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Scents Are Not What They Seem I

Scents Are Not What They Seem I

This article was written in year of 1997 by Karen Robinson. It is a very good unbiased article on scents for us nowadays and in the future.  This article is long, for everyone’s easier reference, we put it into a serial form.  Please feedback us with your thoughts and ideas should you have any.  

Recently, a woman purchasing some vitamins at a scent-free health store handed paper money to the clerk, saying, “I spray my money with my perfume. It adds a nice touch, don’t you think?”

The clerk, who suffers form chemical hypersensitivity, did not think so.  She experienced headache, weakness, brain fog and other symptoms as a result – but it could have been worse!

“Perfumery” 


The volatility of fragrances is highly specialized.  Traditional perfumery has three “notes” or levels of volatility.  The first note is the initial scent which is given off when the perfume is applied.  The second is the main scent which is the strongest and longer lasting, and the third note is a lingering scent which is usually less strong but long lasting.  The challenge is to blend the three notes to create a balanced effect that is pleasant throughout.  Usually perfume is made up of essential oils, aroma chemicals, and a base of alcohol, with fixatives used to slow the evaporation.  A good perfume was once designed to last 6 to 8 hours, but today, even some lotions have longer lasting fragrances than the perfumes of the past.

Soaps once had a recognizable “soap” smell, and people only wore perfume on special occasions.  In recent years, the use of added scent has skyrocketed to where any one individual can carry as many as 20 different scents from the products used or worn on any given day.  Wherever they go, each person leaves behind in the air a little bit of each fragrance, and creates an unseen “fog” of chemically laden air. 
 Besides perfume and cologne, the list of products that can contain added fragrance is almost endless: aftershave, hair spray, soaps, fabric softener, lipstick, air fresheners, cleaning products, even car vinyl and kitty litter.

Scents are Not What They Seem 


Since World War II we have embraced man-made chemicals for use in almost all aspects of our lives.  Using materials such as oil, coal, and natural gas, scientists continue to synthesize many never-before-in-existence chemicals and chemically based materials.  We use them to fill our needs for everything from medicines to fabrics, fertilizers to building materials and from perfume to space shuttle parts.  The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) gets applications for evaluation of an average of 50 new, man-made chemicals per day.  This rate far surpasses the ability to adequately test all of these chemicals for their safety to humans or the natural environment.

Volatile Organic Compounds, or VOCs, is a very large family of chemicals which includes all the organic compounds containing carbon, and which readily evaporate into the air.  Although most are liquids at room temperature, they will easily enter air, and they greatly contribute to air pollution.  Man-made fragrance chemicals are part of the category of VOCs.

Most of today’s fragrances are 97% synthetic chemical, with as many as 7000 Volatile Organic Compounds (Some sources say 4000, others say 6000) used in the fragrance industry in combinations that make our neurosensors think we are smelling a particular scent.  

We can create everything from the strawberry scent of smelly markers to the lemon or pine smell of some cleaning agents – from scented garbage bags to copies of expensive French perfumes.  Perfumed soaps contain between 30 and 150 fragrance ingredients, and scented cosmetics have between 200 and 500.  While as many as 700 fragrance ingredients can be used in a single perfume, some masking scents can use as few as one ingredient.  Some of these masking scents are designed to cover up unpleasant or unwanted odours inherent in a product, but some work by actually deadening our ability to smell the offending odour.  Masking scents, which can be potent by themselves, can cause considerable difficulties for those needing truly scent-free and less-toxic products.  The smell of offending chemicals may be masked, but they are still present and capable of doing harm.

Of fragrance chemicals in general, “84% of these ingredients have never been tested for human toxicity, or have been tested only minimally.”  In addition, no testing is done on the synergistic blends, the interacting combinations of fragrance chemicals, to determine if they may pose any threat to health.

To Be Continued....