Fragrances can be found in everything from laundry soap to lotions, and consumers have come to expect every product to smell fresh or fruity. However, many people have adverse reactions to fragrances and don’t even know it.
Fragrances are one of the leading causes of cosmetic contact dermatitis, which affects more than 2 million people.1 If you are allergic to a skin care or hair care product, there’s a good chance you’re actually allergic to the fragrances used in it.
Surprisingly, synthetic fragrances have been detected in fish and mollusks. In these aquatic organisms, the fragrances interfere with the efflux transporter proteins in the cell membranes, which work to remove toxins from the cell.2 Though this doesn’t necessarily apply to human cell functions, it is worth acknowledging that the products we use have an impact on wildlife even from great distances.
1 “Fragrance Allergies: A Sensory Assault,” WebMD, http://www.webmd.com/(accessed December 15, 2010).
2 Till Luckenbach and David Epel, “Nitromusk and Polycyclic Musk Compounds as Long-Term Inhibitors of Cellular Xenobiotic Defense Systems Mediated by Multidrug Transporters,” Environmental Health Perspectives 113, no. 1 (2005), http://ehp03.niehs.nih.gov/ (accessed December 15, 2010).
3 David C. Thompsona, Rola Barhoumib and Robert C. Burghardt, “Comparative Toxicity of Eugenol and Its Quinone Methide Metabolite in Cultured Liver Cells Using Kinetic Fluorescence Bioassays,” Tocicology and Applied Pharmacology 149, no. 1, http://www.sciencedirect.com/(accessed December 15, 2010).
4 Nadeem Rezaq Janjua, Hanne Frederiksen, Niels E. Skakkebæk, Hans Christian Wulf and Anna-Maria Andersson, “Urinary excretion of phthalates and paraben after repeated whole-body topical application in humans,” International Journal of Andrology 31.