Food For Thought
© copyrighted

Colognes - Perfumes - Pesticides
Are They Slowly Killing You?
October 7th, 1999
Updated July 24, 2009 - Dec. 15, 2009 - May 5, 2010
by columnist
David Lawrence Dewey

"Reading provides knowledge...
knowledge leads to answers."
Previous Columns

Cindy Duehring was full of life and a picture of health until she was exposed to a pesticide. Cindy died June 29th, 1999. If you care to read more about Cindy's story, visit this website,

In Cindy's own words,

Then there was Julia Kendall who died July 12th, 1997. How many more deaths will occur before this madness stops. Could that favorite cologne, perfume, personal care product, fabric softener and the list goes on and on that you like to use on so much be causing serious health problems or even death? Could that pesticide you use to get rid of those nasty bugs kill you? They very well could. Here is information that you may wish to know about.

In 1986, the National Academy of Sciences recommended before the 99th US Congress that fragrances be tested for neurotoxicity. Has this occurred? No! Have personal care products been tested for effects on inhalation, for absorption through skin and eyes, getting into the blood stream or targeting organs. No! And why is this?

Perfumes, personal care products, make-up, hair care products and similar products are considered cosmetics. They come under the jurisdiction of the FDA. Most of the time ingredients on these products are required to be listed in descending order of prominence. However, there are exceptions. One in particular is when a fragrance is an ingredient. Fragrance formulas are considered trade secrets. This means companies do not have to tell anyone, including the FDA what is in those formulas. So these individual ingredients that make up the fragrance portion on the formula only has to be listed in the ingredients as "fragrance". In addition, cosmetics do not have to be safety tested before marketing. If such products are not adequately safety tested they are required by the FDA to carry a warning label saying they have not been tested.

It even gets more complicated. The fragrance portion of the product may be made up of a hundred or more different chemicals. Legally with the exception of a few chemicals banned by law, any material may be used in a fragrance. The use of the following ingredients is either restricted or prohibited in cosmetics: bithionol, mercury compounds, vinyl chloride, halogenated salicyanilides, zirconium complexes in aerosol cosmetics, chloroform, methylene chloride, chlorofluorocarbon propellants, hexachlorophene, and methyl methacrylate monomer in cosmetic nail products. This is where it gets dangerous in using these products. It is interesting that the fragrance industry has voluntarily agreed not to use or restrict the following materials; Acetylethyltetramethyltetralin (AETT), Musk ambrette, 6-Methylcoumarin (6-MC), 6-Methylcoumarin (6-MC), Nitrosamines, and Dioxane.

There is little monitoring by any government agency to ensure the banned or voluntarily restricted materials are in fact not used. The FDA does not routinely check fragrance products to ensure these materials are not used. Musk ambrette was still being found in products in 1991. There is also no monitoring to ensure that products have the proper warning label if they have not been adequately safety tested. The FDA for some reason simply assumes if the label is not there, they have been adequately tested.

The FDA has the authority to declare a product misbranded for the following reasons: improper labeling, dangerous to health. The FDA can declare the product adulterated. Generally the FDA must prove in court these allegations. For this reason the FDA will often accept the industry's action of voluntarily with drawing a substance from use. This is where it has become dangerous for the consumer. Unfortunately there is usually no follow up from the FDA.

The bottom line is this. The fragrance industry self regulates itself. Now that is a scary thought. In 1966 the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM) was formed to test fragrance materials for safety. Most of the tests conducted by the RIFM revolved around skin effects of the materials. Only about 1,300 of the more than 5,000 materials available for use in fragrances were tested. The testing did not include respiratory, neurological, or systemic effects. Are you getting the picture here?

The International Fragrance Association then takes ithis information from the testing by the RIFM and determines if there needs to be restrictions in the use of the materials. The IFRA recommends some materials not be used because of adverse effects, other materials should not be used above certain levels, and still other materials should be used in combination with substances thought to decrease adverse effects. Again, keep in mind that only about 1,300 of the 5,000 materials used in products are tested!

Now, these recommendations by the industry are not enforceable by the industry and or by the FDA. They are simply recommendations for manufacturers. Violation of these recommendations is not against the law. The end results is this. The final materials used in fragrances have not been safety tested and materials used are at unsafe levels. These substances are inhaled into the lungs, get into the brain via olfactory pathways, are absorbed through the skin, and ingested as flavors in foods.

When some of these materials are used in other industries they are highly regulated. However, In the fragrance industry they are used and people never know they are being exposed to these dangerous chemicals. Now why is this?

This is a complex issue. Safety and health effects of fragrances is something the industry does not want to become a public issue. There are deliberate actions taken on the part of the industry to discount this issue. The industry has tried to take controversial aspects of MCS and use them to discount concerns. Yet they have made no attempt to address concerns of asthma, sinus problems, migraines, contamination of waterways and aquatic wildlife, or accumulation of fragrance compounds in human fat tissue and breast milk.

At last count in 1996, there were at least 40 million chemically-injured people in the United States. Medical records of the majority of those chemically-injured will reveal mostly an unremarkable medical history, devoid of any respiratory problems or other health-related concerns. They have a steady work history and a solid psychological profile. These are people from all walks of life and who once had very lucrative careers: Air Force pilots, teachers, professors, doctors, psychologists, nurses, chemists, government workers, and legal secretaries, among others. What was supposed to keep these 40 million plus Americans from being poisoned? Let's take a look.

The Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976 enacted by Congress is supposed to test, regulate, and screen all chemicals produced or imported into the United States. Many thousands of chemicals and their compounds are developed each year with unknown toxic or dangerous characteristics. To prevent tragic consequences, the TSCA requires that any chemical that reaches the consumer marketplace be tested for possible toxic effects prior to commercial manufacture. Any existing chemical that poses health and environmental hazards is tracked and reported under the TSCA. Procedures also are authorized for corrective action under the TSCA in cases of cleanup of toxic materials contamination. The TSCA supplements other federal statutes, including the Clean Air Act and the Toxic Release Inventory under EPCRA.

Perfume is composed of many of the same toxic chemicals found on the EPA's and CERCLA's hazardous waste lists: acetone, ethyl acetate, toluene, and ethanol, among others. Other extremely poisonous substances found in fragrances are musk ambrette, musk xylene and musk ketone. A 1991 study performed by the EPA, Identification of Polar Volatile Organic Compounds in Consumer Products and Common Microenvironments, found numerous chemicals commonly used in fragrance products, including, among others: acetone; benzaldehyde; benzyl acetate; benzyl alcohol; camphor; ethanol; ethyl acetate; limonene; linalool; methylene chloride, one or all of which, or in combination with one another, cause, when inhaled, "central nervous system disorders, dizziness, nausea, incoordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, irritation to the mouth, throat, eyes, skin, lungs and GI tract, kidney damage, headache, respiratory failure, ataxia, and fatigue, among other symptoms and illnesses." Material Safety Data Sheets on each chemical confirm these findings.

Furthermore, in 1992, the EPA performed additional chemical analyses, Polar Organic Compounds in Fragrances of Consumer Products. The ten products whose headspace was analyzed were: "Giorgio cologne for men; Chantilly spray mist; Giorgio perfume; Aqua Net hairspray; Coast soap; Renuzit Freshell air freshener; Downy fabric softener; Sure solid deodorant/anti-perspirant; Vaseline Intensive Care lotion; and Max Factor nail enamel remover". Are you ready for what they found in these products?

The EPA identified and confirmed the following compounds found in these fragrance products: •ethanol •camphene •Beta-pinene •Beta-myrcene •benzaldehyde •limonene •benzyl alcohol •Beta-phenethyl alcohol •citronellal •camphor •benzyl acetate •estragole •Alpha-cedrene •Alpha-pinene •diethylene glycol mnoethyl ether •linalool •Alpha-terpineol •Beta-citronellol . Other compounds identified were: •acetone •t-butanol •ethyl acetate •toluene •3-octanone •cineole •2-ethyl-1-hexanol* •phenylacetaidehyde •terpinen-4-ol* •menthyl acetate.

All of these chemicals have been shown in animal studies to cause serious health problems and death in animals.

In 1989, the National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health recognized 884 poisonous substances (many synthetically derived from petrochemicals) from a list of 2,983 chemicals used in the fragrance industry capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, allergic respiratory reactions, skin and eye irritations. According to the National Institute of Health, in view of the escalating incidence of cancer, as well as a 58% increase in asthma over the past decade, this information is crucial. Nearly 72% of asthmatics have adverse reactions to perfume, and at least 35 million Americans are afflicted with allergic reactions and hypersensitivity diseases -- among the most costly of U.S. health problems. Today, these statistics have grown at an alarming rate.

Tests conducted at Anderson Laboratories of West Hartford, Vermont in 1998, researchers determined that emissions from fragrances caused various combinations of sensory irritation, pulmonary irritation and decreases in functional observation battery indicative of neurotoxicity.  Chemicals that stimulate the trigeminal nerve system have the capacity to trigger not just irritant trigeminal effects but also excessive neurological firing and excitotoxicity in vulnerable individuals, leading to attention deficit disorders, disorientation, spaciness, memory problems, concentration difficulties, mental confusion and cognitive deficits. I wonder? Could these chemicals actually be the cause of Alzeimer's disease that is now being seen in people as young as 55-60?

Anderson's independent laboratory research revealed that several typical eau de parfums have readily demonstrated toxic properties. "When mice breathed these vapors [for one hour], they developed a number of signs of neurotoxicity (tremors, loss of balance, twitching, abnormal repetitive movements, altered posture and gait, etc.); some were so severely damaged they died as a result of breathing these fragrance products. Mice also developed decreased expiratory air flow as if they were having an asthmatic attack while breathing the eau de parfum. These were normal mice just prior to their exposure to these fragrance products." Anderson's research and findings, Acute Toxic Effects of Fragrance Products, were published in a peer-reviewed scientific journal

In March 1999, the Journal of the American Medical Association, reported that: "Women exposed at work to organic solvents are 13 times more likely to run a risk of major fetal malformations, and many of the jobs in which such exposure is common tend to be dominated by women. The list of suspect chemicals reads like the contents of a toxic waste dump: aromatic hydrocarbons, phenols, trichloroethylene, xylene, vinyl chloride, acetone and related chemicals. The solvents and many others are part of many people's workday world and can have significant consequences for infants, such as deafness, spina bifida, heart abnormalities and extremity defects."

Even the American Lung Association's pamphlet, "Facts About Home Control of Allergies and Asthma," recommends methods of controlling allergy and asthma triggers: "source elimination, particularly of tobacco smoke, wood smoke, pet dander, cockroaches, indoor molds and fumes from household cleaners and perfumes." What is is that the ALA knows that we the average consumer doesn't?

In The Toledo Blade News, "Synthetic Musks Linked to Environmental Risks," March 24, 1999, scientists report: "Synthetic fragrances used in perfumes, soaps, ... fabric softeners, cosmetics and scores of other consumer products have become a new and unexpected group of environmental contaminants. The chemicals are accumulating in human fat tissue, blood, breast milk, drinking water supplies, lakes and streams, fish and wildlife, and elsewhere in the environment. There is reason for public concern about possible effects of these fragrances. One compound, musk xylene, has carcinogenic, or cancer-causing, effects in laboratory mice. Another, musk ketone, damages genes in animal experiments and has other worrisome effects. Dr. Gerhard G. Rimkus estimated that 8,000 tons of synthetic musk fragrances are produced annually. The compounds can be absorbed through the skin and tend to build up in fat tissue. They get into the environment in sewage and wastewater. Synthetic musk compounds are major chemical contaminants in many samples of water and fish." And the FDA still has not reacted to this vsery serious health hazard?

Recently, the Environmental Health Network's has petitioned the FDA to declare "Eternity" misbranded. This means the makers of "Eternity" have not properly labeled the ingredients used in "Eternity" as required by federal law. Numerous chemicals have been shown to cause everything from cancers to neurological problems in research studies. Yet, the FDA also fails to act on these recent studies. Do yourself a favor visit these websites to learn more about this every serious health problem. Did you know that synthetic musk is banned in England because they know it causes cancer! Did you know that BENZALDEHYDE , a chemical known to cause kidney damage in humans is used in fragrances? That BENZYL ACETATE used in fragrances is linked to causing pancreatic cancer. That ETHYL ACETATE is on the EPA Hazardous Waste known as a carcinogenic causing kidney and liver failure is used in fragrances. Can I ask, do we need a brick to fall on our heads before we will do something about this? We will wait until one of our loved one or friends actually dies from this toxic poisioning, like Cindy Duehring and Julia Kendall did. I'm sorry, but this attitude that many people nowadays have that as long as it doesn't affect them, why bother with something lke this just does not sit well with me. This type of attitude must stop.

In my opinion, what the fragrance industry has done is no different than what the tobacco industry did for years. The industry hide the truth of the very serious health effects of gases and chemicals from cigarettes. And now the the industries that make perfumes, colognes, personal care products, detergents, pesticides have been doing the same identical thing. When is this madness going to stop? Hello corporations making these products...don't you realize that if you wind up making your customers very ill or killing off your customers you won't have any customers buying your product? And when will the FDA act upon this. Well folks, the FDA won't until there is such a public outcry. That is where you can help. There is so much extensive and valid information on this very serious health hazard that I cannot provide all of it in this column. However, I can direct you to several websites that have extensive information and studies concerning this. They are:

To learn more about the EHN'S petition to the FDA visit:
Please review this material and join in the petition process to the FDA

More about the dangers of chemicals in perfumes and colognes:
The above site is being provided by Betty Bridges, RN, a registered nurse. She has provided excellent links to research data and more.

Another site to visit is:
This site has excellent sources of vaulable information.

Finally, if you don't believe the seriousness of this problem, then you need to read author/attorney, Linda Price King's new book, Chemical Injury and the Court: A Litigation Guide for Clients and Their Attorneys. Ms. King wrote this book out of her concern for the American consumer, to help victims and their attorneys.

You can order the book through most major book sellers.

I urge my readers to explore further this very serious health hazard. Get envolved to stop this madness.

~ David Lawrence Dewey ~

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Do you care about your health, the health of your children, your family?
Then make sure you read my column:
Hydrogenated Oils - Silent Killers
Learn the truth about these deadly oils in our food supplies

Read about Greta Ferebee's and my efforts in a nationwide petition campaign to get these and other toxins out of the food supply. VISIT our website:

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Last Modified: October 4, 2011