30 Jan 2017

Should fragrance be regulated?

From Nine To Noon, 9:30 am on 30 January 2017

An Australian writer who discovered she was one of about 35 percent of people affected by perfumes argues there should be more conversation about regulating the industry.

Award-winning author Kate Grenville told Nine to Noon that research for her latest book, The Case Against Fragrance, began after she realised perfumes were giving her headaches. Looking into the problem, she found it was very widespread.

"One in three people have some sort of health problem from fragrance, either headaches or asthma, very common asthma trigger, nausea or various other symptoms." 

Grenville says a study from Melbourne University suggested about 35 percent of people were affected by scents, with other possible effects including hormone disruption and cancer.

The problem was to do with the chemicals created by companies to make their perfumed products, she said.

"Essential oils cost about 1,000 times more than the comparable sythetics. 

"Even though many of these chemicals are well known scientifically to be irritants of various kinds and possibly worse, they don't have to be tested before they're put on the market, the ingredients do not have to be fully declared on the label. 

"Just the one word fragrance [or parfum] can cover up to a couple of hundred chemicals. And frighteningly... the only real regulation is by the frangrance industry itself." 

She says much of the testing was performed by the industry itself, and while the industry freely admitted that the chemicals were known to be bad for humans they also claimed to have safe measures of the chemicals.

"I don't know where we go with it, but I wanted to start the conversation." 

"There's nothing therapeutic about the fragrances, and of course it's well known in other industries beside fragrance that if you've put an enormous amount of time and money into researching something unique, a unique product, you should not be deprived of the benefit of that by listing the formula."