Public Health is…Fragrance Free.

Is it a Saturday night hot date, or Monday morning interview? Do you feel that a spritz of perfume or hint of scented lotion will give you the extra oomph to make a lasting first impression? Or could you actually be exposing yourself to harmful phthalates?     

What are phthalates? Phthalates are endocrine disrupting compounds that mimic your bodies’ natural hormones producing unintended responses. Phthalates increase the plasticity or fluidity of products.  In beauty products such as hair sprays, phthalates help the spray to be a light flexible coating on the hair, and in nail polish it reduces its tendency to crack.

These are the same phthalates, which California banned in toys and baby products as of 2009, but persist in products you may be using on your body daily. Lab tests have shown neurological and reproductive effects from phthalate exposure, these effects are particularly detrimental to pregnant mothers whose fetus is exposed in utero. This is a cause for concern because the CDC has noted elevated levels of phthalates excreted by women of childbearing age.

So, what do fragrances have to do with it? The Fair Packaging and Labeling Act (FLPA) gives the FDA authority to require disclosure of ingredients in retail products sold to consumers. However, these regulations do not dictate providing information on fragrance ingredients. This means consumers do not know what phthalates or other chemicals are in their fragrances.

Which products have these “fragrances?” Many deodorants, cosmetics, nail polishes, shampoos, lotions, perfumes and colognes have phthalates as part of their fragrance concoction. So the next time you pick up that scented product in the store, look at the ingredients and see if you see potential to being exposed to harmful phthalates.

To learn more about what is in your personal care products check out:

1. The Environmental Working Groups Skin Deep Cosmetics Database

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a non-profit organization that works to protect vulnerable populations from health problems attributed to toxic contaminants. The Skin Deep Cosmetics Database, launched in 2004, scores products based on a hazard scale of 0 to 10 for product ingredients and availability of data (none, limited, fair, good, or robust). You can search from among 69,000 products that have undergone the EWG’s Skin Deep scoring.

2. The Good Guide

The GoodGuide provides information about the health, environmental, and social performance of products and companies. You can download the GoodGuide app and using the camera on your phone “scan” products

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3 thoughts on “Public Health is…Fragrance Free.

  1. Just bookmarked the Good Guide…yikes phthalates! (I am particularly intrigued by the four consonant beginning–how do you pronounce it?)

  2. I agree with Richard’s comment above and I felt like this during every EHS class last semester … it is really just upsetting how easy it is for companies to produce harmful products. Thank you for providing the resources for us consumers to do our own homework!

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