pollution in Los Angeles

In the 1980’s the anti-cigarette movement really began to take hold.

A combination of ever-increasing class action lawsuits, the increase in scientific evidence against nicotine leaving nowhere to hide, and an emerging alternative in the form of e-cigarettes, created a perfect storm and proved to be a force for good.

Now we have Imperial Tobacco rebranded as Blu and Philip Morris pioneering lung health. 

In the 2000’s we woke up to the harm that aluminium could do in deodorants. Why would you block your pores with aluminium salts when it’s the bacteria that smells and not the sweat? Native deodorant stormed the market with its body friendly alternative and sold to P&G for around $100million in 2017.

Since then, people have started to pay attention to what they put in and, on their bodies, and the market has been swift to capitalise on this demand. Cosmetic products are now routinely free from parabens, phthalates, cruelty, artificial anything, and are, of course, vegan.

So why are we still putting “fragrances” on our skin when we know the vast majority to be petrochemically derived, synthetic, and quite possibly not good to have in the bloodstream?

The absence of a perfect storm in the fragrance business seems to be down to our primal need to smell good, a tendency towards blissful ignorance when faced with complex ingredients, and human vanity which is so effectively played on by advertising and celebrity endorsements. Alternatives are emerging...but it takes a while to change ingrained habits.

There is also a notable lack of scientific scare stories, with a class action extremely unlikely to get traction when we all have a unique body chemistry and react very individually to fragrances.

But since the 2010 $100,000 settlement in Detroit based on a perfume related complaint by one office employee against a particularly fragrant colleague, bans on wearing fragrances in public places are beginning to proliferate. 

On a broader level, perhaps pollution and climate change could be the catalyst for behavioural change in the wearing of perfumes, when we realise that it may not just be damaging to our bodies, but also to the planet.

In 2018, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, part of the US Department of Commerce, published a study which found that emissions from volatile chemical products like perfumes, paints and other scented consumer items now rival vehicles as a pollution source in greater Los Angeles.

The study showed that although 15 times more petroleum is consumed as fuel than is used as ingredients in industrial and consumer products, the amount of chemical vapours emitted to the atmosphere in scented products is roughly the same. Fuel systems minimise evaporation to maximise energy, whereas fragrance is engineered to evaporate.

So in 2022 we have fragrance related pollution concerns, a third of people intolerant to fragrance, an increase in bans on fragrance wearing in public places, and indisputably an element of these synthetic chemicals going into our bloodstream at a time when we are supposedly prioritising natural, harm free ingredients.

 Something has to happen. It’s not if, it’s when.














June 22, 2022 — Kim Brookes