Smelling May Be Hazardous To Your Health 
By William R. Kellas Ph.D



 What personal-care products can cause problems? 

Colognes and personal-care products are in such common use and contain so many toxic chemicals. Those personal-care products include: colognes, perfumes and other scented products, cosmetics, makeup, deodorants, acne medications, hair removal products, powders, hair dyes, sprays, shampoos, nail products, toothpaste, mouthwash, creams and lotions. 

Colognes are particularly harmful. Unlike the other products listed which expose only the user, colognes and other scented products expose other people to their odor and therefore to the toxic penetrating chemicals causing the odor.  These are particularly toxic for the user, since s/he is both inhaling and absorbing it through the skin almost continuously. 

Why are colognes and scented products so toxic?

Up to 5000 different chemicals are used in various combinations in scented products, and 84% of these have had little or no human toxicology testing. 95% of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum, including many toxins and sensitizers that are capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions.  Methylene chloride, a known carcinogen that can also cause autoimmune diseases, is one of the 20 chemicals most commonly found in fragrance products, even though the FDA banned the chemical in all cosmetic and fragrance products in 1989.

 A single brand of cologne contains dozens of chemicals, none of which belong in the human body. These chemicals include: 

Petrochemicals, which are waste products of the oil industry.  These are doctored up to smell like something some people in industrialized societies are conditioned to find pleasant. Alcohol as a solvent for these chemicals.  

Alcohol is also a solvent for the lipid (fat) layer of our cells and the myelin sheath of our nerve cells.  Nerve damage including multiple sclerosis (MS) can result. 

Penetrants for staying power.  The penetrants used are the same ones used in insecticides.  In fact, one sign of chemical toxicity is a hypersensitivity to these penetrants, which causes cologne to smell like bug spray to many people. 

Musks, especially Musk AETT and Musk Ambrette, are commonly used in fragrances. They have shown potent neurotoxic effects.  Nerve cells and their myelin sheaths can break down with chronic exposure to these synthetic musks.  This breakdown can cause nerve cell atrophy, tremors, and symptoms similar to multiple sclerosis (MS) and Parkinson’s disease. 

Toxic effects have been reported for many of the volatile organic compounds in cologne and fragrance, including benzaldehyde, alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate and ethanol, even at relatively low-dose levels Toluene, is in most colognes. Effects of toluene in fragrances include headaches, seizures, fatigue, confusion, disorientation, brain fog, anxiety, depression, restlessness, birth defects, cancer, asthma attacks, mood swings and the inability to concentrate. 

Toluene is so effective at dissolving grease that it is used to clean body oils from fingers off guitar strings.  It dissolves body oils in the body in the same way. 

Overall, there are hundreds of mostly untested ingredients, 95% of which are synthetic, in colognes and scented products.  These are absorbed not only through the skin of the wearer, but also through the olfactory nerves in the noses of both the wearer and those who are in the vicinity and are exposed against their will. 

A number of patients have been know to go into seizures as soon as they were exposed to cologne.  Such people often have something wrong with their gallbladders.  The parasites helicobacter pylori and giardia can interfere with gallbladder function, which in turn can cause poor oil absorption and the resulting sensitivity to chemicals, including cologne. 

Studies show  that 72% of asthma patients had adverse reactions to perfume. Perfume in kitty litter gravel is a major cause of asthma in humans 

Doesn’t everyone like cologne? 

Some people find the smell of cologne to be extremely unpleasant.  For this reason, and because of chemical toxicity and allergies to cologne components, it is the opinion of some people that wearing cologne in public can be, like smoking, an invasion of personal space.  It is similar to entering a room with a blaring radio tuned to a station you like but most others would rather not listen to, or lighting up a cigarette and exposing others to the odor and health hazards. 

Cologne wearers also leave their signature on the earpieces of public telephones, the hand nozzle at the gas station, the hands of others after a handshake, and the shoulders and hair of those who are hugged by them in greeting.  The unfortunate recipients of the secondhand cologne must then scrub their skin, hair, or clothes, or put up with a smell they would not have chosen.

 Is allergy to cologne common? 

Sensitivity to cologne components, as mentioned, is quite common.  The allergy sufferer may or may not be aware of the allergy or the cause, or that the allergy may be self- induced.  As with all allergies, symptoms vary according to individual predisposition, but some common ones are: 

Brain fog — This may be slight and chronic for a perfume wearer, or can be sudden and severe. A person with this reaction may be in conversation when a cologne wearer walks by, and will immediately lose track of the content of the conversation and appear confused. 

Emotional — The sympathetic nervous system reacts to what it correctly perceives to be a dangerous invader, and signals the adrenal glands to secrete adrenaline to prepare for a confrontation. The rush of adrenaline (the fight-or-flight hormone) can cause a sudden feeling of anxiety, anger, or depression. Some cologne users may be getting a short-term adrenaline high from the cologne, although they are probably not aware of it.  The short-term high is then followed by a long-term low. 

Rashes and increased sunlight sensitivity (called photosensitivity) can occur on the part of the skin of an allergic user where the scented product was applied.

Fatigue and muscle weakness.

Increased sensitivity to other toxins or allergens as the body is overloaded with more than it can cope with. 

Meningeal system contraction similar to that caused by other toxic chemicals. Structural misalignments can then occur from the pressure, with a multitude of accompanying symptoms such as headaches and light sensitivity. 

What You  Can Do 
The alternatives?
You can look at the pros and cons of any particular product and make an informed decision, based on the risks described in this article versus the perceived benefit to yourself, to continue using a particular product.

 Dr. William R. Kellas is the co-founder of the Center For Advanced Medicine in Encinitas, CA.  He will be one of the featured speakers at the 4th Annual Natural Health, Aromatherapy and Herb Conference & Trade Show February 25-27, 2000 in Scottsdale, AZ.  For more information, call 1 (888) 244-4420 or the Center For Advanced Medicine at (760) 632-9042. Check out our website at 

Return to the January/February Index page