Scented store environments, dangerous to the health of employees and customers

Scent marketing alarms the trade supervision and labor unions

Businesses that use fragrances in order to encourage customers to linger and buy, are becoming increasingly common. The scent marketing industry promotes the retail branch strongly. The fragrances that one finds in the shops are mixtures of different natural essential oils or chemical compositions. Neither is harmless for employees or customers. In Denmark, the trade supervision and labor unions are keeping their eye on the American fashion chain, “Abercrombie & Fitch”. The fashion chain is known for using the fragrance Citronellol, an aromatic oil that is classified as questionable because it can be harmful to one’s health and it can trigger allergies. The Danish trade supervision is currently committed to putting an end to the scenting in order to protect the employees and customers of the fashion chain.

Authorities and labor unions are going up against scented store environments

In Denmark, labor unions are paying close attention to the authorities’ course of action against the American fashion company “Abercrombie & Fitch”. In their shops, it smells strongly of perfume. The significant fragrance is supposed to bind the customer to the brand and increase sales. The newspaper “Politiken DK” reports that so-called scent marketing has extremely increased in Denmark in the past three years. Anyone who visits certain stores frequently or is employed there, can develop allergies. It is an unnecessary burden on the employees, because many of the fragrances can cause allergic reactions – the newspaper quoted the head of the trade supervision.

Contamination of indoor air with chemicals and allergenic fragrance oils

The perfumes for a scented environment are often led directly into the store through the air conditioning and ventilation system. Smaller shops set up bottles with aromatic oils, containing wooden sticks which release the fragrance into the room. Both are questionable, not only for people who already suffer from perfume allergies, but also for asthmatics and chemically sensitive people (MCS). Even healthy people may sensitize over time and develop allergies.

The trade supervision wants to protect employees and customers

We are most likely dealing with allergens, which are injected into the stores, is what the head of the trade supervision told the newspaper “Politiken DK”. That’s why the authorities tried to contact “Abercrombie & Fitch” at the end of last year. The authorities tried to make it clear to them that they wanted to protect employees against the high concentration of perfume in the shops, because it is an unnecessary burden.

Labor unions are receiving more and more complaints

Danish labor unions report that they receive more and more complaints from union members about the scenting of their workplace. Therefore, the actions of the trade supervision in the case of “Abercrombie & Fitch” are being closely observed. It is a major health problem for the employees in those stores, but also for the customers, said a union spokesperson to “Politiken DK”. The customers, unlike the employees have the choice and can simply stay away from the scented store. The employee unfortunately does not have this choice, especially in times when everyone is happy to even have a job.

It remains to be seen how the American company will behave, what measures the Danish trade supervision will take, and how much pressure the Danish labor unions will make. If the Abercrombie & Fitch” management is smart, they will stop exposing their employees and customers to substances that can cause illness. Sick employees cost a company money, and when customers realize why they don’t feel well in a shop and stay away, they too, can cost the company a lot of money.

The German Federal Environmental Agency has been warning against the use of fragrances for this purpose for years – through several press releases and it’s own published background paper which writes about this issue, „Fragrances: When something pleasant becomes a burden.” (german) An increase of scented shops has also been reported in Germany. So far, there is no authority or union which is really trying to prevent it.

Autor: Silvia K. Müller, CSN – Chemical Sensitivity Network, 17. Januar 2012


Politiken.DK, Duftende butikker er farlige for ansattes og kunders helbred, 13. Januar 2012

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Since when do fish use perfume?

Environmental contamination from the everyday habits of humans cause “perfumed” fish

We encounter fragrances in everyday situations. We have “our world” scented even if we prefer to live fragrance and chemical-free. These scents come to us via our daily hygiene, food, cleaning products, baby diapers, candles, hotel rooms, and even socks and subway tickets have fragrance added. Mixtures of chemicals usually make up the perfumed ingredients. They accumulate in our fatty tissue, breast milk, and in our environment. A governmental laboratory in Switzerland found fish in high alpine lakes with fragrance ingredients. How did they get there, at altitudes seldom reached by a hiker, in a region where nobody lives?

The dream of clean air and water

Take a look at a peaceful scene in nature… high mountains at two thousand meters, crystal clear air, breathtaking panoramic views with deep blue mountain lakes. This scenery gives one the opportunity to feel one with nature, but appearances can be deceiving. A Swiss government laboratory for analytical chemistry has found samples of fish from the lakes in high mountains and lowlands which contain persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and fragrance ingredients.

Fish repository for insecticides, flame retardants, and fragrances?

Fish were examined from alpine lakes in seven regions above 2062-2637 meters sea level. The scientists found concentrations of old insecticides, and long banned chemicals like DDT, DDE, dieldrin, HPEX, HCB, HCH, PCBs, PCDD / F and PBDE in the fatty tissue of the fish . In addition to these highly questionable chemicals were found seven different artificial musks and Musk xylenes. These chemicals are components in fragrance mixtures, which are found in nursing, cleaning, laundry products and perfume.

Precipitation transports chemicals to the lake fish

Concentrations of PCBs, PCDD / F and PBDE were found in fish from high mountain lakes as well as in the lowlands. Things were very different from the concentration of synthetic musk compounds. These substances which came out of detergents and cosmetics were found in higher quantities in fish of the lowlands than in fish in higher regions. The reason is that the lakes in lowland regions are much more contaminated because sewage treatment plants release water which is still contaminated with these substances. An effect which doesn’t exist in higher mountain regions.

Everyday scents have side effects

According to the Swiss scientists, there is only one explanation for the fragrance ingredients and persistent chemicals in fish found in the high mountains: they come directly from atmospheric precipitation and air pollution. Rain, snow, and fog from our atmosphere in these regions are the cause/source for the contamination of the fish with fragrance ingredients. The environmental contamination from the everyday habits of humans cause “perfumed” fish. This development should show everyone the importance of having a critical mind in a scented world.

This year, which is more recent that this 2007 research, there was also an article in Berner Oberland about the fish in Lake Thun not being good for eating due to the chemical contamination.


Silvia K. Müller, Seit wann benutzen Fische Parfüm, CSN – Chemical Sensitivity Network

Translation: Christi Howarth


Schmid P, Kohler M, Gujer E, Zennegg M, Lanfranchi M. Empa, Persistent organic pollutants, brominated flame retardants and synthetic musks in fish from remote alpine lakes in Switzerland , Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Testing and Research Laboratory for Analytical Chemistry Dubendorf, Switzerland. Chemosphere, January 2007

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Participatory Action: Help Your Local Santa Claus and the Sick Children in Your Area

A Real Santa Claus Does Not Wear Perfume

Santa has an ear for the needs of all children, including children with allergies, asthma and chemical sensitivity (MCS). Santas are always open to hear everything a child desires, meaning their secrets, worries and concerns. For many children this seasonal private talk with Santa is an important event when they can privately disclose what is really on their mind.

So this year we wish that all children, including those who suffer from allergies, asthma and chemical sensitivity (MCS), will have the opportunity to whisper something special into Santa’s ear. We have designed an action card for printing. (The best way to print the cards out is on more solid paper or light cardboard).

And because Santa Claus is known for really loving ALL children, with some help, we can make sure every Santa Claus may share the Christmas warmth with every child. Hand the Santa a Christmas card, asking them to give up after-shave, cologne, fabric softener, strong smelling deodorant, and other fragrances this season. Whisper in the ear of the Santa Claus when presentating the card, that this small favor of being fragrance free will make all children’s hearts and eyes glow with gratitude.


The real Santa Claus does not wear perfume, because he loves all children. Even those with asthma, allergies, or chemical sensitivity.


Spanish Action Card >> El verdadero Papá Noel no usa Colonia

German Action Card >> Der echte Weihnachtsmann trägt kein Parfüm

Facts about Perfume, Scented Products:

Reckless Self-Interest Of The Fragrance Industry

People must be protected from exposure to fragrance ingredients that may cause cancer or fetal, hormonal or reproductive toxicity, the Cancer Prevention Coalition warned today. But federal agencies are not regulating these ingredients, leaving the public at risk due to the “recklessly irresponsible” behavior of the fragrance industry, says CPC Chairman Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.

Protection of the public would be implemented by passage of Senator Frank Lautenberg’s Safe Chemicals Act of 2010, Dr. Epstein advises. This bill requires manufacturers to provide information on “chemicals of concern” in consumer products.

The bill would provide the public with information on the dangers of these products, especially, says Dr. Epstein, “as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has recklessly failed to do so since passage of the 1938 Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.”

Perfumes and fragrances are the single largest category of cosmetic and personal care products, especially products used on the hair, face, and eyes. These products represent nearly 50 percent of all prestige beauty dollars now spent in the United States. Fragrances are also extensively used in a wide range of everyday household cleaning products.

Exposure to toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products is predominantly through the skin. In contrast, exposure to toxic ingredients in household cleaning products is predominantly through inhalation.

The FDA has direct authority under the terms of the 1938 Federal Food Drug and Cosmetic Act to regulate toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products. However, seven decades later, it has still failed to do so. Similarly, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has also still failed to regulate these toxic ingredients in household cleaning products.

“In the disturbing absence of any federal regulations,” Dr. Epstein says, the policies and practices of the cosmetics and personal care products industries are determined by its International Fragrance Association (IFRA). This is an international trade organization of over 100 perfume and fragrance manufacturers, representing fifteen regions including the U.S., Europe, South America, Australia, and the Far East.”

The primary objective of IFRA is to protect the self-regulatory practices and policies of the industry by the development of a Code of Practices and safety guidelines, Dr. Epstein says. However, these include maintaining the “trade secret” status of perfume and fragrance ingredients, and pre-empting international legislative labeling and safety initiatives.

Of the more than 5,000 ingredients used in the fragrance industry, approximately 1,300 have so far been evaluated by the industry’s International Research Institute for Fragrance Materials. This institute is a “non-profit” organization, created by IFRA in 1966 to conduct research and testing of fragrance ingredients.

“However,” Dr. Epstein warns, “this testing is minimal and restricted to local effects on human skin, and short-term toxicity tests in rodents.”

Evaluation of ingredient safety is then made by a board of toxicologists, pharmacologists, and dermatologists, identified by the institute as “independent” without disclosure of their qualifications, let alone conflicts of interest.

Their findings are presented to IFRA’s Scientific Advisory Board, and then published in its trade journal, Food and Chemical Toxicology. The information reported in this journal is the basis on which IFRA formulates its own “safety guidelines.” However, Dr. Epstein points out, due to the “trade secret” status of fragrances, manufacturers are still not required by the FDA to disclose their ingredients on product labels or in any other way.

“These ingredients include a wide range of allergens. They also include synthetic musks, particularly tonalide and galaxolide, designed to mimic natural scents derived from musk deer and ox,” Dr. Epstein explains. “They are persistent and bioaccumulate in the body, have toxic hormonal effects, and have been identified in breast milk.”

In 1973, in efforts at damage control, IFRA created a Code of Practice listing prohibited ingredients, based on its own safety analyses. This listing has been periodically updated.

In May 1999, in response to repeated complaints of respiratory, neurological, and other toxic effects following the use of Calvin Klein’s Eternity perfume, the Environmental Health Network of California hired two testing laboratories to identify the ingredients in the perfume.

Analysis of these results by the Cancer Prevention Coalition, summarized in Dr. Epstein’s 2009 book Toxic Beauty, reveal the following:

  • 26 ingredients whose “Toxicological properties have not been investigated,” or “toxicology properties have not been thoroughly investigated.”
  • 25 ingredients that are “Irritants.”
  • 5 ingredients that are “Skin sensitizers,” or allergens.
  • 3 ingredients that show “Fetal, hormonal, and reproductive toxicity.”
  • 2 ingredients that “May cause cancer.”

In efforts at damage control, IFRA agreed that information on allergenic ingredients in perfumes like Eternity should be made available, but only on request from dermatologists, for diagnostic purposes. “This “Fragrance On-Call List” action denies the public its right to know,” Dr. Epstein warns.

More disturbingly, Dr. Matthias Vey, president of IFRA, failed to respond to repeated warnings from August to October 2003 from the Cancer Prevention Coalition. These urged “all fragrance products be labeled to the effect that, apart from the absence of known skin and respiratory allergens, they contain no known carcinogens, gene damaging, hormonal, or otherwise toxic ingredients.”

As reported in “What’s That Smell,” a June 2010 report by Women’s Voices of the Earth, faced with continuing criticism of unresponsiveness, IFRA initiated a “compliance program” in 2007. “However,” Dr. Epstein warns, “this is based on testing of a mere 50 fragranced products from the global market place to detect prohibited ingredients.”

A fragrance may be restricted by IFRA on a variety of grounds. These include: use in products at higher-than-recommended concentrations, sensitization, photosensitization, phototoxicity, allergenicity, neurotoxicity, carcinogenicity, undefined biological effects, and inadequate data.

“This restriction, though, works better in theory than in practice,” Dr. Epstein emphasizes. “There is no pre-approval process for ingredient safety other than that claimed by the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials.”

Literature: Cancer Prevention Coalition, Reckless Self-Interest Of The Fragrance Industry, CHICAGO, IL, June 28, 2010

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Professor urges us to take people with chemical sensibility into account


Yesterday (Feb 2, 2010), in an independent student newspaper from the University of New Hampshire, a professor of chemical engineering appealed to the community to take “Canaries” into account regarding the use of chemicals and especially scents. He spoke of those persons who suffer from Chemical Sensitivity and who have to be seen – like those former canaries in mines – as indicators for toxic chemicals.

Some American and Canadian Universities have a “Scent Free Policy” which means that the use of perfumes and products containing scents is prohibited within these Universities. All visitors have to meet this policy. It allows students with allergy and chemical sensitivity to work and study.

Professor Ihab Farag, Chemical Engineering Department:

Many of us are familiar with canaries, the beautiful, colorful birds that tend to sing most of the time. Canaries also saved many human lives in coalmines. This is because canaries are much more sensitive to toxic gases than humans. Miners would take canaries with them in the coalmine. If the canary stopped singing and fell (or died), the miners knew to leave the coal mine quickly to safety.

There are individuals who have developed a very strong sensitivity to many common chemicals. These people can be very negatively affected and irritated by fumes, chemical cleaners, disinfectants, cigarette/cigar smoke, engine exhaust, solvents, etc. These people are often called “Human Canaries” of the modern world, because of the chemical sensitivity similarity to that of Canaries. Human Canaries of the 21st century tend to be very strongly irritated by everyday chemicals like perfumes, hair products, shampoos, shower gels, after shave lotions, antiperspirants, deodorants, hand sanitizers, chap sticks, finger nail polish, etc. Human canaries look the same as other people, and when you see one you probably will not recognize he or she is a human canary until an offensive toxic chemical triggers his or her sensitivity.

Please be considerate to human canaries and help them to enjoy life to the fullest. One way you can help the human canary and at the same time lower your exposure to undesirable chemicals, is to go fragrance-free: avoiding perfumes, and fragranced personal care products.


Author: Silvia K. Müller, CSN – Chemical Sensitivity Network, February 2, 2009


Chemical consideration to the Human Canaries, Ihab Farag, Professor, Chemical Engineering Department, Letter to the editor 02-02-10, The New Hampshire, Independent Student Newspaper at the University of New Hampshire since 1911, Februar 2, 2010