They make you smell like an exotic flower, mask the most offending smells, or simply give you a fresher feeling. But popular perfumes and body sprays could also be dousing you with small amounts of chemicals that trigger allergic reactions and disrupt hormones, according to a study released Wednesday
Toronto-based Environmental Defence and Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in the U.S tested 17 popular fragrance products and found they contained a total of 38 secret chemicals not listed on the label. On average, each product had 14 of these chemicals.
The problem, says Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental Defence, is that cosmetic companies can lump ingredients together under the generic term “parfum” or “fragrances.”
“This is a really worrisome loophole in Canadian law where a company can claim that their fragrance compilation is a trade secret, and then they are not obligated to disclose to anyone what’s in that fragrance,” said Smith.
The report found that on average, the products contained 10 chemicals known to cause allergies and four with “the potential to disrupt the hormone system.” Many of these chemicals are classified as allergens by the European Union, said Smith.
Findings like this concern Sherry Adams, who runs a store in Toronto, and struggles with multiple chemical sensitivities.
Adams, who suffers headaches, nausea and skin reactions from strong scents, believes Health Canada has a duty to require more transparency from perfume companies.
Currently, perfumes are allowed on the market before manufacturers disclose the ingredient list to Health Canada. If a product is deemed unsafe, the government can issue warning letters, public advisories or recall orders. It can’t ban a product altogether. A review of the law governing cosmetics is expected soon.
Michael Patton, spokesman for the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, said the labelling is transparent enough.
He said the amount of secret chemicals is so minimal, they pose no health risk that would require labelling.
If there was a risk, fragrance companies would work with HealthCanada to ensure products are safe, he said.
Number of chemicals not listed on fragrance product labels
American Eagle Seventy Seven - 24
Chanel Coco Mademoiselle - 18
Britney Spears Curious - 17
Giorgio Armani Aqua Di Gio (for men) - 17
Old Spice After Hours Body Spray (for men) - 16
Quicksilver (for men) - 16
Calvin Klein Eternity for Men - 15
Bath & Body Works Japanese Cherry Blossom - 14
Calvin Klein Eternity (for women) - 14
Halle by Halle Berry - 13
Hannah Montana Secret Celebrity - 13
Victoria’s Secret Dream Angels Heavenly - 13
Abercrombie & Fitch Fierce (for men) - 11
Jennifer Lopez JLO Glow - 11
AXE Body Spray for Men Shock - 10
Clinique Happy Perfume Spray - 9
Dolce & Gabbana Light Blue - 7
Source: Environmental Working Group analysis of product labels and tests commissioned by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics