Perfume Chemicals That Can Hurt You

perfume bottles
Is your perfume or cologne safe?

In a new study from the University of Rochester, Lauren Parlett, a doctoral candidate in the department of public health sciences, pinpointed perfumes as the largest source of exposure women have to chemicals called phthalates. There are dozens of phthalates used in personal care products, only a few of which have been studied, and the one particular variety used in perfumes is a big question mark when it comes to your health.

“We really need to understand how phthalates are affecting women’s health, and we’re just in infancy of doing that,” Parlett says.

Parlett used surveys women had filled out about their personal-care-product use and compared those to results of a urine analysis, which measured their levels of various phthalates.

The more personal care products a woman used, the higher her body’s levels of phthalates, Parlett found. Phthalates were found in nearly every woman, and almost 70 percent of their study subjects had at least 10 different phthalate metabolites in their system. The most commonly detected were metabolites of diethyl phthalate (DEP), a phthalate commonly used in lotions, shampoos, perfumes, and other scented products to prevent fragrances from dissipating.

So it stands to reason that perfume was the biggest source of phthalates in women. Women who used perfume had roughly three times higher levels of DEP in their bodies as women who didn’t; women who used deodorant had about twice the levels of DEP as women who didn’t; and women who used hairspray and body lotions had about 1.5 times the levels of DEP of women who didn’t use those products.