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Tip of the Month: Going Fragrance-Free at School

Tools for protecting your child from secret toxic fragrance chemicals.
reduce toxic chemicals at school

Tip of the Month: Going Fragrance-Free at School

Alex head shot

 Alex Scranton

Director of Science
& Research

Does something stink at your child’s school?  Fragrance or fragranced cleaners irritate not just our noses, but they can cause or exacerbate more serious health problems. That’s why we’re thrilled that our partners at Women for a Healthy Environment just released their Fragrance-Free Schools Toolkit!

Children are commonly exposed to fragrance at school through both personal products like perfumes and body sprays as well as scented cleaning products. Some people experience immediate adverse effects from fragrance exposure such as headaches, nausea, shortness of breath and other breathing problems. Scented products can also contain toxic chemicals linked to longer-term impacts like phthalates (hormone disruptors linked to reproductive harm), synthetic musks (hormone disruptors that are showing up in blood and breast milk), and numerous allergens.

According to WVE’s 2013 Secret Scents report, eczema and allergic skin reactions associated with fragrance exposure in children are on the rise. Studies show that girls are especially sensitive to fragrance, with a higher sensitization rate than boys.

Check out the Fragrance-Free Schools Toolkit to get:

  • Solutions for reducing fragrance in schools
  • Sample policies that schools can adopt
  • Sample parent letters to schools
  • Other support materials

In the meantime, reduce fragrance in your home by:

  • Switching to fragrance-free personal care products when your current ones run out

Want more tips like this? Check out our archive of Monthly Tips!

4 Responses

  1. Denise Webster

    Please stop recommending essential oils. They are not essential and are sensitizers just as much as are synthetic frangrances. Essential oils are strong chemicals, many of which are harmful. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Scent is scent. “Natural” products with essential oils are not fragrance-free although many are advertized as such.

  2. Alex WVE Director of Science and Research

    Thanks for your comment. Your point is well taken. We do not generally “recommend” essential oil use in our green cleaning recipes, as we agree they are not needed. But we mention them as an option for folks who prefer having a scented cleaner, based on feedback from our members interested in that option. We see that the language we used on the Tip of the Month could be construed as a recommendation – we apologize for that and we have changed that text accordingly. While there is a lot of variation in essential oil brands too – overall, we find them preferable to synthetic fragrances. This is not simply because they are “natural”. We agree, there is plenty of potent toxicity in certain natural substances. But adding essential oils (rather than using a pre-fragranced cleaner) gives you considerably more control over what you are being exposed to, and they are considerably less likely to contain other harmful chemicals commonly used in synthetic fragrances which are designed to make a scent last longer or have other effects. We do include warning language on essential oils in our Green Cleaning Party Toolkit which reads:
    “Warning: It should be noted that some people can be highly sensitive to essential oils, leading to symptoms such as headaches, asthma exacerbation or other health effects. If you, your family members, or other guests to your home may be affected by essential oils, simply leave them out of the recipes. This will not impact your cleaner’s effectiveness.”
    We will continue to evaluate our materials – to see where else we should be including warning language such as this. Thanks again for bringing this to our attention.

    Alexandra Scranton
    Director of Science and Research, Women’s Voices for the Earth

  3. Victoria

    Have you tried Shout Free? Its a stain remover that is dye free and fragrance free. I read lots of reviews by people that can’t tolerate scents that love this stuff, and I thought of you.

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