Why Strong Perfume Makes You Physically Ill
Strong fragrances aren’t just annoying—for many, they can cause very real health problems, according to a study in Preventive Medicine Reports.
Out of a survey of 1,098 Australians, one-third of them reported experiencing one or more health issues as a result of scented products. Of those bothered by the scents, 17 percent had respiratory troubles, like problems breathing, coughing, or shortness of breath. Other issues included migraines, eye irritation, sneezing, dizziness, head pain, nausea, diarrhea, and mental cloudiness.
And these issues weren’t just mild annoyances, either: They caused 8 percent of people to miss work.
Air fresheners or deodorizers were the culprit for 16 percent of those surveyed, and cleaning fluids did it for 15 percent. Many of these products release dangerous air pollutants, some of them carcinogenic, which emit even more pollutants when combined with ozone. This could be contributing to some of the effects people feel when they smell the fragrances.
People in the U.S. likely experience similar levels of the irritants. In fact, study author Anne Steinemann, Ph.D., found in a separate study that 35 percent of Americans experience health issues from scented products, according to a press release.
“This is an epidemic,” she said. “The effects can be immediate, severe, and potentially disabling.”
If anything you use around the house (or on your own body) makes you queasy or lightheaded, the study recommends switching to something unscented. And since 43 percent of survey respondents wished their offices were fragrance-free, avoid dousing yourself in cologne before work so you don’t literally give your coworkers a headache.