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Tag: natural fragrances

Fragrance Pollution

We are carpooling with a kid whose clothes smell so strongly of Tide detergent that I can smell him the moment he walks through a door twenty feet away. When we are all loaded in the car together, the aroma is so overwhelming I can taste it, and my daughter and I each sneeze several times during the short drive. As I write this 45 minutes after dropping the kids at school, I can still sense laundry detergent on my tongue and my eyes feel scratchy.

Emperor of Scent by Chandler BurrA few years ago I picked up The Emperor of Scent: A True Story of Perfume and Obsession, by Chandler Burr, a fascinating story about the sense of smell and where the fragrances in our modern world come from. Reading it reminded me that aromas are made of molecules, albeit molecules that are invisible. Even though you can’t see a smell, the molecules are still there.

The familiar scents in today’s consumer society are added to products using modified, or “designer,” molecules constructed by one of six massive chemical fragrance companies around the world. These six companies supply the scents for everything from Pine-Sol to Clorox, Herbal Essences shampoo, Tide laundry detergent, Bounce dryer sheets, Glade air freshener, and even Opium perfume.

If something says “fragrance,” “natural fragrances,” “aroma,” or “perfume/parfum,” you can be assured that the smell came from a chemist’s lab at one of these companies. The only safe, natural aromas in products are labeled “essential oils”.

Breathing in chemically-altered molecules can contribute to your body’s overall toxic load, and in today’s America we are exposed to more chemically created fragrances than ever before. They are everywhere you turn. Cross your personal toxic threshold and your body will make you pay in miserable ways. For me, three years of daily hives was one of my wake-up calls.

Many so-called “natural” products use chemical fragrances that fool you into thinking they are really, you know, natural. This makes it even more imperative to read labels carefully. A journalist friend did a story of such “natural” cleaning products years ago and her sources said that because they “claimed” to be natural smelling, users tended to inhale even more of the aroma molecules than with conventional cleaning products, leading to the conclusion that natural cleaning products were actually more harmful than chemical cleaners. I don’t agree, but I do think you should avoid sniffing chemical fragrances as much as possible.

I’m conscious that each fragrant whiff of our carpooler’s clothing sucks chemically-altered molecules deep into my lungs, where they have the potential to get stuck in that mass of alveoli and continue to irritate my immune system. I wonder if his family is using too much detergent with each load, or if this is what Tide would have us believe freshly-laundered clothes should smell like.

In our house we avoid these chemical fragrances whenever possible, using natural laundry detergents like Ecos and Seventh Generation that don’t leave heavy scents on our clothing, and skipping the dryer sheets. We also use natural cleaning products that don’t leave behind chemicals in the air; a “fresh, clean scent” at my house is usually associated with the smell of vinegar, not Chlorox or Lysol.

Without a bunch of chemicals floating around my indoor environment, my sense of smell has sharpened, and my appreciation of foods has increased along with it. But maybe the best effect for me personally is the reality of living a hive-free life for more than eight years now.

I wonder how I can broach the subject with my carpooler’s mom in a delicate way. I’ll welcome any ideas in the Comments below!

How to Decrease Asthma, Allergies

A reporter recently asked me for the top five foods I recommended avoiding feeding to young children to boost their chances of growing up allergy-free.

I found this to be an impossible task.

From all that I’ve learned in my studies over the last decade, I believe that each person’s hypersensitivity profile is unique to themselves. What might cause problems for Joey might be fine for Susie, and vice versa.

Although certain food groups may seem to commonly cause adverse reactions –like dairy, gluten, or soy – it’s too easy to unnecessarily restrict your child’s diet and miss basic nutrients by making random guesses at what allergens are already causing or might someday cause distressing issues in the general population.

After all, most people (70-90%)have normal tolerance thresholds and never or rarely experience abnormal reactions from foods. Only about 7% of the population actually has Celiac Disease and reacts to gluten, for example.

So you see how it might be difficult to make a blanket statement to recommend that everyone avoid all the same foods with the goal of decreasing everyone’s potential for developing allergies.

Lowering Your Overall Toxic Load Will Increase Tolerance

That said, I do believe that by eliminating as many chemical items and known poisons from your child’s overall toxic load as possible you’ll help his/her body develop higher tolerances and experience fewer allergic reactions from anything.

These are the items I would suggest eliminating (or at least minimizing) from a child’s diet in order to lower his/her potential for asthma, allergies, and other aberrant immune reactions:

1. Food Dyes. A recent compilation of studies found a correlation between ADHD and commercial food dyes used in many familiar products. These dyes are in almost every food item marketed to children, and in many other commonly eaten products.

I can see this happen in my own son as his behavior will deteriorate rapidly after eating something artificially colored. The food dyes cause hypersensitivity reactions in him that result in a mediator (i.e. histimine, et al.) release. This is often called an allergic reaction, though the correct term is a “hypersensitivity reaction.” The mediators/histamines/cytokines cause swelling in the brain that manifests in behavioral changes and mental distraction. Removing food dyes can eliminate the need for Ritalin or other behavior-modification drugs.

2. Synthetic Sugars. From Splenda to Aspartame, Sucralose, Fructose, and High Fructose Corn Syrup, these all work to confuse the pancreas and create an off-balance internal environment. They’ve also been shown to contribute to weight gain, not weight loss. Give children real raw cane sugar, pure maple syrup, or honey when possible and avoid all artificial sweeteners.

3. “Natural Flavors”. The term on a label of “natural flavors” may translate to a chemical brew of more than 40 noxious components. See here for a list of the “natural flavors” in one strawberry milkshake. The ingredients in “natural flavors” are considered top secret and not public information.

4. Artificial and “Natural” Fragrances. Again, I’m referring to the labeled term “natural aromas or fragrances” used in many cosmetics, personal care items, soda pops, markers, and other products.

Aromas are physical molecules that travel into our bodies when we inhale. Breathe in deeply to fully appreciate the fresh scent offered by that dryer sheet or air freshener spray, and you’re bringing those synthetic, laboratory-constructed molecules down deep into your lung tissues where they can get trapped and come back to haunt you later.

Many artificial scents and flavors are made from petrochemical derivatives. Artificial fragrances contribute heavily to one’s toxic load, and for asthmatics and other hypersensitive people they can trigger an immune response.

5. Petroleum Products. Our modern society is saturated with petrochemicals that are in every plastic item we touch, almost every water bottle we drink from, and every canned food we eat. Our cosmetics are full of petroleum, as are our skin care lotions, suntan lotions, and perfumes. Our skin is our largest organ, and it did not evolve to handle being smothered by a toxic sludge found far below the surface of the earth.

Everyone’s tolerance threshold for toxins and allergens is different.

Once a person breaches their tolerance threshold and enters toxin overload, you might see a cascade effect where more and more substances cause more and more reactions. These issues may manifest as asthma, IBS, migraines, exzema, fibromyalgia, hives,… and on and on. We’re now learning that many auto-immune responses, perhaps even multiple sclerosis, may be due to hypersensitivity reactions.

Alessio Fasano, professor of pediatrics, medicine and physiology and director of the Mucosal Biology Research Center and the Center for Celiac Research at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, wrote in Scientific American’s August, 2009, issue that,

“Indeed, a growing body of evidence suggests that virtually the same trio of factors underpins most, and perhaps all, autoimmune diseases: an environmental substance that is presented to the body, a genetically based tendency of the immune system to overreact to the substance, and an unusually permeable gut.”

Get rid of the chemicals as a start down the right path for avoiding allergies.

While it may be impossible to say what foods everyone should avoid to decrease their risk of developing allergies, it’s much easier for me to say which chemicals and synthetic substances we should avoid to avoid crossing all of our tolerance thresholds, not just in kids.