Are your favorite scented products harmful to your health? If you use products with synthetic fragrances, the answer is almost certainly yes.

From home cleaning products to personal care items, there are dangerous chemicals the average consumer is exposed to every day without their knowledge. How can that be? Aren't there consumer laws in place to protect the public from dangerous products?

Read your labels

While there are many laws to protect consumers; there are also laws in place to protect the chemical fragrance industry. This allows companies to hide many of the ingredients used in their products, including toxic chemical compounds, under the label “fragrance”. You'll find synthetics fragrances in more places than you might expect, from perfumes, soaps, and deodorants to household cleaning products and air fresheners.

Synthetic fragrance oils may contain any number of toxins. Benzaldehyde, benzyl acetate, propylene glycol, parabens, and sulfates are just a few. In all, there are more than 20 commonly used chemicals, 95% of them derived from petroleum byproducts.

Some chemicals, like methylene chloride were banned in the 1980's, however this ruling cannot be enforced due to “trade secret” laws. Among the worst offenders, methylene chloride is a known carcinogen that is absorbed through the skin and stored in body fat.

Trade secret laws

Trade secret laws were originally created to protect product formulas from theft by competitors. Unfortunately, these laws also provide companies a convenient way to hide information from the public. In addition, the FDA lacks the authority to require cosmetics manufacturers to test their products for safety before they are sold to consumers. This means that anyone using conventional perfumes, lotions, aftershaves, and other scented products are exposed to toxins unknowingly, which may increase their risk for a variety of different health problems.

How can we protect ourselves?

Start by eliminating chemical products and replacing them with healthier, naturally scented products. The best way to ensure safe product usage is to purchase clearly labeled items that use only 100% pure essential oils for fragrance. Essential oils are naturally derived and not chemically processed.

Pure essential oils not only smell wonderful, they have been shown to provide natural disinfectant and anti-microbial properties, making them a safe alternative to conventional disinfectants.

Our all natural soaps contain no alcohol or other additives that strip the natural oils from the skin or cause irritation. There are no toxins, just pure oils and glycerin. Beware handmade soaps that use “fragrance” and look for those that contain only 100% essential oils. Old Man Murray's handmade soap adheres to strict quality standards, using only the purest, organic ingredients for all of our products.

You can probably make it at home

Another easy way to eliminate exposure to toxins is to use homemade cleaners and air fresheners. It's easy to create safe, natural products inexpensively at home.

Grapefruit seed extract is a great example of a natural oil that is multi-purpose and non-toxic. A few drops added to a spray bottle of water will create an effective, all-natural alternative to chemical disinfectants. Grapefruit seed extract is a 100% natural germicidal, anti-fungal, anti-bacterial oil that is safe enough to eat, but effective enough to kill bacteria and most viruses on contact.

A variety of essential oils can be used to clean, disinfect and naturally add fragrance to the home, including rosemary, tea tree, citrus oils and lavender. You might also consider investing in tools like steam cleaners and wands that use only hot water vapor to clean and disinfect. You'll get peace of mind and save money over time.

Increased risk for women

Whether you make it yourself or buy natural, it is important to reduce exposure to synthetic fragrances and other chemicals, especially for women.

According to a 2010 study published in the Environmental Health journal, "Women with the highest combined cleaning product use had a two-fold increased breast cancer risk compared to those with the lowest reported use".

Clearly, synthetic fragrances and other chemicals are simply not worth the risk. So try to buy natural, or learn to DIY. And be aware of what’s in the products you use around the house.