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How to Go Fragrance-Free/Non-Toxic



If you want to go fragrance-free/non-toxic, you are in the right place! You will be doing your body a favor, cleaning up the air and the environment, and also helping the millions of people struggling with Chemical Sensitivities and related illnesses, some you may know and some you may not. You will be making a world of difference.


For those of you who want to go completely fragrance-free, I will give you a lot of detail here. If you feel overwhelmed by it all, here are the four most important changes you can make:

  1. Stop using perfume, cologne, body spray, and scented aftershave (see more information below).

  2. Use only fragrance free, NATURAL laundry products, including detergent, fabric softener, and dryer sheets (see specific brands below). Laundry products are the most toxic personal care products on the market. Even better, don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets at all.

  3. Stop using commercial air fresheners, candles, and incense (see alternatives below). This includes Febreeze.

  4. Quit smoking.  (see more information below). 

Just taking these four steps will make a huge difference for people with Chemical Sensitivities - you will literally be changing people’s lives. Most likely you will feel your own health improving from these four steps as well, and will want to explore going further. The next several sections offer a step-by-step guide for reducing your chemical and fragrance footprint.

 How to Pick Out Fragrance-Free/Less Toxic Products

Fragrance-Free Label: For a product to be fragrance-free, it must not contain any artificial/chemical fragrances. It should specifically say “fragrance-free” somewhere on the label and the words “fragrance,” "perfume," or "parfum" should not be listed anywhere in the ingredients. Sometimes laundry products will use the terms “free and clear” or “free of perfumes and dyes” instead of "fragrance-free," but this usually means the same thing.

Unscented Label: Watch out for products labeled “unscented” – they are not always fragrance-free as they may contain an artificial masking fragrance designed to cover up  the smells of other ingredients. 
 Also watch out for products labeled "natural," "natural scent," "natural fragrance," or "non-toxic" - these products often still contain artificial fragrances since the use of these terms is not regulated.

Essential Oils: Many chemically sensitive people can tolerate products that are not labeled fragrance-free, but only contain scents from organic essential oils, which are made from plants, flowers, and other natural sources. However, many cannot tolerate these products, and this may depend on the type of plant/flower the oil was extracted from, how the plants/flowers were grown (organic or non-organic), how the oils were extracted and processed, and whether any other ingredients were added. When I mention essential oils in the following sections, I am referring to high-quality organic essential oils that have no chemical ingredients. (Even better are Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade (CPTG) essential oils, which are not available in stores. These are even more pure than what you would find in a natural foods store, and have a far greater chance of being well-tolerated by a chemically sensitive person. In addition, these can be used as treatment. See the "Treatment" section.) Many of the brands listed below make products that are fragrance-free and other products that use only essential oils for scent. If you are going fragrance-free to support a friend or family member, you will want to ask whether essential oils are okay for them, and always check the ingredients to make sure the words "fragrance," "perfume," or "parfum" are not included as well. Essential oils are usually listed in the ingredients with their Latin name, i.e. "Mentha Piperita (Peppermint) Oil" or "Citrus Aurantifolia (Lime) Oil." (Note: Essential oils are not the same thing as "fragrance oils." Fragrance oils generally contain chemical fragrances.)

 

Other Toxins: There are many other chemical ingredients in our personal care products, cleaning products, foods, etc. To list all of these is beyond the scope of this website, but many detailed resources are available online. If you are also trying to eliminate other toxins in your life, you will want to thoroughly review the ingredients of everything you buy, including personal care products, cleaning products, food, etc. This is not a paranoid, fearful approach to life, as some may see it. It is simply the level of self-care that is required in a society that uses unsafe chemicals as excessively and as irresponsibly as ours does. If there are ingredients you’ve never heard of, take the time to look them up. Find out exactly what each ingredient is composed of and what, if any, the potential health risks are. Some stores, such as Whole Foods, have an ingredient book you can look through, or you can find online resources such as the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database. Also check out the Naked Truth Project which references a wide variety of products. If a product does not disclose its ingredients on the label, don't buy it! There is always a reason for this, and generally it is because the product is not safe. (For more information regarding the lack of full ingredient disclosure on many products, check out this excellent video interview with Dr. Anne Steinemann.)


The Smell Test: Finally, ALWAYS SMELL THE PRODUCT BEFORE PURCHASING. Unfortunately, there are many legal loopholes that allow companies to distribute a product without listing all of the ingredients on the label. This makes it difficult to be sure of what you are buying. However, if you practice smelling a variety of products, you will eventually be able to distinguish natural smells from chemical based smells very quickly. There are some products labeled "fragrance-free" or "free and clear" that still contain fragrances. Some products are technically fragrance-free yet still have a noticeable smell (from other chemical ingredients). When in doubt, stick to products with more natural ingredients.

Please feel free to Contact Us for specific product recommendations or questions!
 

 Information about Specific Products & Issues

 

IMPORTANT - PLEASE READ: Remember that this section is designed to eliminate the fragrances and chemically based products that cause problems for the chemically sensitive people around you. This does not guarantee that these products are 100% safe for you as they may still contain chemicals that only your body will be absorbing.  If you are also interested in protecting your own health, or if you are chemically sensitive yourself, you will want to choose the more natural options that are listed and get into the habit of researching every ingredient of every product you use and every food you eat. See the above section for online resources for ingredient researching.
 

 PERSONAL CARE PRODUCTS

 

Perfume, Cologne, & Body Spray – This one’s easy: just don’t use it. Once upon a time, perfume was made with flowers, herbs, and other natural ingredients; but that is no longer the case. Today's perfume and cologne is full of toxic chemicals, most of them undisclosed on the label. It is one of the biggest triggers for a chemically sensitive person and a brief exposure can make them sick for the rest of the day if not longer. Also remember that if you use perfume sometimes, expect it to be on your clothes and skin all the time. It is actually absorbed by your skin and then secreted again with your sweat. If you want a light natural smell, you can use watered down Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils (not “fragrance oils”) which are available at natural foods stores. But if you are going fragrance-free for a friend, ask if they are sensitive to essential oils. For more information on the ingredients and health risks of perfume, see “Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance,” a report published by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

 

Soap – There are many fragrance-free options available, some of which are safer than others. Body Soap/Cleaners - Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Bar Soap is popular and relatively safe. Aveeno Skin Relief Fragrance-Free Body Wash, Dr. Bronner's liquid soaps, and Kiss My Face Fragrance-Free Olive Oil Soap are even safer. My favorite is True Body Unscented Soap, which contains only five ingredients. You can also find many handmade bar soaps that are fragrance-free; often these are sold at craft fairs and farmer's markets, but there are many available at  grocery stores and natural foods stores as well. Facial Soap/Cleansers - Try fragrance-free versions made by Aveeno, Neutrogena, Olay, Jason, and Nutribiotic. If you are not prone to oily skin, you can also use one of the body soaps listed above. Hand Soap - Try fragrance-free versions made by Avalon Organics, Kiss My Face, Tom's of Maine, Dr. Bronner's, and Seventh Generation. Try not to use antibacterial hand soaps regularly as these contribute to the growth of antibiotic resistant bacteria.
 

Shampoo & Conditioner – Hair products can contain a surprisingly high level of fragrances that can permeate the air just as much as a bottle of perfume. Look for fragrance-free versions from the brands Avalon Organics, Magick Botanicals, Desert Essence, Earth Science, Jason, and Burt's Bees. You can also find the brands Unicure and Free & Clear online. Sally Beauty Supply also carries one line of fragrance-free products called Naturelle. If your friend is not too sensitive, they might be able to tolerate lightly scented mainstream products, but be sure to ask them first. What you think is a light scent might not be light to a person with sensitivities or a weakened immune system.

 

Hairspray, Mousse, & Gel – You can find fragrance-free versions of these and other hair styling products in natural foods stores or online, including the brands Free & Clear, Magick Botanicals, Alba Botanica, and Beauty Without Cruelty.  Naturelle also makes a fragrance-free gel which can be found at Sally Beauty Supply. Hair spray should ideally be both fragrance-free and non-aerosol to minimize other harsh chemicals. Watch out for several “unscented” products that may still contain fragrance. You can use plain Aloe Vera or a small amount of fragrance-free conditioner as a smoothing cream. You can also make your own styling gel by dissolving one teaspoon of gelatin in one cup of water and chilling in the refrigerator before use.

 

Creams & Lotions – Many lotions contain strong fragrances and are used mainly as a perfume. Lubriderm, Cetaphil, and Eucerin make fragrance-free versions but generally  still contain harsh chemicals. More natural, fragrance-free options are available from Avalon Organics, Alba Botanica, Beauty Without Curelty, Jason, Kiss My Face, Aveeno, and Nature’s Gate. To protect your own health, consider using a more natural moisturizing alternative such as pure cocoa butter, shea butter, or sweet almond oil.

 

Deodorant/Anti-Perspirant – A recent trend has developed to make deodorants as strong as perfume or cologne. But there are many fragrance-free versions at regular grocery and department stores, including Almay, Mitchum, Dove, Speed Stick, Right Guard,  Sure, and Ban. (Be sure it is labeled "fragrance-free" and not just "unscented.") Several more natural, fragrance-free options are available as well, including Kiss My Face, Jason, Tom's of Maine, and Nature's Gate. To protect your own health, avoid using products labeled “anti-perspirant” as these contain aluminum and other harmful chemicals that inhibit sweating, which is a vital, natural detoxification process. Even many natural deodorants may contain aluminum - the "crystal" deodorants are made of Ammonium Alum which is a still a derivative of aluminum (although some suggest that it might not absorb into the body in the same manner). Always read labelsresearch ingredients you aren't familiar with, and pick the product with the least amount of chemicals. The most natural alternative is a homemade dusting powder made from baking powder and cornstarch (use arrowroot powder instead of cornstarch if you have a corn allergy). A new product on the market is Milk of Magnesia deodorant which has had great reviews.

Aftershave – This usually contains strong fragrances and should be avoided unless you can find a fragrance-free version. There are a few, including Gillette Complete Fragrance-Free After Shave Gel and Every Man Jack Fragrance-Free After Shave Lotion (available at Walgreens), although they still contain harmful chemicals.

 

Makeup – Generally the fragrances in make-up are light enough not to bother a chemically sensitive person unless they use it on their own skin. If you are going fragrance-free for a friend, ask them about their particular sensitivities. There are several fragrance-free versions available from Physician's Formula, Almay, Clinique, and Cover Girl. To protect your own health as well, look for more natural options with less chemicals at a natural foods store (be sure they are still labeled fragrance-free). Brands include Larenim, Beauty Without Cruelty, Mineral Mission, Zuzu Luxe, Gabriel Color, Ecco Bella, Dr. Hauschka, and Burts Bees.

 

Nail Polish and Remover – Almost all types of nail polish and remover are highly toxic and should never be used around a chemically sensitive person. Generally, once the polish has been dry for a day or so, it no longer emits chemicals into the air. There aren't many safe alternatives for these products if you are chemically sensitive yourself, however many people can tolerate the brand Suncoat. They make both nail polish and remover. If you know of other safe  options, please let us know.

 

Shaving Cream – Every Man Jack, Kiss My Face, Alba Botanica, and Trader Joes all offer fragrance-free shaving cream. You can also just use fragrance-free soap for this.

 

Sunscreen – Sunscreen tends to be heavily fragranced but there are many safe alternatives. Coppertone, Banana Boat, Neutrogena, and Aveeno all make fragrance-free sunscreen lotion. Many of these still contain other harmful chemicals; to protect your own health, check out some of the less toxic, fragrance-free options available at natural foods stores, such as the brands Badger, Kiss My Face, Alba Botanica, Nature's Gate, California Baby, and Aubrey Organics. Even these contain some harmful chemicals, but less than most of the mainstream brands. Many plant and seed oils also contain naturally occurring SPF due to the plant's need to protect itself from UV rays. You can use red raspberry seed oil, carrot seed oil, or wheatgerm oil for excellent sun protection. Soybean, avocado, olive, coconut, castor, almond, macadamia, and jojoba oil also offer moderate sun protection.

 

Insect Repellent/Bug Spray – This is a tricky one. You can find some fragrance-free commercial options (such as Cutter Advanced Fragrance-Free Insect Repellent Spray/Wipes), but many of these still contain a multitude of harmful chemicals (such as DEET). However, the more natural alternatives often have a strong smell from essential oils, which some chemically sensitive people can develop symptoms from. Talk to your friend to determine what is best for them. Overall, the natural alternatives are much safer and a better choice. Good options include Burt's Bees Herbal Insect Repellent, California Baby Bug Repellent, Babyganics Natural Insect Repellent, Jason "Quit Bugging Me" Insect Repellent, and Bug Patrol by Great Things, Inc. These may be more greasy than the chemical-based versions, but they are much safer. You can also make your own bug spray by mixing tea tree oil or eucalyptus oil with water. Some research also suggests that taking a good B-complex vitamin will minimize bug bites as you will emit a smell that mosquitoes don't like.

 

 CLEANING PRODUCTS

 

Laundry – For many people with Chemical Sensitivities, laundry products are their biggest allergy, yet they are the hardest to avoid and often lead to incredible isolation. Their reactions to these products can be so severe that they are forced to limit contact with friends and family, leave jobs, and even stop walking in their neighborhood. Laundry products can be very toxic, as you will read below. This is why they generally don't list the ingredients on the label. Laundry Detergent – Always use fragrance-free detergents. There are many "Free & Clear" versions of major brands, however these still contain very toxic chemicals and some still contain hidden fragrances. To protect your own health as well, use more natural options such as Seventh Generation Free & Clear, BioKleen Free & Clear, ECOS Free & Clear (made by Earth Friendly Products), Allen's Naturally, or Ecover Unscented. Dryer Sheets & Fabric Softener – It is ideal not to use these at all. They are very hazardous and contain several ingredients that are neurotoxics, narcotics, and carcinogens, and even some chemicals that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified as "hazardous waste" (see related articles by the EPA and www.sixwise.com). In fact, the chemicals used in these products have such a strong smell on their own that manufacturers have to fragrance them very heavily to cover the stench. To keep clothes soft and static free, many people add vinegar to the wash or the rinse cycle only. Although this is much safer than dryer sheets, I personally don't recommend vinegar anymore as I believe it contributes to moderate amounts of mildew growth in the clothes; I recommend adding a small amount of fragrance-free conditioner to the rinse instead. Also be sure to line-dry anything made from synthetic fabrics. If you want a little smell to keep the clothes fresh, spray them lightly with watered down Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils before putting them in the dryer (if your friend is not sensitive to these) and be careful of how you store them. You can also keep cedar chips or natural herb sachets in your drawers or closet. If you decide to continue using dryer sheets or fabric softener, choose the absolute most natural product available. Almost all of the major brands labeled "free and clear" or "free of perfumes and dyes" still contain incredibly toxic chemicals and hidden fragrances. The only relatively safe dryer sheets I have found are Seventh Generation, and even these would be ideal to forgo. For fabric softener, try Seventh Generation, Ecover, or Maddocks Holdings PurEcoSheet Reusable Chemical-Free Dryer SheetsBleach – Use non-chlorine bleach which is available at regular grocery and department stores. This is still very effective even without the chlorine and is much safer for you and your family. You can also use Hydrogen Peroxide. Stain Removers and Laundry Boosters – You can use borax as a natural laundry booster or try Charlie's Soap Laundry Booster. For a fragrance-free stain remover, try OxiClean Free or Charlie's Soap Laundry Pre-Spray. Using Public Laundromats – If you do not have your own washer and dryer,  going fragrance-free will be a challenge. Even if you switch products, your clothes will still be absorbing the fragrances from other people who use the machines. If you are going fragrance-free for a friend, see if they have any ideas about another place you could do your laundry.

 

General Cleaning – You can find safe alternatives for all your cleaning needs. To make your house safe for a chemically sensitive person to visit (and for you and your family), avoid cleaning products that contain fragrance, bleach/chlorine, ammonia, harsh detergents, surfactants, and other chemicals, or any product that doesn't disclose its ingredients. If you are going fragrance-free for a friend, ask them what they use for cleaning products. Some of the most toxic cleaning products include: Febreeze, Lysol, PineSol, Windex, Comet, Clorox, bleach, carpet deodorizers, as well as scented laundry products (see above) and air fresheners (see below). Better options include fragrance-free products made by Seventh Generation, Earth Friendly Products, Planet, Ecover, BioKleen, Meyers, Sun & Earth, CitraSolv, Bon Ami, Shaklee, Allens Naturally, and many others that you can find at natural foods stores, online, and often at regular grocery stores as well. You can also use castile soap, hydrogen peroxide, washing soda, borax, chlorine-free bleach, baking soda, vinegar, and other natural alternatives. For a natural disinfectant, use hydrogen peroxide, or add several drops of tea tree, lemon, or clove oil to a natural spray cleaner or a spray bottle filled with water. Tea tree, clove, eucalyptus, and cedarwood oils also have anti-fungal properties to remove and prevent mildew. Look for recipes and unique, natural cleaning solutions at Aura Cacia, EcoCycle, and other sites.

 

 Air fresheners – Air fresheners are stinky and very, very toxic (read more here). They make your house inaccessible for people with chemical sensitivities and asthma, and the chemical fragrances often stick on your clothes, skin, and hair even when you leave your house. (See related article from Natural News.) Stay away from any mainstream spray, plug-in, gel, or potpourri air fresheners. This includes Febreeze, which contains over 80 known toxic chemicals, including neurotoxins, broncho-constrictors, reproductive toxins, and mutagens that alter cellular DNA, all while claiming to make you "breathe happy"! The best way to freshen air is to create a clean air system that includes an air purifier, a dehumidifier and other methods of moisture control, and increased air circulation through fans and windows. Keeping the room as clean as possible, with safe cleaning products, will also help. If you really want to create a pleasant, safe aroma in your house (or even your car), try using more natural products such as Orange Mate Mist, Pure Citrus, or Citrus Magic. These are essential oil based products and may bother some people with Chemical Sensitivities, so check with the person you are trying to help first. Or make your own by putting 10-30 drops of Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils in a spray bottle full of water. You can also place an open box of baking soda or a bowl of white vinegar in the room, or fill a dish with freshly cut lemon slices, bunches of cloves, or other spices.

 

Candles & Incense – Most candles contain strong fragrance chemicals and can make a person with CS very, very sick, even if they are not lit. Use unscented candles or, if your friend can tolerate it, there are many candles available that use natural, essential oil based scents. If your friend is sensitive to petroleum, which is what most candles are made from, try 100% beeswax candles. However, chemically sensitive people at a very extreme stage of the illness may not be able to tolerate a natural candle either, due to the smoke, so be sure to ask them what would work best. If you really want to help, you may decide to eliminate candles altogether and use the alternatives mentioned in the paragraph above. Incense is also full of chemicals and fragrances, and should never be burned around a chemically sensitive person. Often it is burned in public places for purposes of mediation, but this is very counterproductive since  people can't meditate when they can't breathe. Incense lingers and can still make a room inaccessible for a chemically sensitive person days later, so it is ideal not to use it at all. I do not know of any natural alternatives for incense. If you want to create a meditative space, there are many other options such as music, chimes or gongs, creating a safe smell with Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade essential oils, increasing air flow, doing yoga to create a meditative space within yourself, or using energy healing techniques such as Reiki or crystal healing to clear the space.

 

 OTHER HOUSEHOLD & BUILDING ISSUES

 

Building Materials – Most materials used in building and maintaining homes diffuse a variety of very strong chemicals into the air, sometimes for many months or even years after construction. Plywood, particle board, treated wood (especially pressure treated), insulation, carpet, vinyl flooring, paint, stain, varnish, sealant, glue, new fixtures, etc. All of these and practically every other piece of your home was made from or processed with some type of chemical. You may not be able to change how your house was built but you can consider the chemically sensitive when renovating and maintaining your home. Paints and stains are especially toxic and the chemicals therein can continue to off-gas for months or even years. Be sure to use a paint or stain labeled "VOC-free" or "No VOC's" such as those made by Fresh Aire, Benjamin Moore, Glidden, or AFM.  (VOC stands for "Volatile Organic Compounds.") However, these paints still contain many toxic chemicals and would not be tolerated by a person with CS. Better options are available, such as Milk Paint. This website does not contain much information about healthier building materials, because that would be a whole website unto itself. Spend some time researching the materials you need, the toxins they contain, and safer alternatives that are available. There is a safer alternative for almost everything. You may not be able to find completely chemical-free versions of all the products and building materials you need, however there is still a HUGE DIFFERENCE in the level of toxicity between the most toxic and least toxic options.

 

 Mold & Mildew – Mold is an under-recognized health issue for many, many people, not just those with Chemical Sensitivities. Mold spores and the chemicals they release, called mycotoxins, can be highly toxic to the human body and can create a lot of health issues. Many homes are riddled with toxic mold, but the owners don't realize it until it has become very pervasive and very expensive to fix. Mold is very good at hiding from the human eye and nose, and mold-related illnesses are very good at masking themselves as other illnesses. In fact, an alarming number of people with Chemical Sensitivities originally developed the illness from a toxic mold exposure. If you have any long-term health problems, especially ones that have been hard to diagnose or treat, it is well worth the money to have a mold inspection done in your home and your workplace. If you already have a mold problem, it is imperative that you consult a professional and remedy the situation as soon as possible. This is not just about making your home safe for a chemically sensitive person to visit; this is about protecting your health as well. Even if you don't have a current mold issue, be sure to use proper moisture control techniques such as a dehumidifier, exhaust fans in bathrooms and kitchens, and appropriate venting and/or draining in attics, crawl spaces, and basements. Mold grows in cool, dark, and damp places, thus it is especially prevalent in geographical areas where there is high humidity and in parts of a building exposed to more moisture. Mold continues to stay in your body for quite a while after exposures, and its effects on the body can be completely debilitating if not addressed immediately. Check out  the book Mold: The War Within by Kurt and Lee Ann Billings for a very thorough analysis of this issue, including lots of recommendations for  mold remediation and treatment of mold-related illnesses. Mildew also grows in damp places, and can be highly allergenic, but is generally taken care of if you clean regularly.

 
 Smoke Cigarette smoke is highly toxic, both to the smoker and the people around him/her, and is a significant source of environmental pollution. It can make a chemically sensitive person very sick in a surprisingly short amount of time, and also has a strong effect on children and people with asthma or weakened immune systems. Smoke is notorious for sticking to clothes, hair, and other porous surfaces, and for traveling long distances. In cities and highly populated public places, it can be very difficult to avoid. If you can quit smoking, this will preserve your health and that of everyone around you. If you absolutely can’t or don’t want to quit, try switching to a more natural cigarette such as American Spirit. These still contain many toxins but if you cannot quit, then switching brands is a better option. Smoke from wood stoves, campfires, and burning leaves also travels very long distances and can make it very difficult for a  person with CS to be  outdoors, even on their own property. You may think this type of smoke is relatively harmless, but it contains hundreds of toxic chemicals, including carbon monoxide, methane, formaldehyde and other aldehydes, cyanide, many dioxins, and lead, as well as mold spores and radioactive material. It is a significant source of environmental pollution as well. Burning Issues, a project of Clean Air Revival, Inc., is an excellent resource for more information. Click here for the results of their study regarding the chemical composition of wood smoke. If you use a wood stove, your home may not be safe for a chemically sensitive person, depending on their particular sensitivities. If you burn leaves or have campfires, please consider notifying your neighbors ahead of time, especially if they are chemically sensitive. This way they can close their windows before the smoke gets into their house.

Printers & Photocopiers The chemicals released from the ink and toner used in printers and photocopiers are very toxic and are hazardous to the health of all people. They are especially toxic to someone with Chemical Sensitivities and can cause severe and immediate symptoms. If you must have a printer or photocopier in your home of office, user inkjet, not laser, and be sure to keep them in a separate room away from where people normally spend their time. If you work with these machines, do not have them next to your desk; keep them in a separate room designated just for this purpose. It is worth the effort to get up and walk to another room to retrieve your printed materials. Continually breathing in these strong fumes can be a contributing factor the development of Chemical Sensitivities and other health problems.


Furniture – Most mainstream furniture has to off-gas before a chemically sensitive person can use it. The fabric on couches and upholstered chairs contains formaldehyde and other chemicals, similar to new carpets. The wood used to build desks, tables, dressers, and other furniture, has been exposed to or infused with many chemicals during its processing and then painted or stained with more chemicals. Mattresses have many issues, including the materials they are composed of as well as the chemical flame retardants they are coated with. In short, if you want to protect your health and the health of those that come to your home, you will need to do some research before buying new furniture. Look around for alternative sources that use more natural materials. There are many!

 

Electronics – Computers, televisions, and other electronics contain many heavy metals and other hazardous chemicals in both the internal components and the plastics on the outside. The toxic chemicals used on the internal components are often emitted through vents and cooling fans. New electronics are difficult for people with CS and can cause very debilitating symptoms, so ask your friend about his or her particular sensitivities. You should consider your own health as well; if you feel tired or any other odd symptoms upon using a new computer, for example, it is most likely these chemicals that are to blame. For more information, you can look at the GreenPeace Campaign for Greener Electronics.


Fabrics & Textiles New clothing, bedding, and other fabrics are generally coated with a formaldehyde resin to prevent wrinkles, mildew, stains, and pests. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and is severely toxic to the body in many ways. Common symptoms from formaldehyde exposure include breathing difficulties, headaches, central nervous system disorders, weakness and fatigue, burns and irritation, etc. There are generally other chemicals involved in the processing of new fabrics and textiles, and some fabrics are inherently made of synthetic, chemical-based materials as well (polyester, nylon, rayon, spandex, acrylic). However, the major offender and the chemical responsible for that "new clothes smell" is formaldehyde. To protect your health and the health of those around you, always air out and wash your clothes prior to wearing. If you are sensitive, the airing out process will be much more lengthy and involved, and you will want to avoid any synthetic fabrics as well. If you are not sensitive, air out the clothes for 4-7 days in a separate room or outside, and then run them through the washing machine a couple of times - this will help to reduce your exposure and protect the people you are close to. Also look into more natural options by searching online for "formaldehyde free clothing" or "chemical free clothing". You will find many online retailers and possibly some local stores as well. (Keep in mind that used clothing can sometimes be problematic as well. Clothing is highly absorptive and will absorb and retain most chemicals and fragrances it comes in contact with, including laundry products, perfume and cologne, mold and mildew, etc.)

Lawn Care – Synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, fungicides, herbicides, and insecticides are dangerous to you and everyone in your neighborhood. This includes those for basic lawn care as well as agriculture and gardening. Choose natural alternatives whenever possible, such as diatomaceous earth, boric acid, organic fertilizers, compost, insect repelling plants, barriers, and other physical controls. Spend some time researching safe products and practices for your lawn and garden. If you are absolutely not willing to use more natural alternatives, always notify your neighbors before spraying or applying these types of chemicals. If there are people in your neighborhood with Chemical Sensitivities, asthma, or a weakened immune system, they might want to leave their home while you spray and may have to stay away for several days.

Animals & Pets – Many chemically sensitive people have acute allergies to cats, dogs, and other pets. This is not to say that everyone must get rid of their pets! It's just something to keep in mind if you are following all of the above instructions and your chemically sensitive friend is still getting sick in your house. If you have pets, that might explain it.

In The Kitchen For your own health, there are several things you can do in the kitchen to reduce your exposure to chemicals and toxins.
Cook with stainless steel, ceramic, glass, or cast iron cookware rather than aluminum, Teflon, or a non-stick pan. All of these have been linked to health problems, and aluminum has been linked to Alzheimer's Disease among other things. Use glass or ceramic dishes and containers rather than plastic, especially with hot food or liquids. Avoid processed foods that contain preservatives, chemical additives, artificial sweeteners, and dyes. Avoid or reduce your consumption of fish and shellfish, which often contain mercury. Eat organic produce whenever possible to avoid pesticides and other chemicals used in growing. If you can't afford to eat everything organic, pay attention to the foods with the highest pesticide residues: apples, celery, cucumbers, grapes, lettuce, kale and other leafy greens, nectarines, peaches, peppers, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, summer squash, tomatoes,  and zucchini. There are lots of other things you can do to clean up your diet, but this will get you started.

 Where to Buy Fragrance-Free/Less-Toxic Products

 
Local Sources:

  • Grocery stores, department stores, and drug stores - You may be surprised how many options you can find here; many carry fragrance-free versions of their store brand as well. If the store has a separate section for "natural" products, be sure to look there as well.
  • Natural foods stores, including national chains such as Whole Foods and Trader Joes, as well as smaller, local stores.
  • Farmer's markets and craft fairs often feature local, handmade personal care products such as soap, lotion, etc. Always ask about ingredients, especially fragrances.

Online Sources:


 Advice for Employers & Business Owners

If you are an employer or business owner, you have a unique opportunity to be a positive influence, but you also have many challenges. This section should give you some basic pointers, but we would happy to consult with you if you need more recommendations. 


If you have an employee or client with Chemical Sensitivities or just want to create a safer environment, the best way to start is to implement a “Fragrance-Free Policy.” This means that you have a written and posted policy asking all employees, clients, and/or customers to refrain from using perfumes, colognes, and other strongly scented products when at your location. You can also ask them to use fragrance-free soap, hair spray, and laundry products, or even not to smoke within a certain amount of time before visiting your business. It is all up to you and what you think is necessary and feasible.

 

You will also want to conduct a thorough review of the products you use in and around your building. Look through the information under “Cleaning Products” and “Household/Building Issues” in the above section to determine what your chemical/fragrance footprint is right now and how to reduce it. You will probably find many areas that could use improvement, including carpeting, recent renovations, air freshener, cleaning products, etc. Do the best you can and make a commitment to review the issue on a regular basis and make as many changes as possible.

 

You may also want to use an air purification system to improve the indoor air quality. Air purifiers are a big help and can be a very effective, low-maintenance tool to support the health of all of your employees and customers. Air circulation through the use of fans and windows can also help, as can the use of dehumidifiers and other moisture control techniques.

If you suspect that there may be mold, radon, asbestos, carbon monoxide, or other contaminants in your building, you will want to get this tested or confirmed as soon as possible and obtain professional recommendations as to how to remedy the situation.  Even if you don't think these contaminants are present, it is best to get the tests done, as they are very good at hiding (see section on mold above).You should also ensure that your heating and cooling systems are working correctly and not leaking any pollutants into the air.

If you are selling any products, you will want to research their health risks and any alternative choices you could provide that are less toxic. Because of the widespread use of chemicals in manufacturing, production, agriculture, and other fields, almost any product you sell could be more toxic than you think. This includes food, clothing, computers and electronics, paper products, building materials, and almost anything else.

 

If you work in an industry that is by nature chemically based, you have some tough choices ahead of you. Examples of this include construction, manufacturing, carpentry, agriculture, transportation, automotive repair, cosmetology, and many more. A few less obvious examples include retail work (where you are surrounded by brand new products such as clothes, computers, or plastic objects that are off-gassing many chemicals) and office work (where you are continually exposed to printers, photocopiers, chemically processed paper, and new electronics). You will want to do some research and find as many safe alternatives as possible. In some cases, such as office work, you may be able to isolate the source of toxins (i.e. printers, photocopiers, etc.) to a separate room away from where people normally work. Depending on the nature of the industry you work in, you may not be able to make your workplace suitable for someone with Chemical Sensitivities. Do the best you can to make a difference, but know that you may not be able to change everything.

If you are a landlord, building developer, or architect, there are a lot of very specific things you will want to consider in building and maintaining homes or apartments. Safe housing for people with CS is incredibly hard to find - almost all building materials are made of or processed with some kind of toxic chemical and these chemicals can take months or even longer to fully off-gas and be safe. Make a commitment to use the safest products possible in construction, maintenance, and lawn-care. Implement policies that will keep your air and land clean, such as no smoking on the property. You can even require tenants to use fragrance-free laundry products in the shared laundry facilities. Please check out the non-profit Re-Shelter for more specific information as well as Chapter 4 of the article by Dr. Gibson mentioned in the first paragraph of this section. Again, feel free to contact us if you need more specific advice.

 

If you are working to support a specific person with Chemical Sensitivities, the most important thing you can do is to maintain regular communication about how they are feeling in this environment. They may have other ideas and needs that I have not listed here and it will be an incredible blessing if you are able to help them stay in the workforce or in an independent living situation. Unfortunately, if they cannot find a way to minimize their exposures, the condition may continue to worsen to the point of disability.

 

It is a good idea for any employer or business owner to take the actions mentioned above. Even if you don’t have an employee or a customer with Chemical Sensitivities, the fragrances and chemicals you use are still affecting people and the environment. If you choose to go fragrance-free and non-toxic, you will be making your business a safer place for all people and creating opportunities for people with Chemical Sensitivities to be involved in their community. You will also be ensuring that your business and your actions on this earth are creating as little harm and creating as much good as possible. This, in itself, could be a measure of your success in life.

You can find more specific details about these issues in the following articles:

"Understanding & Accommodating People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity in Independent Living" by Pamela Reed Gibson, Ph.D.


"Guidelines to Accommodating Students & Staff with Environmental Sensitivities: A Guide For Schools" by Nancy Bradshaw & Karen Robinson

"Three Steps to Organizing a Fragrance-Free Event" by Basil Shadid

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