Fragrance compounds are the ingredients that make up the fragrance in all the food, cosmetics, etc. products used. In order to create a odour, the substance must be the volatile substance in the air, it is sufficiently concentrated and has binding ability to the receptors at the end of the nose – the olfactory receptors.
Natural fragrances are extracted from plants by extracting the ethereal oil (which creates the scent in the plant) into a concentrated solution, when many kilograms of plants / flowers are required to produce some essential oil.
Because of the high prices of essential oils, most cosmetic products, including some of the natural cosmetics, use aromatic substances produced by different methods from petroleum products and other substances that undergo complex chemical processes to produce them.
Therefore, in most products, ‘Fragrance’ is a generic name for synthetic fragrances.
Although the law requires producers to list all the chemical ingredients in products, the odor substances issue allows them not to register what the odor substances are composed of (the trade secret of the companies). What often hides behind this little word is a mixture of hundreds of ingredients that studies show may be related to a variety of health problems including allergies, skin reactions, hormonal problems, and even possible birth defects.
The almost sole control of fragrance ingredients is carried out by an organization of the fragrance substances manufacturers themselves – the International Fragrance Association, which finances and performs safety assessments of the ingredients.
Among the problematic ingredients in fragrances are:
Phthalates – a common component of plastic materials suspected of causing birth defects in boys’ reproductive systems as well as hormonal changes in 3 month old infants who breastfeed their mother’s milk (1). These substances were also found to impair semen quality in adults (3). A study conducted in the US found that 75% of the cosmetic products tested in the market used phthalates (4), and all the products did not mention the use of pathalates on the label and were probably found to be describing as fragrances.
MUSK – a central odor agent (the natural substance is produced from deer male glands (5)). Artificial Musk oil contains two main groups – nitromusks, polycyclic musks – substances that accumulate in the body and are often found during blood and breast milk tests (6-9). These substances are related to skin irritation and skin sensitivity problems and even to cancer in laboratory tests (10-11). They are also associated with women fertility problems at high concentrations of exposure (12). Studies indicate that both ‘polycyclic musk’ and ‘nitromusk’ can affect the hormonal systems (13-16). In the European Union it was decided not to approve the use of some of the nitromusks in cosmetics as fragrance. But the use of polycyclic musk as an alternative to the more toxic nitromusks was increased.
Allergic reactions to Fragrance
Fragrance is considered among the top 5 known allergens (17-18) to be declared an allergen of the year in 2007 by the American Contact Dermatitis Society (19) and is known to be capable of causing asthma and asthma attacks (20-21). The medical information has been found in about 680 researches that examine the allergenic substances of fragrance and fragrance.
In an attempt to assess the percentage of adults in the fragrance-sensitive population, about 2% of people are sensitive to these substances, indicating that it is a very important factor in the health of men and women.
In light of the endless chemical lists behind the little word ‘Fragrance’ that appears in almost all labels in cosmetics, it is recommended to consider reducing the use and exposure to fragrance products for personal use or cleaning materials.
Written by Ido Mashall
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