Synthetic fragrance is now infused in the most basic household products used daily, from toothpaste and cosmetics to washing powder and bin liners. Society is suffering with the excessive use of synthetic fragrance and its effects on people with sensitivities are beginning to show. Research completed by Professor Anne Steinemann from the University of Melbourne has revealed one third of Australians experience health problems when exposed to fragrance including migraines, dizziness, nausea, skin irritation, asthma attacks and seizures.
Initially derived from flowers and used sparingly, fragrance is now chemically produced to make it more cost effective than natural versions. Over 4000 chemicals are available for the self-regulated fragrance industry to use in the production of their products, and due to proprietary knowledge regulations, the industry is not legally required to reveal the specific ingredients used in each product. Most of the chemicals used in the fragrance industry have previously never been tested for their health effects and the ones that have been tested are allocated a safe dose due to low usage levels, however this does not account for the thousands of other chemicals a person is exposed to throughout the day.
Due to the health impacts of synthetic fragrance, it is likely in the coming years fragrance in the workplace will follow the same trajectory as smoking. The study found 7.7 per cent of Australians leave work for the day or resign, and 16.7 per cent leave a shop due to illness from fragranced product exposure.
While there aren’t any laws enforcing fragrance-free workplaces in Australia, there are precautions you can take to reduce your daily exposure to these chemicals. Purchasing fragrance-free products will significantly reduce your exposure. If you are affected by fragrance within your workplace, address your concerns with management and discuss options about enforcing a fragrance-free policy within the office. To learn more about the research into the science of scent, read Kate Grenville's book The Case Against Fragrance. This insightful and thought provoking book uncovers the truth about the production of synthetic fragrance and its heath impacts on society.