between scent and memory, we know that fragrance products can cross the blood brain barrier. This is important because it means that fragrance chemicals have the potential to affect, and possibly damage, brain tissue. This kind of effect is called neurotoxicity. For example, Linalool, the most abundant chemical in perfume and fragrance products, is known to cause lethargy, depression, and life-threatening respiratory effects.

  As an example of how powerful the effects of fragrance can be in the brain, one study conducted in Japan showed that a citrus fragrance was more effective in alleviating depression than were prescription anti-depressants. This means that the fragrance has psychoactive properties, which places it in the category of psychoactive drugs (i.e. Prozac, Valium, Elavil, etc.).

  Fragrance chemicals can enter the body through inhalation, ingestion, through the nose and mouth, and absorption through the skin. They are then absorbed into the bloodstream and transported throughout the body. Individual sensitivity to the effects of fragrance chemicals varies widely from no effect at all to severe symptoms for those who are hypersensitive or have compromised immune systems.

  Children are significantly more susceptible than adults to the effects of fragrance chemicals, yet fragrances are added to nearly every baby and cleaning product on the market. A parent who wears perfume or uses scented products may well be poisoning the air their children breathe. Exposure to fragrances may result in the child having difficulty concentrating, learning disabilities, hyperactive behavior, and even growth retardation and seizures in extreme cases.  Even if you think avoiding fragranced products will protect your child, evidence shows that fragrance chemicals can be stored in the body, showing up in breast milk in the nursing mother. A frightening prospect indeed! 

Symptoms experienced as a result of exposure to synthetic fragrances of any kind, include, but are NOT limited to:

  • headache (especially migraine)
  • sneezing, nasal congestion
  • water eyes, blurred vision
  • sinus problems
  •  anxiety
  •  wheezing (especially in asthmatics)
  •  shortness of breath
  •  inability to concentrate
  • brain-fog
  • dizziness
  • convulsions
  •  nausea
  •  hyperactivity (especially in children)
  •  sore throat, chest tightness, chronic cough
  •  tremor (s)
  •  extreme fatigue
  •  lethargy
  •  muscle pain and tenderness to touch
  •  sleep disturbances (from insomnia to un-restorative sleep)
  •  drowsiness 
  •  blurred vision and extreme difficulty focusing

    The Human Ecologist

    published a member survey fill-in-the-blank questionnaire, to gauge member perceptions of their health-related concerns. Responses began to come back almost immediately by return mail, and are still arriving in the HEAL office. A significant percentage of all respondents reported difficulties with exposures to fragrances used by others. Here are some verbatim samples of how members filled in the blank in the following sentence:

    My most troublesome exposure is…

    • …fragrance in all forms.
    • …fragrance on people, and in and around dryer exhaust.
    • …neighbors’ fragranced dryer exhaust in my yard which prevents me from even enjoying a neighborhood walk or private time in my own yard.
    • …perfume and hairspray on co-workers.
    • …perfume, aftershave, cologne in the hospital (my workplace), and in stores.
    • …perfume (any fragranced product), because it keeps me from church and social gatherings, and from building a support system.
    • …perfume in church and restaurants.
    • …perfume, especially in public buildings and on people.
    • …perfume everywhere.
    • …fragrances, because everyone has fragrance of some sort on in public.
    • …perfume- it’s ubiquitous.
  • What do the following people have in common?

    People with allergies (50 millions in the US)

    People with asthma (15 million in the US)  

    People with chronic severe headaches (45 million in the US)   

    People with sensitivities (10 to 30 million in the US)

    De-scents-itizing Your Home

  • Dryer Sheets – Try dryer balls or safe, reusable cloths made by Static Eliminator (available at health stores and online). You can also use an aluminum foil ball in the dryer, ½ to 1 cup white distilled vinegar in the rinse cycle of the washer, or separate your synthetics and cottons when drying to avoid static-cling.

  • Laundry Detergents – Use fragrance-free detergents and softeners from responsible companies. A safe and economical option is to use three reusable T-wave™ washer discs that will be effective through 700 wash loads….no detergent required! I’ve used mine for years and love them (haven’t purchased or used detergent in over eight years).

  • Air Fresheners – Instead of masking odors, identify and remove the source or properly vent.

    · Take shoes off at the door

    · Empty trash often

    · Open window or use fan in bathrooms or kitchen 

  • Filtration – Air cleaners and purifiers are important to improve indoor air quality, especially for those individuals who are highly reactive or have compromised immune systems. Not all filters are the same. Avoid filters with plastic parts or materials that off-gas. A reputable company that makes HEPA filtration systems combined with other filtration materials, and customized for your specific needs, is available through your environmental health care professional built to filter your specific airborne pollutants. If you’re interested contact the Health Matters Store toll-free at 888.352.8175 for prices and specifics of having us order one made for your needs.

  • Cleaning Products —  The most inexpensive, safe cleansers are baking soda and water (for deodorizing) white distilled vinegar and water (for cleaning when mixed with water and a few drops of chemical-free dish-washing soap), Bon Ami (for scrubbing), and hydrogen peroxide (for disinfecting). That said, a new generation of antibacterial microfiber cloths embedded with silver can replace a cleaning product with just water for any area and are tested to be effective as an antibacterial up to 300 washings.  They’ve been scientifically tested by hospitals to kill surface bacteria. It’s the very best method I’ve found that’s healthy, safe, effective, cost-effective, and good for our planet. I also recommend you consider using a washcloth size moistened with water and carry in a zip-lock bag while on trips and away from home…much easier and healthier than alcohol-based antibacterial agents that reduce our own body’s defenses.

  • Essential Oils, Incense & Candles — A good alternative to synthetic scents is essential oils. They can be placed around the house (onto gauze, cotton balls, or a diffuser), worn as perfume, or used as a room and car deodorizer. Use a very small amount because those that are highly responsive may still react to essential oils because of a compromised immune system. When someone you know suffers from multiple allergic response syndrome (MARS™) do not wear any fragrance because the cellular memory recalls that fragrances are dangerous and does not differentiate between synthetic or natural oils and may still cause a serious allergic response until their body is again able to protect them and responses diminish.

  • For candles, try soy or natural beeswax. Don’t trust “unscented” because we know manufacturers can use other chemicals to mask chemical scents. A good alternative is battery-operated candles. I received some as a gift and have now gifted several to friends – the atmosphere they create is the same as regular candles without the health-depleting effects. If you do purchase candles, buy unscented with a cotton wick and make in the U.S.A.

  • Don’t assume all incense is safe; it has combustible materials, may include contaminants, and may contain artificial fragrances and other toxic chemicals, including lead depending on country of origin.

    Yes, it does take effort to de-scents-itize your home. That said, it’s more energy and cost-effective to stay well rather than get well, naturally.

    To download a full-color brochure of  the 13 most common chemicals found in fragranced products that also lists all the known health hazards, click the link that follows: Download 8 5x14_Fragrance. This brochure cannot be reprinted and sold…it is offered as part of my commitment of Health thru Education, and only for the use of the subscriber. 

    Your Health Detective:

    Uncovering Clues to Add LIFE to Your Years…NOT Merely Years to Your Life, Naturally

    Dr. Gloria Gilbère (aka Dr. G), N.D., D.A.Hom., Ph.D.,

    EcoErgonomist, Wholistic Rejuvenist

  • Dr. Gilbère consults with client around the world via telephone and at her Institute for Wholistic Rejuvenation in north Idaho, USA. She is internationally renowned for her work in the discovery of the causes, effects and holistic solutions to chemically-induced immune system and inflammatory disorders, leaky gut, and multiple allergic response syndromes.

    Creator of certificated courses to become a Wholistic Rejuvenist™ (CWR) and for post-graduate education for health and spa professionals. Go to and click on Wholistic Skin & Body Rejuvenation (WSBR™) for course outlines – available on-site at worldwide locations and via distance-learning at your convenience globally.

  • Resources:

    American Association for Allergy, Asthma an d Immunology, 1999

    National Headache Foundation, 1999

    Department of Health Services, California, 1996

    L. Kosta, Fragrance and Health. Atlanta GA: Human Ecology Action League, Inc. 1999. In press.

    P. J. Frosch, J. D. Johansen and I. R. White, editors. Fragrances: Beneficial and Adverse Effects. Berlin, Heidelberg, New York: Springer-Verlag, 1998.

    A.C. deGroot, P.J. Frosch, Fragrances as a cause of contact dermatitis in cosmetics. In (2).

    A.C. de Groot et al., Adverse effects of cosmetics: a retrospective study in the general population. Int.J.Cosmet Sci 9: 255-259, 1987. In (3)

    J.D. Guin and V.K. Berry. Perfume sensitivity in adult females. J. Am Acad Dermatol 3:299-302, 1980. In (3).

    D.P. Schleuter, Airway response to hair spray in normal subjects and subjects with hyperactive airways. Chest 75:544-547, 1978. In (3).

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