Strong Perfume & Its Effects on Infants

By Melinda Kedro
Think twice before using heavily scented products in your home.
Think twice before using heavily scented products in your home.

Many products available in our culture for personal, cosmetic and hygienic purposes contain synthetic fragrances that are potentially harmful to you and your infant. Educating yourself about the adverse effects of scented products will allow you to establish a healthier environment for your child.

Perfume -- One of Many Culprits

Many perfumes, body sprays and colognes contain chemicals that can be detrimental to some people's health. Babies and children have a higher risk of exposure to dangerous chemicals found in these products. Their sensory organs are still developing and they have an acute sensitivity to substances in the environment. Many products on the market -- not just perfumes -- contain some form of fragrance. Many laundry detergents, cleaning products, body lotions, shampoos and products designed for babies and children contain scented chemicals.

Toxic Substances

Perfumes and common household products are supposedly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration for chemical content, but laws governing the fragrance industry differ, allowing companies to often regulate themselves. A 1991 Environmental Protection Agency study found that 95 percent of chemicals in fragrances are compounds derived from petroleum.

Detrimental Effects

According to the Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry, compounds derived from petroleum -- used in a high percentage of scented products -- can cause cancer, birth defects and damage the immune system over prolonged exposure. A Greenpeace study revealed that 36 well-known perfume brands contain two toxic man-made chemicals -- phthalate esters and synthetic musk -- known to alter blood pressure, pulse and mood, change brain blood flow and trigger migraine headaches. The 1991 Environmental Protection Agency study found that the pesticide linalool -- a commonly used chemical in perfume -- is known to cause lethargy, depression and life-threatening respiratory effects.

Alternatives

You can make your home and your baby's environment as free from detrimental chemical exposure as possible. Choose to not wear perfume. Invest in cleaning, household and hygiene products that do not contain toxic chemicals. Read labels carefully, as manufacturers often use misleading terminology to advertise a product as "fresh" or "natural." Avoid using room sprays. Buy body products that do not contain fragrance for both yourself and your baby.

About the Author

With more than 10 years experience in early childhood education, Melinda Kedro holds a Masters degree in education, teaching certification through the Association Montessori Internationale and is a licensed childcare provider through the Colorado Department of Human Services.