What Not to Get Mom For Mother's Day?

Everyone loves a nice perfume! But are the ingredients hiding within your mom’s perfume hurting her?

Artificial fragrances have been in the news a lot. We’re all trying to live a little greener, after all! But artificial fragrances are important because of the adverse effect they can have on our health.

Galaxoide and tonalide (the most prevalent artificial fragrances of all) are especially toxic to people. Fragrances tend to bioaccumulate, meaning they build up in your body’s systems. These two particular chemicals are stored in our fat cells.

Why does this matter? 34 percent of the U.S. population reported one or more types of adverse health effects from exposure to fragranced products. Many of us don’t realize how exposed we are or the impact fragrance might have on us. These chemicals often enter your body through your nasal passages, so it’s hard keeping them out!

And these chemicals stick around! A recent study showed 7 out of 10 newborn babies had these chemicals in their umbilical cord blood. So not only do they linger in our lives from the beginning, but we’re possibly passing them on to our children.

Mom loves fragrances! But they don’t love her back.

99% of Americans are exposed to synthetic fragrance weekly. Think about it: 99% percent of us are exposed to something that wreaks havoc on our bodies.

But mothers and women of childbearing age are exposed to a much higher degree. Some of this is by choice- almost 75% of US women wear spray perfume every day.

Many everyday household items such as dishwashing soap, dryer sheets and trash bags, among countless others contain fragrance. Artificial fragrance in this sense is likely a combination of any of 4000 ingredients that are unknown and unlabeled. All of them are likely to have been untested for effects.

Fragrances are also everywhere.

Because of a loophole fragrance companies and companies that use fragrance in their products do not have to disclose the ingredients that make up their fragrance. If you buy something with the label “fragrance” you don’t know what’s in it.

You may assume that it has been tested and proven safe. No! This is a self-regulated industry that tests the ingredients but primarily for dermatological safety. After all, if a large percent of the population were to break out into a rash immediately after applying their product, that wouldn’t be great for business. However, there is little to no testing for overall safety. The chemicals that make up artificial fragrance are mostly petroleum by-products.  Are they safe? Who knows!

Let’s put it this way: We can barely study the effects of fragrance in a laboratory setting because it’s so hard to find a control group (i.e. a group that has had no exposure whatsoever). Literally, most people have been exposed to these substances.

How to shop safely for Mom?

  • Don’t buy anything with the word “fragrance” or “parfum” in the ingredients.

  • Be careful when purchasing personal care items. Again, check labels! Remember that “fragrance” within the context of a label doesn’t have to be defined.

  • Incorporate natural or odorless products. We know, it’s not cool to give Mom cleaning supplies on Mother’s Day. But you can start by giving her a fragrance-free product as a gift, and then incorporate safer products into her routine.

  • Buy houseplants that clean the air. These plants detoxify the air and can help work to reverse the effects of fragrance in your home.