Tag Archives: migraine

Fragrance Free Solution: UV light pocket purifier for cleaning without chemicals

I have heard of UV light used  in industrial situations like disinfecting hospitals and  air filter systems on public transportation like buses. Now a company is offering it as a consumer product.

Photo courtesy Purely Products

Pocket Purifier by Purely Products

Purely Products created the pocket purifier. It is a small device that uses UV-C light to destroy germs. It is recommended for use on hard surfaces like countertops, children’s toys,  cutting boards, computer keyboards, and cell phones. They do warn about exposing the light to your eyes, this can be harmful. They also say it should not be used on your skin.

For someone like me who has health issues with fragrances and most cleaning products, this may be worth $20. I like the concept of being able to easily disinfect my keyboard and cell phone too.

Here is the link to their website if you would like to purchase or get more info.


If you have experience with this product or have any other fragrance free solution, please leave a comment.


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.






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”.

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.

Genetic Link Found for Migraines

A new study could lead to better treatments for migraines as researchers find a genetic link to migraines.



What is a migraine and why do fragrances trigger my headaches?

When I often tell people that fragrances can give me migraine headaches, they say something about allergy issues. Most people do not understand that a migraine headache is a neurological disorder and can be triggered by fragrances.

I get migraines because my brain easily gets over stimulated. It’s this stimulation that tells my brain to increase production of certain chemicals. These chemicals can cause other reactions to happen which can result in nausea, throbbing pain, blood vessels dilating and constricting, difficulty concentrating, and a range of other unpleasant side effects.

The best way for me to manage my headaches is to avoid my triggers, keeping the stimulation under control. I think of it on a point system. It takes 100 points to get a headache. Not sleeping 7 hours is worth 25 points, eating poorly is worth 25 points, chocolate is worth 10 points, smelling strong perfume is worth 65 points, drinking 2 cups of coffee is worth 15 points, stress can be worth 35 points and so on. If I combine too many triggers in a day I’m done for. And yes, fragrances would be the trigger I assign the most points to.

With certain perfumes/ fragrances all it can take is a whiff of a passerby and my brain starts to tingle. I know I have to be extremely careful the rest of the day or I need to take Excedrin as a preemptive strike.  I am in complete control of most of my triggers except fragrances. People close to me avoid fragranced products but all the acquaintances I run into in a day, well that’s a different story. I don’t expect everyone to stop wearing fragrances but I would hope people would keep them a little more to themselves. You should not be smelling them unless you are in their personal space. When they walk past you and leave a scent trail, well that’s a bit much.

Why is my nervous system so sensitive? I suspect genetics has something to do with it but I’m not certain.

There are good resources out there that give more details about the chemicals involved in migraines, here are a few….

A short video that contains animation which shows the biological process of a migraine headache happening and explains which chemicals are involved… http://video.healthination.com/usnews/migraines.html

Magnum – Migraines awareness group detailed article about myths and facts of Migraines…  http://www.migraines.org/myth/mythreal.htm

HealthCentral- a website that has lots of good information on migraines…. http://www.healthcentral.com/migraine/understanding-migraine-000097_3-145.html

It’s all in your head

How do you know it’s not all in your head? Yep, I hear that often when I talk to acquaintances about my headaches. People are actually bold enough to question my sanity out loud.

These are the people who after I confide to them that fragrances give me headaches, they respond with I LOVE my perfume. After I assure them that their perfume isn’t bothering me, they start questioning me. It’s probably hard to believe that something that gives them so much pleasure can bring others so much pain.

I read a blog entry on MSN’s Workbuzz recently which discusses this issue of fragrances in the workplace. Hundreds of comments were from people who suffer like I do but there are some who just don’t understand and label us as whiners and crazy. If you would like to see the blog…


It’s well known that some people are affected negatively by perfumes. Fragrances can cause asthma attacks, allergic reactions, and migraine headaches in some individuals. It’s a physical response not a mental one.

Here are some links to established medical associations about migraines and fragrances…



Woman Wins $100,000 Settlement Over Perfume In The Workplace

Detroit city employee, Susan McBride, sues her employer for not addressing her complaints about her work environment.  McBride has chemical sensitivities to fragrances and a co-worker’s perfume was making it difficult for her to breathe which also resulted in migraines, nausea and coughing. She was awarded $100,000.  The city of Detroit is now asking employees in the buildings where she works not to wear fragrances.

This is a link with all the details about the case…


And the link to the article by CBS The Early Show…. there are also videos related to this story that are worth watching.


My Thoughts: I suffer from migraines that are triggered by fragrances.  I think it’s sad that she had to sue to get a coworker not to wear strong perfume. I wish our society was less obsessed with scents and was more considerate of others. I think this lawsuit will help call attention to this issue and for that I am happy.

I welcome your thoughts….