Could Going Scent Free In Your Home Boost Your Health?

A strange thing happened to me a few years ago when I was selling my apartment. My very first viewer was a lady who took literally one step over threshold before exclaiming loudly ‘have you got one of those AWFUL plug-in air fresheners on? Can you turn it off STRAIGHT AWAY or I’m going to be SICK!”.

Well, of course I duly complied, not wanting to put off a potential buyer.  But inwardly I was a little miffed.  Just who did this lady think she was, coming into my home and telling me what to do!

She never did make me an offer, and I put the incident to the back of my mind (well, after telling several friends and family what had been said!).  But it all came flooding back recently following some research I’d been doing, and I think I finally understand what prompted such an instantaneous and vociferous reaction…

While looking into reasons to go scent-free in your life, I came across the term ‘Multiple Chemical Sensitivity’ (MCS).

You may also sometimes hear it referred to as Environmental Hypersensitivity, Toxicant- Induced Loss of Tolerance, Chemical Intolerance, or Idiopathic Environmental Intolerance.

In a nutshell, people with MCS may experience a range of unpleasant and/or debilitating symptoms when exposed to certain chemicals such as those found in different types of fragrances.

MCS can also exacerbate some pre-existing medical conditions. There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to MCS and varies from person to person, both in terms of what triggers a reaction in the first place, and the severity of these reactions.

For some people, exposure to even extremely low concentrations of chemicals is enough to render them incapacitated and unable to leave their homes.

Or force them to change established routines and patterns of behaviour to avoid situations where they’re more likely to come into contact with them, e.g. in public places such as a cinema, gym or restaurant.

Reactions and Symptoms of MSC

As in the case of the severity of reactions, symptoms also vary between individuals but may include the following:

  • breathing difficulties
  • coughing
  • confusion
  • dizziness
  • hives
  • migraines
  • nausea
  • seizures
  • vomiting

But why would it be that things that are designed to smell all nice and lovely should be responsible for causing such an unpleasant response in some people?

 Fragrances Are Not All They Appear to Be

A fragrance is a popular component part of many different personal and household products.  Think of things you use on a daily basis and the chances are fragrance will feature in some form in many of them – perfumes, aftershaves, skin care products, soaps, shampoos, deodorants, hair sprays, laundry detergents, candles, air fresheners…

But despite the appearance of names which would seem to suggest natural products – think wild flower, summer meadow, cut grass etc – in actual fact these fragrances are often largely comprised of synthetic substances, such as acetone, benzene, phthalates and toluene.

Air Fresheners – The Hidden Suprise

Air fresheners are one example of a product where the name can be somewhat misleading. They don’t ‘freshen the air’ per se, but rather simply mask one odor with another, and diminish our sense of smell by use of a nerve-deadening agent.

It can be pretty hard to ascertain exactly what’s in a particular product. You may see ‘fragrance’ listed as an ingredient, without any specifics given as to what this is made up of.

This may be down to the fact that the fragrance industry appears to be to a substantial amount self-regulatory, and compliance with any recommendations issued often voluntary.

And for the time being it seems highly likely that manufacturers will continue to use these synthetic compounds and chemicals as they are the things which disperse the fragrance into the air, and cause it to linger.

I know I personally have moaned in the past when a perfume I’ve been wearing has worn off really quickly, not realising I’m unwittingly advocating the use of more chemicals to get it to last longer!

The Rude Lady May Have a Point!

So all this leads me back to my ‘rude’ lady.  Armed with this new knowledge about MCS I reckon that’s why she reacted the way she did.

And I can sympathise, because although I clearly don’t react to fragrance in quite as severe a way as she did, there are nonetheless certain smells liable to make me gag or give me a headache.

My work colleague once sprayed a particularly potent air freshener in our office and I spent the best part of the next half hour catching my breath and berating her for making me feel sick!

There’s also a certain perfume which gives me the most stonking sore head if I catch scent of it.  I had never really thought much about it before, but now suspect I have a slight intolerance myself to certain chemicals.

And it would seem that chemical sensitivities can appear at any time, even if you’ve never previously experienced any problems.

For my own part I’m going to try and be more aware of my own actions and how they may affect the people around me.  Sometimes we’re often a bit too reserved in coming forth with our opinions for fear of offending people, so I’m going to have to take a more proactive approach to avoid anyone suffering in silence!

I’m going to start by asking my friends, family and work colleagues that I come into contact with on a daily basis if my perfume makes any of them feel sick.

Candles and Wax Melts

Candles and wax melts will be reserved for those nights when I don’t anticipate anyone coming over.

And I’m going to switch to fragrance-free washing detergent so that my clothes don’t cause a problem to other people.  They might still not like my taste in fashion but hey, that’s another problem!

Going completely scent-free in your life undoubtedly involves a fair bit of effort, but I’m definitely going to start with the small steps above and have a bit more consideration for other people.

And my final piece of advice?  Don’t assume a ‘nice’ floral scented home will appeal to all potential buyers!  Perhaps go for some freshly baked bread instead! 🙂

If you’re looking for more information on natural products and some cheap and easy DIY options then check out my article on entitled “How Switching To Natural Cleaning Products Can Improve Your Family’s Health“.

If you don’t have time to make some DIY products, I recommend this range of non-toxic cleaning supplies. These will help you make some lifestyle changes in the products you use to help reduce you and your family’s risk of exposure to some dangerous chemicals.


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