How do you feel about using "secret" ingredients on your body or in your home? We're all doing it.
There are undisclosed chemicals in the products we put on our bodies daily — deodorant and shampoo — and the products we use in our homes — dryer sheets and air fresheners. They're used to make things smell good, or mask unpleasant odors (like B.O.). And some of them may actually be hazardous to our health, and the planet's.
What's our right-to-know when it comes to the scented products we buy? (Keep reading if you think you're exempt from this secret because you don't wear perfume or cologne.)
No law in Canada (or the U.S.) requires manufacturers to disclose all ingredients in consumer products. Cosmetics manufacturers get away with using the catch-all terms fragrance or "parfum", code words for over 3,000 chemicals, most of which haven't been tested for toxicity. They could be lurking in your trusty deodorant, baby lotion or dish soap — and you wouldn't even know it. Manufacturers get away with calling their concoctions "trade secrets".
Our Docs Talk guest columnist Dr. Anne Steinemann analyzed 25 best-selling fragranced products to find out what's really in them. The results were surprising. Nearly half of the products she studied emitted one or more carcinogenic "hazardous air pollutants" (1,4-dioxane, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and methylene chloride), which have no safe exposure level, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Many of these unlisted ingredients can cause serious health problems, especially for people with lung diseases such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Being near a scented product can make some people sick.
Fragrance is in nearly everything! When we asked Canadians to read the labels on your personal care products and look for a dirty dozen harmful ingredients, parfum was the one most commonly found — in 56 per cent of the products entered. And 62 per cent of the 6,200 people who took our survey were already carefully reading ingredient lists.
Right now there's no way of knowing what's in a product that includes parfum or fragrance. Help us close this ingredient labelling loophole. We have the right to know about all ingredients contained in our cosmetics. Tell our Health Minister you're tired of secrets when it concerns your health.
How do you avoid parfum or fragrance in the cosmetics or household products you use?
Lindsay Coulter, Queen of Green