1. Is Your Fabric Softener Making You SickBy Carlos Gamino

That cute bear bouncing on towels (you know the one we mean. He touts the benefits of using fabric softener on every piece of laundry that goes through your washing machine) might not be as sweet and innocent as he seems… or, perhaps more accurately, he could be covering up a massive problem and tricking you into buying chemicals that aren’t safe for you, your kids or your pets.

The $40 billion fragrance industry has come under fire for their “self-regulation” practices in the wake of tens of thousands of claims that fragrance – in the broadest sense of the word – is making people sick.

Fragrances are found in nearly every household product you buy, from cleaning supplies to shampoo and conditioner. You’ll find them in air fresheners, soaps, and even in hair coloring.

A small consumer watchdog agency, Women’s Voices for the Earth, recently identified a huge number of chemicals used in everyday fragrances that are actually toxic.

The International Fragrance Association, the industry’s trade group, insists that they ensure product safety, but they’re not required by the Food and Drug Administration to disclose their “secret” formulas… which could be putting millions of innocent consumers at risk.

Laundry detergent, air fresheners and candle fragrances are the Consumer Products Safety Commission’s responsibility, but the commission doesn’t actively screen them for safety. Even if they did, fragrances (and flavors, but that’s another post) fall under the trade-secret exemption in federal policy, which means manufacturers don’t have to disclose their ingredients because the formulas could theoretically be stolen by another company.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics conducted a study of 17 perfumes, colognes and body sprays in 2010, and their results were shocking. Each of the 17 products contained more than a dozen “secret” chemicals that were associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions. Worse, they found chemicals with “troubling hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate in human tissues.”

The UN considers more than 1,000 known chemicals used in fragrances dangerous, and the International Agency for Research on Cancer (part of the World Health Organization) says at least seven of the known ingredients are possible human carcinogens. More than a dozen are banned from cosmetics in the EU… so what are they doing in our products?

I’d love to hear what you think about these chemicals (and whether you think we can trust the International Fragrance Association to self-regulate for safety).

Share your thoughts on my Facebook page or on Twitter – this is a conversation we should all be having!

Carlos Gamino