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Archive for May, 2008

Janet says: My four year old came to me looking for a toy doll bottle with what she says has yellow cow’s milk. As I looked into her bright eyes (I felt like a deer in headlights), I told her that I had no idea what is she talking about. She looked at me, rolled her eyes and said “Mommy, let me explain it to you”; and she did.

On our Savvy FAQs page we addressed two questions:

1. What is the difference between fragrance free and unscented?
2. Should I purchase only organic and products labeled natural?

Well let me explain something to you and let’s go a step further. Products labeled no fragrance or fragrance free usually are free from synthetic or chemical fragrance. The label does not purport that the product is odorless.

Let me give you an example. Although I often use a popular brand of baby products, on March 31, 2008 I spoke about a hypersensitive day that I was experiencing. I was unable to use either their Super Sensitive Shampoo and Bodywash or the Everyday Lotion because of the odor I detected. According to the label, this product does not have sodium lauryl sulfate, formaldehyde, fragrance, scent masking agents or clear formula chemicals, yet I detected an odor. The product has aloe vera, extracts of corn, coconut and palm. Whatever the source, there is a detectable smell or odor which on that day annoyed me. The odor or smell was a source of irritation to Nancie and my husband (who do not share our sensitivities) as well. For those with sensitive noses, you have to smell the product to find your level of sensitivity and tolerance.

Unscented products usually add a masking agent, another chemical, to disguise the chemicals in the product. Even though the masking agents mask the scent they can trigger allergic reactions in chemically sensitive people.

In my quest to find natural or organic products with no odor, I find many of these products tend to use essential oils although they do not use synthetic fragrance. Essential oils are concentrated oils extracted from herbs, plants or fruit. These oils have the distinct scent that comes from the plant from which they are derived. For some, essential oils are aromatherapy. For people like me it can trigger headaches, migraines, nausea and the like. For Nancie it can trigger the same or even worse; vomiting or an Asthma attack.

To complicate matters even further, on March 14, 2008 the Organic Consumers Association released the following to the press: Carcinogenic Found in Leading “Organic” Brand Personal Care Products. .

1,4-Dioxane is a petroleum based carcinogen known to cause cancer and is also suspected as a kidney, central nervous system and respiratory toxicant. In the Organic Consumers Association Press Release, the OCA urges consumers to search ingredient lists for indications of ethoxylation including: “myreth,” “oleth,” “laureth,” “ceteareth,” any other “eth,” “PEG,” “polyethylene,” “polyethylene glycol,” “polyoxyethylene,” or “oxynol,” in ingredient names.

Even though a product is labeled natural or organic doesn’t mean it is safe. The products may have natural or organic in the name but unless it is labeled Certified Organic USDA it probably isn’t.

Where does that leave us? Frankly, I don’t know. I keep trying to remind myself that “Balance is the Key” but the challenge is great. All I want is safe non-odorous products that don’t make me sick. Is that too much to ask? Well, explain it to me.

Remember the toy bottle my daughter was looking for with the yellow cow’s milk? Well, I threw it out. It was on the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission recall list for hazardous toys.

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Janet says: I may be one of the few that can legitimately say I love my mother-in-law. She is not meddlesome and loves her granddaughter. And like most grandmothers she loves to buy my daughter gifts. Just recently, she purchased a Cabbage Patch Kids doll. When we opened the package we noticed there was a fragrance in the doll’s hair. My first question was; why would a toy designer/manufacturer put fragrance on a doll? Kim Ode of the Star Tribune (Minneapolis- St. Paul, MN) in her article Fragrance Debate: A Matter of Scents and Sensibility wrote “Scents sell.” I think a scent in a toy makes no sense!

My point ~~ with so many children developing Autism, ADD/ADHD and Asthma what possesses the toy manufacturers to put fragrance is children’s toys? Simply, this is not a good idea! Very few of these children know or can even articulate that the fragrance is what is contributing to their disorder. I know I become irritable, erratic, nauseous, even vision impaired (among other symptoms) when exposed to certain fragrances. As an adult, it took a series of events (see upcoming blog Mommy Monster) to make the connection between the fragrance and these symptoms; children are not as savvy.

Ms. Ode also wrote, “The American Lung Association says that an estimated 4 million children under 18 years old had an asthma attack in 2004, and that many others have “hidden” or undiagnosed asthma. Almost eight in 10 kids with asthma have significant allergies — one reason asthma is considered the most common cause of school absenteeism. Fragrance is among the many triggers the association lists for asthma attacks.”

Furthermore, do you really want your child to develop Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Environmental Illness, Fibromyalgia or any other chronic illness along with the challenges they are already experiencing? Fragrance is a Molotov cocktail of chemicals. The more a person is exposed to toxic chemicals the more their immune systems become deficient. The more their immune system becomes deficient the more likely they will develop a chronic illness such as mentioned above. Trust me you do not want your children to go through what Nancie and I have to endure every day.

Children do not need to be in fear of their environment. They may intuitively know that if they go a relative’s house they will get sick because of the Glade air freshener used in the house but do not know the source or how to verbalize the problem they are having. Ah hah! That is why they cry and scream uncontrollably when they know they are going to particular environment. The last thing they need is to be assaulted with fragrance from a toy in their own home.

There has been uproar about phthalates (THAY-lates) in products particularly children’s products because they release toxins that cause birth defects, seizures, infertility, cancer, etc. So the concern is mainly regarding the plastics in baby bottles or toys and what happens when these plastics are heated. Phthalates are a hidden component in fragrance. Can someone hear this, FRAGRANCES OF ANY SORT DO NOT BELONG IN CHILDREN’S TOYS.

What happened to the doll? Finally, she was soaking in Earth Friendly Products’ Oxo Brite the odor has diminished. She is now soaking in vinegar, if that doesn’t remove the odor, she will be thrown away.

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