Consumers should boycott toxic perfumes

Concerns over high levels of chemical contamination in perfumes was highlighted this year as Valentine's Day was also designated as Chemical Awareness Day.

This Valentine’s Day, environmental groups were urging lovers not to buy each other perfume or aftershave, stating that phthalates, a group of chemicals that adversely affect sperm counts, and artificial musks were proven to be present in virtually all perfumes.

High levels of man-made chemicals can sometimes trigger a condition called Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), which causes headaches, sneezing and a general feeling of illness in the sufferer.

“It is dreadful that man-made chemicals in some perfumes may be damaging our health and affecting men’s fertility,” owner of erotic emporium Coco de Mer, Sam Roddick stated. “Why spray something on yourself to seduce your lover when actually it could be making them sick?”

Greenpeace conducted tests on 36 well-known brands of perfumes for these two hazardous synthetic chemicals, which not only enter the user’s body but are also harmful to the environment, and virtually all of those tested contained them.

Calvin Klein’s ‘Eternity for Women’, Jean-Paul Gautier’s ‘Le Male’ and the Body Shop’s ‘White Musk’ all had particularly high levels, while Puma’s ‘Jamaica Man’ had one of the lowest levels of the musks and Gloria Vanerbilt’s ‘Vanderbilt’ had no detectable levels of phthalates at all.

“The different levels of chemicals shows there is no room for discussing the phase-out of these chemicals with perfume manufacturers,” Greenpeace stated in response to their results, adding that they highlighted the urgency of pushing the REACH proposals through European Parliament as quickly as possible (see related story).

“The chemical industry has been scare-mongering with exaggerated claims of job losses and declining profits. It has also recruited dirty industry’s best friend, the Bush Administration, to threaten Europe with a World Trade Organisation lawsuit if it dares to try to cut toxic pollution,” the organisation continued. “We are countering the negative industry lobbying by pressuring companies to demonstrate that they can do without toxic chemicals in products.”

Many major firms, including Ikea, H&M, Marks & Spencer, Nokia, Samsung and Puma have already given the initiative their full support, with Adidas, Unilever and Sony also heading in the right direction.

WWF’s chemicals and health campaign is also pushing for new European legislation that improves controls over the chemicals industry so that consumers know that what they are being sold is safe and not damaging the environment.

“Phthalates and artificial musks are among a raft of chemicals that may be affecting your health and damaging the environment,” campaign director Justin Woolford said. “This Valentine’s Day, show you love your body and your planet too. Help us get better regulation of the chemicals industry by avoiding products that contain these substances.”

By Jane Kettle

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