A Detroit woman
recently filed a lawsuit alleging a co-worker’s perfume made it
difficult for her to breathe and impossible to do her job. Some
ridiculed the lawsuit, including the TV news anchor reporting the
story. However, the federal judge hearing the argument ruled that the
case could proceed, because the woman has a potential claim and “has
produced evidence that her breathing is significantly restricted.”
Lance Wallace of the Environmental
Protection Agency has released a list of 13 chemicals commonly found in
such scented products. One of these chemicals, benzyl acetate, is
considered carcinogenic and has been linked to pancreatic cancer. It is
found in perfume, cologne, shampoo, fabric softener, air fresheners,
detergent, soap, hairspray, bleach, after-shave lotion and deodorants.
Many of the other chemicals are just as
widely distributed in a staggering array of products we use every day.
Most of these compounds are toxic or lethal in high doses and harmful
to health in very small doses.
There is no requirement for these
man-made volatile organic compounds to be listed on product labels.
Just like cigarette smoke, the molecules of these scented items travel
through the air, entering the nasal passages and settling in the lungs.
Once in the body, they can cause a variety of problems. Some sensitive
individuals have reported feeling dizzy, short of breath or headachy.
In severe cases, seizures and asthma attacks can occur.
It took decades for municipalities and
the government to fully accept the dangers of secondhand smoke and to
institute restrictions. Similarly, it is taking time for the public to
realize that all artificially scented products in our modern
environment pose a significant health hazard. It may be especially
difficult to resist temptation during the holiday gift-giving season,
when we are bombarded by advertising media to purchase plug-ins,
candles, sprays, perfumes and colognes that promise to keep our world
smelling acceptable to others.
Even for those who do not experience
symptoms, it is unhealthy to allow these hazardous chemicals into their
bodies. Common sense indicates we should avoid all scented products and
encourage others to do the same.