When I thought about writing a guest opinion for the Salem Weekly, I first assumed I’d write about the new community radio station – KMUZ 88.5 FM. I’m on the governing board and spend most of my non-work time on this exciting venture. KMUZ is building community and providing a great community service. But, no, I decided not to write about that.
Then I thought I’d ruminate on the opportunities presented by the recession, but it was hard to be upbeat about the many people who were left homeless and hungry. It’s exciting that more people are riding bicycles, growing their own food, buying local, and realizing that corporate domination is behind the decline of the middle class, but I wanted to write about something else.
There’s a topic that isn’t mentioned much in the media, something that affects me personally – and affects us all, whether we know it or not. Chemical fragrances. Including synthetic fragrances in everything from laundry soap, dryer sheets, personal care products, air fresheners, kitty litter, even garbage bags is damaging our health. And it’s pervasive.
Have you ever taken a walk on a clear day only to have your nose assaulted by the smell coming from someone’s dryer vent? Or you’re in an elevator and someone’s body lotion, make-up, or hair spray (or all three!) makes your nose itch and your throat hurt? Or gives you a headache? Or someone gives you a hug and the smell of the fabric softener on their clothes is now on you? That aroma being passed around is filled with volatile organic chemicals that have no safe exposure level, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Sorry. Don’t shoot the messenger.
A 2010 study of 25 widely used fragrant consumer products identified 133 volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), 24 of which are toxic or hazardous under federal laws. But these VOCs are not required to be listed on any product label. Even products that listed ingredients as “green,” “non-toxic” or “natural” were not significantly different than other products. (Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 2010).
I know, you’re thinking, “What are they going to scare me with next?” But we don’t have to be scared. We can be educated and change our consumer behavior. There are non-toxic cleaning products – trust ones that list their ingredients, such as Seventh Generation and Biokleen. We can stop buying air fresheners, scented candles, incense. Try a pure vegetable, seed or nut oil in place of scented lotion. If I’ve piqued your interest, read more about the dangers and solutions. Here is one resource: “Survive: A Family Guide to Thriving in a Toxic World” by Sharyn Wynters and Burton Goldburg. Thanks for reading.

Melanie Zermer is a massage therapist and instructor at the Oregon School of Massage.  She can be reached at melbelle57@hotmail.com