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  • Writer's pictureThe Pink Elephant Lady

Synthetic Fragrance Being Pumped through the Ventilation Systems of Detroit Buildings? YIKES!

Ahhh, the Fresh Scent of....Toxins?

Certain buildings owned or operated by Bedrock. The MGM casino. Apartments at the Scott at Brush Park. A gas station. The Federal Reserve Building. What do these places have in common? They've got fragrance coming through their ventilation systems. Pretty sure these are synthetic fragrances, too- "Fresh granny smith apples with a hint of musk". There's no such thing as 'apple' or 'musk' essential oil.

I Don't Dig Fake Smells

You already know how we feel about synthetic fragrance and why we don't use it. I didn't realize it was being pumped into Detroit buildings every day.

This isn't new and isn't exclusive to Detroit, of course. Fragrances are dispensed through ventilation systems and individual units in many public areas, including airplanes and buildings (offices, restaurants, hotels, airports, hospitals, nursing homes, etc. They are designed to add a ‘pleasant’ scent to the air (food smells in shopping malls and floral scents in stores), cover up poor air quality and insufficient fresh air ventilation (odours, cigarette smoke, exhaust, pesticides, mould, and chemicals outgassing from the toxic flame retardants infurniture, and from carpet, drywalls, equipment, cleaning products, etc.

According to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, "Synthetic musks bioaccumulate in the environment and have been detected in human breast milk, body fat, blood, and umbilical cords." Studies show that these compounds are associated with endocrine disruption, organ system toxicity, and reproductive toxicity.

To avoid the toxins in synthetic musks, they recommend people "avoid personal care and cleaning products containing synthetic fragrances (body sprays, colognes, air fresheners)." But these toxins become avoidable if they're being pumped through the vents of places we live, work, and spend our daily lives in!

The current system for fragrance safety is run entirely by the fragrance industry — and this self-regulating program is greenlighting chemicals that reputable authoritative bodies and government agencies have restricted, banned or deemed hazardous.

So, Where is This Fragrance Coming From? Is it Avoidable? What's in it?

So, the air fresheners being pumped through Detroit buildings is NOT a positive thing. And I don't think the people working and living in these places realize that when they're inhaling "Rain Shower" and "Boutique Noir".

The company that provides these scenting services has an essential oil premium option. Are most of these public spaces using that option? There is no essential oil of cucumber, apple, or coconut. The website claims "ingredients are 100% pure with inert fragrance and odor neutralizing materials" - but they probably aren't going to tell you what those ingredients are. And they don't have to. It's considered proprietary information and regulations do not require companies to tell you what's in 'fragrance' (and the phrase '100% pure' is vacuous - it has no real meaning).

According to an article in the Journal of Management and Marketing Research,

"Over the past 50 years,80-90% of fragrances have been synthesized from petroleum and some of the commonly found harmful chemicals in fragranced products include acetone, phenol, toluene, benzylacetate, and limonene (U.S. FDA, 2005). The United States tests less than 10% of products onthe market for toxicity and almost one-third of the chemical additives used in perfume areknown to be toxic (Frosh et al., 2002). The fragrance industry uses over 4000 chemicalingredients to make their products and over 80% of these chemicals have not been tested fortheir toxicity (Canadian Union of Postal Workers; Health and Safety Bulletin, 2003)."

What makes me angry about this kind of thing is that we're being exposed to these scent chemicals as part of a subtle marketing campaign without our consent (of course, you can just walk out of scented building. But that's not so easy if you live there!) Even if you're avoiding toxins in your diet and in your personal care and cleaning products, you're still breathing in undisclosed fragrance chemicals when you enter these spaces.

Sick Building Syndrome

I remember when I was taking my Master Gardener class, we had a session on house plants and how they improve indoor air quality. We learned about Sick Building Syndrome. I initially thought, "Wow - that sounds like total woo. Sounds like a Facebook meme." Turns out it's a real thing. The term "sick building syndrome" (SBS) describes situations in which people in buildings experience "acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building". According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, "Most indoor air pollution comes from sources inside the building. For example, adhesives, carpeting, upholstery, manufactured wood products, copy machines, pesticides, and cleaning agents may emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including formaldehyde." VOCs and formaldehyde are often found in synthetic fragrance.

According to the Journal of Management and Marketing Research, "a change of perspective is happening with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) and synthetic fragrance. Fragrances (containing chemicals) that were thought to have pleasant or neutral effects on health are now acknowledged as either hazardous or potentially hazardous. This is particularly true since chemical formulations of fragrances were changed post WWII with the use of pesticides and petroleum products making fragrance and cleaning products more powerful, potent, and toxic."

So, are we moving towards seeing fragrance as the new second-hand smoke? Do synthetic air fresheners in buildings contribute to Sick Building Syndrome? I've got these questions on my mind!

Sources/For More Information

#sickbuildingsyndrome #syntheticfragrance #fragrance #toxins

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