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Pioneer Press -- Evanston Review
"A law against common scents"

(published July 6, 2000, along Chicago's North Shore)

Evanston/ In "A law against common scents (June 29 Evanston Review)," columnist Carol Mueller decries the recent ban on fragranced products in Halifax, Nova Scotia. "This Fourth of July I give thanks that I don't live in Halifax. There people are not free to be fresh in the same way that we in America are."

This ban, however, is not the trivial or amusing issue that some media have made it out to be. On the contrary, fragrances are known to doctors, scientists, and the fragrance industry as respiratory irritants. People suffering from asthma, allergies, chronic sinus problems, rhinitis, chronic lung disease, and multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) have their health problems triggered and exacerbated by exposures to fragranced products. Both the American Lung Association and the American Medical Association warn that exposures to perfumes can cause life threatening asthma attacks, especially for children.

Laws to protect the public health are not always necessary. Nova Scotia's Dalhousie University, learning from the experience of a nearby hospital in which poor indoor air made about half of its staff of 1,200 ill, established a successful program of reduction in the use of fragranced products. Using education and social pressure, rather than policing and enforcement, the University finds that it is now rare for someone to use scented products.

Perfumes have been used for centuries; what is new is that since World War II most of them have been made from petroleum, not flowers. The 158-page Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act of 1938, which set up the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) , has only one page on cosmetics. Yet in 1986 the National Academy of Sciences targeted fragrances as one of six categories of chemicals that should be given high priority for neurotoxicity testing.

Such testing has not been done. Instead, cosmetics are largely unregulated, with only voluntary testing of safety by industry, which considers fragrance ingredients to be trade secrets. The entire cosmetics industry has slipped through the regulatory cracks.

Last year two women, who had been forced by exposures to perfumes to leave jobs they loved, pooled their resources and sent samples of a popular perfume to an independent lab for testing. The lab found the fragrance part of the perfume to consist of forty-one synthetic chemicals, of which five are toxic; the rest are of unknown toxicity.

A People's Petition has since been filed with the FDA, asking it to observe its own rules, which say that any cosmetic product "whose safety is not adequately substantiated prior to marketing" should bear a warning label. So far the FDA has done nothing. In the meantime, we are all being exposed to countless fragranced products in our workplaces, schools, stores, churches, and other public places--and even our homes, unless we choose to buy only the unscented products that are now readily available.

Lynn Lawson
PR Chair, MCS: Health & Environment

Uploaded with permission of Lynn Lawson --
Date: Fri, 7 Jul 2000 00:21:59 EDT
Subject: letter published!
Dear Barb: Here it is. Lynn

Support EHN's FDA Petition. WRITE to the FDA today!

Comments? (Barb's email is no longer valid, please contact EHN). Please put WWW in subject line. Thanks.

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