Tag Archives: fragrances

Smell INC Salutes: Fragrance Free Places

Smell INC. applauds those businesses, workplaces, and cities  that promote a healthy environment for all by limiting the use of fragrances.

These places promote a form of fragrance free environments. Let’s support them and  please encourage more to join the revolution.

  • City of Detroit workplace
  • New York City Health Department
  • Tuttle, Oklahoma City Hall
  • Portland Oregon City workers
  • Harrison Medical Center in Bremerton, Washington
  • Jefferson City Missouri’s Parks and Recreation Department
  • Windom Area Hospital in Windom, Minnesota

Those of us with allergies, migraines, asthma, and multiple chemical sensitivity thank you!

If you know of another place that should make our list, please let us know.

Study: Home air fragrance can contribute to asthma and allergy issues

A new study presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) discusses how and why air freshners can affect our health.

The study talks about volatile organic compounds (VOCs) being found in numerous home fragrance products. Some VOCs include formaldehyde, terpenes, benzene, alcohols and ammonia. Certain chemicals found in fragrances contain ingredients considered toxic or hazardous under federal laws. VOCs can trigger headaches and respiratory tract irritation. There are also concerns about phthalates being discovered in fragrances which have been reported to cause hormone disruptions and cancer.

Statistics from the study “Is that Breath of Fresh Air Really Fresh? Do air freshners help?”….

  • 20% of general population and 34% of asthmatics reported health problems from air freshners.
  • 30% of general population and 38% of asthmatics reported problems when exposed to other’s scented products.
  • 58% of people with chemical sensitivity report health problems from air freshners.

This presentation suggested that doctors consider fragrance exposure in diagnosis and discuss the problems of fragrances with their patients. They even recommended one patient stop wearing perfume and using home air fragrances as part of her allergy treatment.

Please look at the original study, here is the link

If you would like more info from the ACAAI conference use this link

Ambient Scenting Revealed: Businesses Pump Fragrances to Encourage you to Spend $$$

I recently bought a purse from a large name department store. The bag is banished to the guest bedroom because it reeks. It will air out there for a month or so. This purse has been soaking in the scents of its store for a while. Many stores are scenting their air with fragrances.

This can be done by large units in air conditioning systems or small motion controlled units hiding under a shelf on a promotional display. There are a lot of companies out there delivering a myriad of devices and smells to businesses, this marketing technique is called ambient scenting and it’s taking off.

These fragrance pumping devices are found in stores, hotels, casinos, cruise ships and even public buildings. They may be trying to mask an unpleasant odor or they may be trying to seduce you into spending more of your money. They may also be making you sick, but more on that later.

Shopping Malls: ripe with ambient scenting

The concept is to use smells to create brand recognition. A signature scent that may evoke certain emotions or memories. My friend Kelly says that Cover Girl powder has a unique scent to it and when she smells it she instantly recalls Cover Girl and the positive feelings she has towards their makeup. Companies are taking scent branding beyond their products and are using it in their stores and promotional displays.

Most people know that the popular teen clothing store, Abercrombie & Fitch keeps their stores smelling of their cologne, Abercrombie’s Fierce. If you walk into one of these stores you will be greeted by their signature scent.

Scent Air, an ambient scenting company, boasts on their website about some of their customers.

  • Sony Style Stores – a signature fragrance of  “citrus, vanilla and other secret ingredients”
  • Westin Hotels & Resorts – entrances use a white tea fragrance
  • Four Points by Sheraton Hotels – lobby and common areas smells of “Pinwheels in the Breeze”, a Yankee Candle designed signature scent
  • Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino – Uses a HVAC system to pump “Coconut Spice” through 135,000 square feet
  • Bloomingdale’s–  Baby Department smells like baby powder, coconut in the swimsuit section, and Lilac fragrance in Lingerie. Seasonal scents like chocolate, pine and sugar cookies waft there as well.
  • Hard Rock Hotel Universal Orlando – Smell of “Ocean” in the lobby and “sugar cookie” and “waffle cone” near the ice cream shop.
  • Celebration Health MRI facility – smells of “ocean” and “coconut” to relax patients receiving MRI’s.

Scent air offers many ways to distribute fragrances from devices that can be hooked up to large building air conditioning systems with intensity controls to point of purchase sprayers that can be mounted on a shelf display and be triggered by motion sensors. Scent air is so high-tech they custom make units large enough for theme parks and the military to use in simulation training. They even created scent distribution devices for street billboards. Scent air is just one of many companies offering ambient scenting devices.

Another company named Prolitec created scents for a large retailer in Europe comparable to Wal-Mart. They created a “Wine Cellar” scent for the wine section and “Nature After Rain” for the checkout line. For hotels, Prolitec claims it turned a pool’s chlorine smell into fresh flowers and masked bad tobacco and moldy odor. Prolitec also supplies a major casino in the Southeast with ambient scenting to hide tobacco smells there. Prolitec suggests its products to cruise ships, malls, fitness centers, schools, health care facilities, theatres, and airports. Here are some of Prolitec’s clients they have listed on their website…

  • Bebe
  • Abercrombie & Fitch
  • Hollister
  • Samsung
  • Diane Von Furstenberg
  • Hilton
  • InterContinental
  • Sofitel
  • The Breakers
  • Palm Beach
  • MGM Grand Hotel & Casino
  • Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino
  • Bellagio
  • Harrah’s
  • Bliss Spa
  • GE Healthcare
  • Lifeline Fitness
  • Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh
  • Henry County Health Center

Event planners may contact another scenting company called Scentevents for their parties. They have quite a list of events on their website which they provided this service.  It ranges from weddings to movie premieres to theme parks to museums. They carry a wide range of scents including crayons, rotten fish, fresh-cut grass and bubble gum.

Ambient scenting may just be an interesting marketing technique to most people but it can make some sick. Many people suffer from allergies, asthma, migraine headaches and multiple chemical sensitivities. All of these can be triggered or made worse by fragrances. When someone walks into an establishment there is no way of knowing whether fragrances are being pumped through the air.

I get headaches triggered by fragrances. Trips to certain businesses mean I will be popping Excedrin before the afternoon is over. I thought it was probably the fragrances of the other people in the store but now I suspect it has to do with the fragrances these stores are using. I am now a lot more savvy to this and avoid those stores. I wonder if these businesses even give consideration to people like me. Do they think about the customers they might be losing because their marketing technique makes them ill?

I’m not saying all scents are evil. I enjoy the vanilla wafting through the air from Ben N Jerry ice cream shops. That fragrance does not give me headaches, maybe it’s just natural vanilla?

If you are like me and suspect an establishment is using a fragrance that is making you sick, please speak up. Tell the manager. Write the corporation. That business would most likely want to know and if enough people complain perhaps it will create change.

And for those businesses using Ambient Scenting, it would be nice if you disclosed it somehow. A sticker in your storefront window perhaps or a disclaimer on your website. I would love to know before I plan a cruise or book a night at a hotel whether or not they use this kind of scenting. I know this will likely never happen but it really should.

Ambient Scenting is widespread, don’t take my word for it…. here are some links to check out and as always your comments are welcome.

http://www.businessweek.com/magazine/content/10_26/b4184085987358.htm

http://www.prolitec.com/ambient_scenting.htm

http://www.scentair.com/power-of-scent-case-studies/

http://www.scentevents.com/scent-systems-products.html

http://healing.about.com/cs/mcs/a/scentsense.htm

If you want to know more about how fragrances can affect your health, how prevalent scents are in our society, or how to have a fragrance free lifestyle please browse other articles on this blog “Smell Inc. The Perfuming of America”.

NYC Health Department bans fragrances

The New York City health department is enacting some new rules for their employees to encourage healthier lifestyles and set better examples. This includes employees to refrain from wearing strong fragrances.  As someone who suffers from fragrance induced headaches, I applaud them. Click on the links to read more.

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/2011/04/04/2011-04-04_health_depts_new_guide_focuses_more_on_donts_than_dos.html

http://www.myfoxboston.com/dpp/news/national/nyc-health-department-unveils-new-employee-rules-20110405

http://www.ny1.com/content/top_stories/136776/strict-new-guidelines-for-city-health-dept–workers

Boy Hospitalized; Mom Sues over Fragrance use at School

A mother files a federal complaint after her son is hospitalized three times with anaphylactic shock from exposure to freshly sprayed perfume at school. She demands that the school establish a policy banning the spraying of perfumes, colognes and scented body sprays within his school environment.

Her 17 year old son has allergic reactions to fragrances sprayed in his immediate proximity which can cause his respiratory passages to close resulting in difficulty breathing.  The latest episode caused her son to be rushed to the hospitalized by ambulance with temporary loss of voice for a number of days.

The mother claims the Fort Wayne Indiana school district is refusing to protect her son which violates the Americans with Disabilities Act. She says she plead with the school nurse, principal and members of the school board and was dismissed.

She says her son “would be able to function and otherwise receive the benefit of a public education at Northrop High School, and avoid unnecessary risk to health and life, if provided the reasonable accommodation requested, specifically, reasonable modifications to rules, policies or practices, designed to control, limit and restrain the presence of airborne chemicals to which plaintiff suffers grave allergy.”

Read the whole story and see the lawsuit at  http://www.courthousenews.com/2010/11/17/31910.htm

MY THOUGHTS: The AXE body spray clouds are so thick at high schools you could cut it with a knife. Poor kid. I luckily did not have my issues with fragrances when I was a teenager. I can not imagine how awful it must be for him. How hard would it be for the school to ban spraying of fragrances? Why would this even be an issue? Shouldn’t a student have the right to non hostile environment? Are any students harmed because they can’t spray their perfume while at school? How many times a day must students apply fragrances anyway? I hope the lawyers she hired are good…. can’t wait to hear the outcome.

What are you breathing? Study finds fragrances contain some surprising ingredients

Researchers at the University of Washington tested 25 cosmetic and cleaning products and found that each item contained volatile organic compounds (VOCs) with an average of 17 per product.

The researchers claim that many of the VOC’s are classified by the federal law as hazardous or toxic and some are possible carcinogens. These VOC’s are found in the fragrances of the products.

Companies are not required to list ingredients of fragrances. They are protected by trade secret laws and are self-regulated. The products in this study did not list the VOC ingredients on their labels so consumers have no idea they are present.

The study claims that even products labeled as “green”, “natural” or “organic” also contained VOC’s.

Some of the ingredients that were found were…

Acetone- Used in nail polish remover and as paint thinner

Ethanol- Used in drinking alcohol, fuel and solvents

Formaldehyde- Embalming fluid as known as the smelly liquid from biology class

Acetaldehyde- Found in tobacco smoke and car exhaust

Methanol- used in antifreeze, to make fuel and embalming

1,4 Dioxane- EPA classifies as a probable carcinogen and known irritant

Chloromethane- was used as a refrigerant but discontinued to concerns over toxicity and flammability

Methylene Chloride- used as a paint thinner and degreaser and OSHA considers it a potential carcinogen

See University of Washington Professor Anne Steinemann’s  research page for the complete study.

On a personal note: I suffer from migraine headaches caused by fragrances. I am very grateful that the researchers from University of Washington are doing these studies. I hope some day to figure out which chemicals are causing my neurological reactions. I encourage you to support the Safe Cosmetics Act of 2010 so that all fragrance ingredients are listed on the labels.

Top 5 Stores I’d Like to Shop in but CAN’T

Since fragrances trigger headaches for me, I won’t be wandering in a Yankee Candle store and you can bet I only visit stores like Perfumania in my nightmares. While I avoid the stores that are obvious olfactory overloads, there are some stores I avoid that seem too fragranced for what they sell. These are shops that the idea of browsing them is out of the question for me. This is my list of the top 5 stores I’d like to shop in but can’t.
  1. Bed, Bath & Beyond
  2. Pier 1 Imports
  3. Joann Fabrics & Crafts
  4. Victoria Secret
  5. Macy’s
Bed Bath & Beyond and Pier One Imports are in a league of their own. These two stores are so fragrant that I can get a migraine headache within minutes of stepping inside.
BED BATH & BEYOND– A year ago, there was a frying pan I wanted and the only store I knew had it was Bed, Bath & Beyond. It was on sale and I had one of those $5 off coupons. So on a good weekend day I decided to do a strategic strike with no time for browsing…. get in & get out. I quickly found the frying pan and grabbed a plastic spatula on the wall next to it and off I went. The spatula has a rubber handle that absorbed the store’s fragrances. I washed that spatula at least 50 times now and it stills smells of the store. It’s over a year old and still reeks. Why is their store so smelly? Is it just the candles they carry? I think they must also pump a fragrance through the store as well. Next time you walk in one of these stores notice how the smell greets you. I find it overpowering. Until they change their stinky ways, I am not going in their store again.

PIER ONE IMPORTS– Big time olfactory offender. When I just walk past their doors the smell wafts out and attacks me. Scented candles galore, air fresheners being tested and who knows what else is contributing to the cloud of fragrances. I can’t even window shop this store without being at risk for a headache.

JOANN FABRICS & CRAFTS– Joann is in a different class as the first two offenders. I can on occasion make a mad dash in there to grab one supply. I just hold my breath when I’m near the candles and I don’t linger. I do not shop there when I’m feeling migraine-y. I do wish they would tone it down with the smells.

VICTORIA SECRET – Some stores are better than others. I think it depends whether the associates are actively spraying their perfumes in the air or not. It’s really hard to avoid the perfume section since it is located with the cash registers. And it’s not just the stores. I have ordered clothes from their catalog and some had to be aired out because they reeked of perfume.

MACY’S– I’ll still step into a Macy’s on occasion. I stay far way from the perfume counters. If I buy an item from their store I must quarantine it to the guest room for weeks to let it air out. I would love to shop Macy’s like most people and wander about the store but doing that is risky business for my head.

Are there stores that bother you because of their use of scents? Please comment.