Fragrance free vs unscented; the great debate

Fragrance free vs unscented; the great debate

You are in the cleaning aisle of your local grocery store, the label says “unscented” while another says “fragrance free.” What’s the difference? And why is this important for your health?

Fragrance free: No artificial (synthetic) fragrances have been added to the product. There are no odor masking agents. If there are ingredients in the product that give off a scent, you will smell it.

Unscented: Unlike “fragrance free,” unscented does not mean the product has no odor. It means that chemicals have been added to hide the original scent. These masking agents, called phthalates, are known health hazards. Despite this, they are in widespread use throughout U.S. industries.

What are phthalates? Phthalates are a large class of chemicals with diverse applications, including masking odors. Companies use them to get their cleaning products to their “unscented” final stage before they hit the shelves, despite many studies linking them to:

– Asthma
– Deficit hyperactivity disorder
– Type II diabetes
– Breast, liver, and testicular cancer

And that is by no means an exhaustive list. Both the European Union and the United States have recognized the health risks and restricted their use in children’s toys and products.

Prefer fragranced products? Fragranced products often contain synthetic fragrances derived from crude oil. Products containing synthetic fragrances have been linked to similar health issues such as, allergies, asthma, and cancers. Also, just because a product is fragranced does not mean it it won’t also have phthalates!

If you are like me and sensitive to scented/fragranced products, you will look around and realize artificial fragrances aren’t only in cleaning products, they are everywhere — just like phthalates. Thankfully, more and more products are coming to market that don’t contain artificial fragrances or harsh chemicals. And due to a rush of studies linking phthalates to illnesses, labeling requirements are slowly being rolled out for products that use them.

To protect yourself try looking for products that are certified organic and always make sure to read the label.


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