55 million Americans, 5 million Canadians, and millions more worldwide suffer from Sensitivities.
Both during pregnancy and on into the early years, children are very sensitive to these chemicals we use on a daily basis, since children’s systems and bodies are not fully developed and are especially vulnerable to toxins. Any single exposure or repeated and prolonged exposures to chemicals do affect them.
Below is a small list of the most common types of products that are harmful to our health and should be replaced with non toxic alternatives. Just getting rid of some of these products in your home not only sends a clear message to manufacturers, but can drastically reduce the risks of you and your families getting ill.
As you go through the list, note that there are dozens, even hundreds of products and brands within each category. Most of these have been deemed to be a safe level of exposure of these chemicals by the manufacturers (often with no human research to back that up), yet when you begin to count how many and how often we use these products, it becomes more clear that we are experiencing toxic levels of dangerous chemicals and products on a daily basis. A good deal of the toxicity comes from the chemicals used to make the fragrances we have come to love. Several of these product types have no use other than to make your environment smell a certain way. There toxic effects are not worth it.
MCS is a very individualistic condition, just like a fingerprint!
No two people have the exact same reactions to chemicals. As this condition progresses, some individuals may also become sensitive to natural and organic compounds. Labels like “natural” and “organic” are no guarantee either. Many people with MCS react to some of them as well.
There are several components that go into a reaction, and reactions are not always consistent. One example of that would be that an individual may not react to a chemical or group of chemicals on one day, but does react the next day.
It is very important to check with a person with MCS see just what that person does react to. It is also important to understand that often times even those with MCS don’t always know, because new products are being developed every day. Products ingredients sometimes change and many products are not required to disclose their ingredients, making it more difficult to predict a reaction.
Please go to the FAQ page for more information on factors that can and do effect reactions.
See the resources Page for some alternative recipes that can be made at home inexpensively, and quickly.
Febreze – This product is almost impossible to remove and is harmful to people with MCS, asthma, headaches, migraines and other health issues. It should not be used around babies, small children, or pets.
Unstoppables – This new laundry care product is terrible for people with any kind of sensitivities, asthma, allergies, headaches, migraines, skin rashes, hives, babies and small children. We very quickly forget that what we smell and are breathing is not actually a natural fragrance but a group of chemicals combined to create a pleasant smell and feeling, and when you breathe it in, you are inhaling those chemicals. Once a piece of clothing is washed in this product, it takes several washes to the smell (chemicals) out of clothing, sometimes as much as 7-8 washings.
Laundry Detergents – Fragrances in laundry products are both unnecessary and harmful to people with MCS, breathing conditions, those prone to headaches, asthma, allergies, and skin rashes or hives. This is another example where the purpose of the fragrance is aesthetic, just for our pleasure. Most grocery and department stores now carry non-toxic, fragrance free laundry and household cleaning products. If you don’t see them on your favorite stores shelves, ask for assistance.
Dryer Sheets/Fabric Softeners – The same is true of these products as of laundry soaps/detergents, and other fragranced, chemically toxic products. They are harmful to people with already existing health issues, should not be used on baby and small children’s clothing, and bedding.
Axe Products - Axe products are strongly scented and cause problems ranging from headaches to breathing problems, to hives and rashes for some people exposed to the chemicals used to create the fragrance..CNN reported that one young man sprayed Axe in a classroom and it caused several classmates to be sent to the hospital. (See resources).
Scented Hair Products – This includes shampoos, cream rinses, hair conditioners, hair sprays(even unscented ones), mousses, hair spritzes, some hair dyes and any other scented hair care products. Fragranced hair care products cause problems for people with allergies, MCS, breathing issues, and prone to headaches as well as rashes and or hives. In almost all cases the fragrance is synthetic and it is some of the chemicals used to make those scents that cause problems. Our hair does not need to smell like green apples or raspberries, or a fresh summer breeze. These fragranced products hang in the air and can often be smelled several metres/yards away, and cause health issues.
Disinfectant Wipes – wipes also have chemicals in them that can be harmful and cause health concerns for people with sensitivities, asthma, allergies, headaches, and /or migraines.
Hand Sanitizers – While these products may be required in some environments, they should be used very sparingly. These products are endocrine disruptors and can affect hormones.
Perfumes/Colognes - These are names that commonly refer to all spray or dab on liquid scented products. They can be made with dozens or even hundreds of chemicals each. These manufacturers don’t disclose their ingredients, and they don’t have to ensure that the chemicals are safe for human use. Like hair care products the smaller particulate floats through the air and can be smelled several meters/yards away, and even at that distance, they can be quite harmful to a significant amount of the population.
Deodorants/Antiperspirants - (stick/spray/gel) Most of these also have scented ingredients. A deodorant or antiperspirants stick may not cause as much irritation as a spray of gel stick, but the fragrance in them is harmful just the same. Again, it is not just the fragrance in these products, but the chemicals used to create the fragrances. Gel sticks seem to be stronger and last longer than other option. This may be a result of the fact that gels have more moisture in them and therefore the fragrance doesn’t dissipate as quickly as other options. Men’s deodorants and antiperspirants are often much stronger than women’s. These can be quite harmful to people with MCS, allergies, asthma, other health issues.
Air Fresheners - Air fresheners are a combination of chemicals and are very harmful to people with MCS, allergies, asthma, prone to headaches, migraines, sensitive skin (rashes/hives). They can also cause confusion, brain fog, anxiety, poor memory lack of concentration, fatigue, and a whole host of other health issues. Again the affects of these chemicals is largely unknown, and there is no regulation to ensure safety for humans.
Deodorizers – deodorizers present their own unique concerns. Like most of the rest of these products they are of great concern for people with health issues, but they are much harder to get rid of. They are often used to “freshen” or capture odors in items like rugs and automobile upholstery that can’t be easily washed. It takes a very long time for the small of the deodorizer to dissipate, and for many people the deodorizer is worse than the original smell. Again, not recommended for use around anyone with health issues, small children, or pets.
Shower and Bath Gels – These scented products, while designed to clean our bodies, also present a host of problems as the very fine chemical particles can inundate an entire home when used in a shower (as opposed to a bath), as they attach to air molecules and float around with the movement of air. These chemicals are then breathed in and can cause health concerns for humans. While a bath keeps the product more confined, it is no less dangerous.
Hand and Body Soap – Hand and body soaps are very much like the body washes, and can be sometimes very strongly scented, Irish Spring is one of the strongest smelling hand soaps, and just like all the other scented products listed here, the chemicals used to make those smells, are harmful to people.
Hand and Body Moisturizers – These products we are also constantly putting on our bodies, right from the time we are babies. Most of these lotions on the market have several chemicals in them that again are designed to smell nice and invoke certain warm and fuzzy thoughts and feelings. Infants and small children, whose systems are still developing, are very susceptible to these chemicals, because they are in direct contact with their skin, and often a child’s hand makes its way into the child’s mouth.
Sunscreens – For the most part, sunscreens have several, sometimes dozens of carcinogenic chemicals right in the ingredients. Recently several brands of sunscreen came under fire for being ineffective. It is worth noting that in the years since sunscreens were created, cancer rates, including skin cancer have increased. One might also consider that many countries all over the world have children and adults that often have little to no clothing, live in very hot sunny countries, and do not have the cancer rates (including skin cancer) that we have in North America. These should not be used on babies, and small children, instead avoid the hottest part of the day by staying indoors and wear light colored and light weight clothing. See resources for a quick and simple homemade sunscreen without all the chemical additives.
Tanning Lotions/Oils - Tanning lotions and oils also are chemically created fragrances that often smell like coconuts or coco butter, tropical fragrances designed again to create a specific feeling and make you think of certain things, like palm trees, beaches and summer love. Often times these products also contain a colored dye to increase the darkness of your tan.
Dish Soaps – Even dish soaps are now beginning to come in fragranced options, like green apple. These fragrance creating chemicals can adhere to your dishes (even if you can’t smell them) and when in contact with warm food, be absorbed into that food and therefore ingested.
Glass Cleaners - this line of products is commonly an ammonia based product. Ammonia is very dangerous and toxic, Ammonia based products are very difficult for people who have existing health issues, and can create significant breathing issues, even at small levels, and should not be used around babies, small children, people with MCS, asthma, allergies, headaches, migraines and pets.
Kitchen and Bath Cleaners – Most of these cleaners are very harsh and have serious chemical ingredients. If you read the labels of most, you will find warnings against inhalation, and advise that gloves be worn while using these products. That is because they can often create skin rashes and contact dermatitis, as well as breathing issues when inhaled. They should not be used on surfaces that infants, and children, come in direct contact with.
Furniture Polishes – These products too are harmful to the human body. They contain chemicals that should not be used on furniture that children will be touching with their hands or have direct contact with. They also cause issues for people with asthma, allergies, and MCS. The most common form these cleaners take is a spray. That ensures that the smaller particulate are suspended in the air and are breathed in.
Bug Repellant – DEET is the main component of some of the most common bug repellants. Due to heath concerns, DEET has be banned for use of more than 30% concentration on humans in Canada, and recommends no more than 10% concentration for use on children under the age of 10. This product is also an effective solvent and can dissolve such things as nail polish, some plastics and spandex. DEET has also been shown to be toxic to some fish. This product is an insecticide and is often used in conjunction with other insecticides for non human uses. These products should not be used especially on infants and small children, whose systems are still very vulnerable to interference.
Many of the above listed products can be made at home for a fraction of the price of the store bought. Recipes for some of these are in resources. Almost all stores now carry fragrance free non toxic alternatives, if you can’t find any, ask the store, and feel free to contact the manufacturers they base their product lines on what we want. If we request more fragrance free, and less toxic products they will provide them.
Below are listed some products that are alternatives to heavily scented products. Product reviews and product claims are the basis for their inclusion, and have not all been tested by MCS Awareness. Any specific products mentioned are the result of their claims and/or user reviews, not as a result of any connection to any of the companies or their employees.
Be careful not to confuse fragrance free with unscented. Unscented products often have a “fragrance masking fragrance”.
Laundry Soap/Detergents – There are brands available. that are non-toxic, fragrance free and readily available in most large grocery and department stores. Two common brands are Natures Clean and Seventh Generation. However it is still much less expensive to make your own and you will avoid the other non essential chemicals found in commercial laundry detergents (see resources ).
Fabric Softeners – Dapple claims to have fabric softeners that are fragrance free. They also claim all of their products are free from parabens, SLES, Phthalates, synthetic perfumes and dyes. They focus on products safe for enough for babies. Seventh Generation and Nature Clean also have non toxic fabric softeners/conditioners, as well as most other household cleaning products.
Dryer Sheets – These are products that are not a necessity, and even without the fragrance, still have toxic chemicals in them.
Hair Care Products – This category is one of the hardest to find fragrance free products. Both Earth Science and Free and Clear claim to have fragrance free shampoos. Desert Essence is another good option. Curelle also offers a full line of products.
Hair Spray/Gels/Mousse – These products are additionally hard on our hair and scalp. If at all possible refrain from using them. Free & Clear makes a product line of sprays and gels that have no harsh chemicals. While not all of their products specifically indicate they are fragrance and dye free, the founders do indicate it is their goal to make products without fragrances, masking fragrances or dyes.
Disinfectants and Wipes – Hydrogen Peroxide (3%) is a very good substitute. It is great as a germ killer, as is vinegar. Do not mix vinegar and water together, use separately. Baking soda is also a good non-toxic cleaning product.
Air Fresheners/Deodorizers/Candles – Vanilla extract makes a great substitute for candles and air fresheners. It can be left out in a small bowl to absorb odors or diluted in water and simmered on the stove for 20 minutes to a natural and non toxic fragrance. You can experiment with other foods to simmer in water as well. Apple skins (or flesh) and cinnamon is very nice. Orange or lemon peels work nicely as well.
For places that you can’t take a liquid, like the car, try buying some flavored coffee beans and putting them in a thin piece of cloth, tied together with a ribbon (a sachet), or just place them in a small container and place in the car. Some people place them in their unused ashtray compartments. Be forewarned with coffee beans, a little goes a long way, 10-15 beans is often enough.
Perfumes/Colognes/Eau de toilette – Whatever form or name these scented body products go by, they are one of the hardest for people to give up. They are also one of the most toxic categories. These products are purely for pleasure, but they are very harmful to people. Many businesses and governments are beginning to realize the toxicity and danger of them and are creating fragrance free environments, sometimes in response to employee or customer’s health concerns. These products alone prevent millions of people from enjoying everyday life, and in some case even being able to work or shop. Removing this from our lives not only saves us a great deal of money, but protects our children and those most vulnerable.
Hand and Body Lotions – Where shampoos and conditioners are the most difficult to find fragrance free, hand and body lotions are the easiest. Several companies manufacture fragrance free lotions and creams. The most noticeable is Aveeno. Vaseline, Dove, and many others also make fragrance free products. This makes the switch effortless.
Sunscreens and Tanning Lotions/Oils – Sunscreens have many carcinogenic chemicals in them and should be avoided. A homemade sunscreen is much less expensive, less toxic and can be made quickly and easily at home with only 3-4 ingredients. See resources for a recipe.
Tanning lotions and oils should be avoided. These chemicals are harmful and serve no healthy purpose.
Shower Gels and Body Washes – These products are also becoming more commonly fragrance free. Aveeno, also makes these products fragrance free. Check your local store shelves for other options also available.
Deodorants/Anti- Perspirants – It is easier to find women’s versions than men’s in fragrance free, however Mitchum and Tom’s make a fragrance free men’s deodorant. Crystal products can be bought easily enough as well, will last months, sometimes a year and can be worn by both sexes. The Crystals may not be tolerated by those sensitive to aluminum.
Dish Soaps – Dapple, Babyganics, Green grab, all claim to make fragrance free dish soaps.
Glass Cleaners – instead of expensive and toxic glass cleaners, try vinegar and water. Green Grab makes a fragrance free glass cleaner as.
Kitchen and Bath – There are several fragrance free kitchen and bath cleaners out there, but be careful that they are non toxic as well. Labels like “organic” and “natural” can be misleading so check carefully. Unless someone is sensitized to formaldehyde, Mr. Clean magic erasers (original) are often tolerated, and can clean almost any surface. Again vinegar and/or 3% hydrogen peroxide are also options. Do not mix the vinegar and Peroxide together, baking soda is another great cleaner.Check your local grocery store as they will probably have several options
Many homes now have stainless steel appliances, and finding a non toxic cleaner for them can be a challenge. Wipe dirt/smudges off with slightly damp cloth, and wipe the appliance with small amount of baby oil, wiping off any excess. This will have your appliances looking great and no toxic and expensive cleaners. Check your local grocery store as they will probably have several options
Furniture Polish – Most furniture pieces these days don’t require a sealant to prevent damage from food and drinks. If you must use a furniture polish. Daddy Van’s and Howard’s Products, both are fragrance free polishes and chemical free.
Bug Repellant – Both Coleman and Natrapel offer Deet free alternative insect repellants. Wearing long sleeves, and draining any standing water, can go a long way to reducing the mosquitoes around you.