[Image: Lexington, Mass. Town website]
Have you ever walked into an elevator, a subway car, or any other crowded confined space and been smacked in the face by a toxic cologne cloud?
There are times when this overpowering scent actually makes its way up into my nasal passages, down my throat, and onto my tongue. Excuse me, Stinky, I already had breakfast, I don't want to taste your perfume bath!
I lovingly call these offenders Personal Air Polluters (PAPs). To be fair, I'll assume they've dulled their precious olfactory senses so much that they've become "smell blind," and as such just keep adding more and more fragrance as a result of their nasal numbness. After all, our senses can become dulled when they're overexposed to stimuli.
So-called "good" scents like certain beauty products and cleaning solutions set off an alarm in my brain: Danger! Danger! Step away from that stink! And for good reason, these fragrances are actually bad for us.
Whether it's the noxious fumes of cologne or perfume, the petrochemical laundry detergent emanating from clothes, or the synthetic fragrance wafting from just-shampooed hair - the deluge of synthetic fragrances in this world culminates in a harmful chemical cocktail.
get the stink out: antidotes to air pollution
Once I eliminated the culprits in my own home, I became acutely aware of these terrible odors. Here are some simple switches to help reduce your exposure to the volatile organic compounds (VOCs) causing the toxic stench.
- Read labels. Avoid products containing phthalates, benzyl acetate, hydroquinone, formaldehyde, or the catch-all term "fragrance" (also: parfum). These products have been associated with neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and cancer
- Look out for other ingredients that may induce similar health implications (eg, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, and immunotoxicity) - read more
- Some of my favorite brands:
- Kiss My Face (Obsessively Organic line)
- John Masters Organics
- Dr. Bronner's
- Simply Divine Botanicals
- My secret weapon against dirt: The Berkeley Ecology Center. They have an amazing resource for non-toxic cleaning solutions using everyday household items like vinegar and baking soda
- Off-the-shelf products I like:
- Sal Suds
- Seventh Generation
- Beeswax candles actually purify the air without polluting it like conventional paraffin candles
- Make your own air freshener with essential oils
- For laundry: Switch to a less toxic alternative such as Ecos or Seventh Generation. Or try a laundry ball like this one from True Green (I tested it on my sweaty yoga towels - it really works!)
- For softening: Skip the fabric softener and use 1/8 cup vinegar in the wash. The vinegar smell does not stick around, I swear
- For scent: Add a few drops of essential oil to the wash. I use Tea Tree Oil or Eucalyptus - so fresh and so clean! (and also antibacterial)
- For dry cleaning: Opt for handwash with a product like The Laundress or visit a dry cleaner using CO2 such as Green Apple Cleaners
- No or low-VOC paints like Mythic offer high-quality coverage without the noxious fumes. Or try American Clay, a wall covering that adds beautiful texture while actually filtering the air
- Check for formaldehyde and other off-gassing VOCs in furniture & carpeting. Stick with natural floor coverings made from wool or seagrass. Check the Sustainable Furnishings Council for brands that don't emit VOCs
Aah, now let's all take a breath of fresh air!