A friend forwarded this article from the Denver Post to me the other day.
Honestly to me this isn't any huge surprise. I've been a victim of olfactory assault - most notably on a recent visit to San Francisco when someone on the BART had overdone their scent so viciously that I could smell it half the train away. Like smoking, perfume is something that you can't contain, making it a matter of public concern as well as private.
In fact, according to an article by Medical News Today "Many of the same chemicals in perfumes are the same chemicals that are in cigarette smoke." No wonder I've never been a fan of synthetics! Here is that article in full.
The American Academy of Dermatology reports that "Fragrances cause more allergic contact dermatitis than any other ingredient. More than 5,000 different fragrances are used in cosmetics and skin care products." It should also be noted that while synthetic colors, flavors, and sweeteners are on the list of ingredients that Whole Foods Market will not support in products, synthetic fragrances are NOT on that list. See their standards here. So, buyer beware! Just because it is on the shelf at your local "natural" market doesn't excuse you from reading labels if you have a sensitivity. Look for the word "Fragrance" or "Parfum" on the label instead of "Essential Oils". The only companies I have seen using the words Fragrance or Parfum on their labels that still indicate natural origin scent are European companies conforming to the BDIH standard. This standard strictly excludes synthetic fragrances and any other ingredients not of botanical, mineral, or other natural origin. Their labels do say "Parfum" (the French word for perfume) but is specifically marked "of natural origin". Read up on BDIH here.
So with chemical sensitivities on the rise and Fragrance-Free policies popping up everywhere, what's a person to do if they can't live without a little smell stimulation?
Switching to naturals is frequently the solution, and a group leading the way in that regard is the Natural Perfumer's Guild, founded by Mandy Aftel and currently headed by Anya McCoy. I should disclose that I also belong, and was thrilled to find a group of people that, like me, are dedicated to scented products that contain aromas solely from natural source. No diethyl pthalate, a suspected hormone disruptor, or other extenders are used to enhance any of the perfumes. Instead members must use only natural, plant based botanicals to create their wares. Relying on entirely natural ingredients does have its difficulties. Supply chains are subject to weather, cultural, and other disruptions. Materials can vary greatly in price from harvest to harvest and some ingredients may go out of supply completely if a smaller grower goes out of business. Some organic essential oils are available from just 1 or 2 growers worldwide.
This seasonal, agriculturally related rhythm as well as cost is one of the big reasons that larger manufacturers may shy away from natural scents. After all, why be at the behest of Mother Nature when you can synethsize as much scent as you need in a lab? But many natural perfumers would tell you that the harvests and limited nature of their supplies make each perfume and creation that much more exciting and valuable. Some of their perfumes are bespoke and custom creations, and some are available only for a season. As in the past, those aromatics are truly to be treasured since there may never be another growing season to produce exactly what you possess now - especially with global climate change in full effect creating new patterns of precipitation and temperature. And with some oils like Rose Otto valued at prices like $4000 per pound (no joke!) the word precious gains a whole new meaning.
So if you just can't live without scent (I know I can't) check out the Natural Perfumer's Guild member list and do some smell shopping. With over 24 members to choose from, and sample sizes available from many of them you'll likely find something unique to please you - and your sensitive, letigious coworkers. I know you don't need any lawsuits.
The other cool thing? You'll really have your own unique scent. Think that Chanel stuff is really "you"? Yeah, you and thousands of other women.... Plus, if you can't wear it out, what is the point of dropping that much dough? Naturals will give you a "Wow!" response instead of a "Whew!", which is really what you were hoping for, right? ;)