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

Related articles:

Secret Chemicals Revealed in Celebrity Perfumes, Teen Body Sprays

President’s Cancer Panel report highlights threat from hormone-disrupting chemicals – many found in new fragrance study

San Francisco – A new analysis reveals that top-selling fragrance products – from Britney Spears Curious and Hannah Montana Secret Celebrity to Calvin Klein Eternity and Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce – contain a dozen or more secret chemicals not listed on labels, multiple chemicals that can trigger allergic reactions or disrupt hormones, and many substances that have not been assessed for safety by the cosmetics industry’s self-policing review panels.

The study of hidden toxic chemicals in perfumes comes on the heels of last week’s report by the President’s Cancer Panel, which sounded the alarm over the understudied and largely unregulated toxic chemicals used by millions of Americans in their daily lives. The President’s Cancer Panel report recommends that pregnant women and couples planning to become pregnant avoid exposure to hormone-disrupting chemicals due to cancer concerns. Several fragrances analyzed for this study contained multiple chemicals with the potential to disrupt hormones.

“This monumental study reveals the hidden hazards of fragrances,” said Anne C. Steinemann, Ph.D., Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Professor of Public Affairs, University of Washington. “Secondhand scents are also a big concern. One person using a fragranced product can cause health problems for many others.”

For this study, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition of health and environmental groups, commissioned tests of 17 fragranced products at an independent laboratory. Campaign partner Environmental Working Group assessed data from the tests and the product labels. The analysis reveals that the 17 products contained, on average:

Fourteen secret chemicals not listed on labels due to a loophole in federal law that allows companies to claim fragrances as trade secrets. American Eagle Seventy Seven contained 24 hidden chemicals, the highest number of any product in the study.

Ten sensitizing chemicals associated with allergic reactions such as asthma, wheezing, headaches and contact dermatitis. Giorgio Armani Acqua Di Gio contained 19 different sensitizing chemicals, more than any other product in the study.

Four hormone-disrupting chemicals linked to a range of health effects including sperm damage, thyroid disruption and cancer. Halle by Halle Berry, Quicksilver and Glow by JLO each contained seven different chemicals with the potential to disrupt the hormone system.

The majority of chemicals found in the testing have never been assessed for safety by any publically accountable agency, or by the cosmetics industry’s self-policing review panels. Of the 91 ingredients identified in this study, only 19 have been reviewed by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), and 27 have been assessed by the International Fragrance Association (IFRA) and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM), which develop voluntary standards for chemicals used in fragrance.

“Something doesn’t smell right—clearly the system is broken,” said Lisa Archer, national coordinator of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund. “We urgently need updated laws that require full disclosure of cosmetics ingredients so consumers can make informed choices about what they are being exposed to.”

“Fragrance chemicals are inhaled or absorbed through the skin, and many of them end up inside people’s bodies, including pregnant women and newborn babies,” said Jane Houlihan, senior vice president for research at Environmental Working Group.

A recent EWG study found synthetic musk chemicals Galaxolide and Tonalide in the umbilical cord blood of newborn infants. The musk chemicals were found in nearly every fragrance analyzed for this study. Twelve of the 17 products also contained diethyl phthalate (DEP), a chemical linked to sperm damage and behavioral problems that has been found in the bodies of nearly all Americans tested.

Members of Congress who are working to develop safe cosmetics legislation reacted to the report:

Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill.: “There’s no reason that people should be exposed to potentially harmful chemicals because they use perfume, cologne or body spray. But this report suggests that is exactly what’s happening. The chemicals detected in popular fragrances, which are often endorsed by celebrities, could have a range of adverse health effects and Americans are being exposed unknowingly. I think this is a clear sign of how woefully out of date our cosmetics laws are and how urgently the cosmetics safety legislation we’re developing is needed. The ingredients used in these products need to be tested for safety and the FDA must be empowered to fully protect the health of Americans by blocking chemicals deemed unsafe. Americans need to know that the fragrance products they buy don’t contain chemicals that could harm them.”

Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass.: “A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but in some cases sweet smelling fragrances may in fact be dangerous. I am happy to be joining with my colleagues to soon introduce legislation that will make disclosure of ingredients used in cosmetics and fragrances mandatory and ensure that toxic chemicals are kept out of colognes and perfumes. Consumers have a right to know just what is in the products they spray and rub on their body every day.”

Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis.: “It’s alarming that cosmetics products we use every day contain hidden toxic chemicals. That’s why I’m working with colleagues in Congress on legislation that will overhaul our outdated cosmetics oversight and regulation. We all deserve to know our products are as safe as possible.”

# # #

Download the report:

Autor: Campain for Safe Cosmetics, Release: May 12th, 2010.

Mount Sinai finds prenatal exposure to certain chemicals affects childhood neurodevelopment


A new study led by Mount Sinai researchers in collaboration with scientists from Cornell University and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has found higher prenatal exposure to phthalates—manmade chemicals that interfere with hormonal messaging—to be connected with disruptive and problem behaviors in children between the ages of 4 and 9 years. The study, which is the first to examine the effects of prenatal phthalate exposure on child neurobehavioral development, will be published January 28, on the Environmental Health Perspectives website.

“There is increasing evidence that phthalate exposure is harmful to children at all stages of development,” said Stephanie Engel, PhD, lead study author and Associate Professor of Preventive Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine. “We found a striking pattern of associations between low molecular weight phthalates – which are commonly found in personal care products – and disruptive childhood behaviors, such as aggressiveness and other conduct issues, and problems with attention. These same behavioral problems are commonly found in children diagnosed with Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Oppositional Defiant Disorder, or Conduct Disorder.”

Phthalates are part of a group of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, that interfere with the body’s endocrine, or hormone system. They are a family of compounds found in a wide range of consumer products such as nail polishes, to increase their durability and reduce chips, and in cosmetics, perfumes, lotions and shampoos, to carry fragrance. Other phthalates are used to increase the flexibility and durability of plastics such as PVC, or included as coatings on medications or nutritional supplements to make them timed-release.

“Recently, the government instituted regulations limiting certain phthalates in things like child care articles or toys that a young child might put in their mouth,” continued Dr. Engel. “But it’s their mother’s contact with phthalate-containing products that causes prenatal exposure. The phthalates that we found most strongly related to neurodevelopment were those commonly found in cosmetics, perfumes, lotions and shampoos. Current US regulations do not address these kinds of phthalates.”

For the study, phthalate metabolite levels were analyzed in prenatal urine samples of a multiethnic group of 404 women who were pregnant for the first time. The women were invited to participate in follow-up interviews when their children were between the ages of 4 and 9. The mothers were not informed of their phthalate metabolite levels and the researchers were unaware of their exposures when testing the children.

Follow-up visits were completed by 188 of the women and their children. At each follow-up visit, the mothers completed validated questionnaires designed to assess their behavior and executive functions. The researchers found that mothers with higher concentrations of low molecular weight phthalates consistently reported poorer behavioral profiles in their children. The strongest trends were in the categories of conduct and externalizing problems, characteristics typically associated with Oppositional Defiant Disorder, Conduct Disorder and ADHD.

“These are high level, chronic exposures that start before the child is even born, but continue throughout their life. More research is needed to examine the effects of cumulative exposure to phthalates on child development. But what this study suggests is that it’s not enough to regulate childhood exposure to these chemicals. The regulations need to include products that moms use,” said Dr. Engel.

Reference: The Mount Sinai Hospital / Mount Sinai School of Medicine, Mount Sinai finds prenatal exposure to certain chemicals affects childhood neurodevelopment, Jan. 28, 2010