The Feeding Doctor on Pinterest

what goes into our bodies isn’t always food…

Posted by on Jul 22, 2011 in Blog Posts | 23 comments


And now for something completely different. (As in not about food or feeding or eating…)

Why the heck is everything scented? Why was the flameless candle I bought for M’s room a stinking, imitation-vanilla horror, not labeled anywhere on the box? Why now does every bathroom, hotel fitness center, hallway seem to have those little white boxes by the ceiling that spew goodness-knows-what every 15 minutes into the air? Last year we got a deal on a fancy hotel. I was enjoying child-free time walking on the treadmill watching brainless TV when it hit me. Intense, sickeningly sweet, cherry-esque clouds that made me headachey and nauseous pretty quick. I fled, and then I complained. I mean really, a little arm-pit would be far preferable to that.

I find it ironic, that in this era or organic everything, from baby bedding to tea to furniture, the explosion of chemicals we spew willingly into the air and breathe in is mind-boggling. I suppose I don’t mind an essential oil here and there, but why now, why everywhere? Considering the FDA has banned so few chemicals in the US (6 vs over 400) in Europe, I have no confidence that these aren’t known carcinogens, and it’s just plain annoying. (I imagine the EWG has something to say about this.)  I remember having patients who worked in a factory manufacturing cleaning sprays and air-fresheners. Boy, just walking down the hall I knew when they had arrived. I can’t imagine what it would be like to work in a super-saturated area like that. With all the folks who are sensitive to smells, perfumes etc, who thought this was a good idea? Who is making the fortunes off these now ubiquitous products? And, I’m sorry, if I come to your book group, or your dinner-party and 40 different scented candles are lit, I will either ask to blow them out, or make an excuse to go home ASAP. (Note, if you want to get rid of me, now you know how…) I want to smell the food, not PFCs.

Here’s what I do. When I can, I unplug those little spritzers. When I can’t, I leave or move away from them. And, I ALWAYS complain, nicely, but in writing. Little comment card? Fill it out if it bugs you. Someone has sold all these businesses on the marketing potential of having vanilla, or whatever wafting through the air, but enough is enough. If you tell these businesses you will walk and take your business to a less stinky establishment, maybe they will listen.

Have you noticed this? Am I the only one? Thanks for tolerating my mini-rant 🙂

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  1. Amber

    When I was a teenager I developed sensitivities to many scented products, and at that time I also had a dog who had several allergies too. However, my grandmother liked this one cinnamon scented carpet spray and would spray it every day as she said the dog had a bad smell ( despite me bathing him once a week).The dog started to break on on his paws and ears and sneeze himself whenever my grandmother would spray her cinnamon spray. After helping me pay a $750 vet bill as the dog had to have an infected allergy bump on his ear removed my grandmother decided to use real cinnamon and baking soda rather than artificial scents. My grandmother figured out that though the cinnamon spray was cheap, it would cost us in the long run because of the money invested in medical bills due to allergies.

  2. Lisa

    I cannot STAND most scented products. For some reason, most artificial scents smell the same to me, and they smell overpowering. I can’t go into one of those Yankee Candle stores because I’ll end up with a headache. I have sensitive skin, too, so I tend to avoid scented personal products for that reason, too.

    Things that are scented with essential oils are more tolerable, but still a little goes a long way.

    That said, I do love how real vanilla smells or cinammon or any flower you can name, lilacs in particular. In the winter sometimes I will burn a little cinnamon in some tin foil over a gas burner to get rid of a bad smell in my kitchen. Other seasons I just make sure the windows get opened regularly and everything gets aired out.

  3. Michellers

    Yes, a thousand times yes! My particular pet peeve is scented objects that smell like food but are not food–aka sugar cookie scented candles. They make me hungry and nauseated at the same time.

  4. Kristy

    I suffer from stress and scent induced migraine, so you can imagine how quickly I take my business to stores that aren’t stinky! We recently decided to indulge in a bi-weekly house cleaning service for our home, and one of the primary considerations when making the selection was that they use all natural, unscented cleaning products (the other consideration was that they are certified “green” company). When we come home after the service has cleaned, it just smells clean. There’s no other scent… no cleansers or perfumes or anything.

    I find that natural oils/extracts, like the peppermint oil I use to help with my migraines, are soothing and pleasant. It’s the artificial chemical concoctions that are so offensive.

  5. lyorn

    Goodness, I hate those scented everythings. They make my nose itch, give me headaches and trigger memory fields that are not appropriate to the time and place. They also, if encountered in a public place, give me the nagging suspicion that there is mould in the walls or something wrong with the plumbing — either because those artificial smells just seem like a cover-up, or because they carry a smell of something dead and rotting all on their own.

    I am not allergic to any natural smell. I tend to end up in hotels downwind from bakeries, and always find the Italian place which uses the most garlic. I used to enjoy singing at High Mass, when the choir is on the balcony and is getting completely stoned from the incense. No idea what they are putting in those artificial smells that makes me react so badly to it.

    • Katja

      I’d like to know what’s in them too. I bet the ingredient list is thousands long, and not all that appealing… Wonder how many of the ingredients are banned in Europe?

  6. Anne

    I admit, I am a fan of *some* scented candles. I love the fresh cotton ones and occasionally burn them in my kitchen. Otherwise, strong scents of any kind aggravate my rhinitis and give me an instant headache. Candle store in the mall? Ugh I can barely walk by without going into a sneezing fit. Our workplace installed those cherry bomb deodorizers – when I read your description knew exactly what smell you meant. It was like being devoured by a cough drop 🙂 Needless to say, they switched to a (slightly) less offensive lemon smell after enough people complained.

    • Katja

      why did they get it in the first place? Did it smell bad? Did workers complain about the odor? I am really curious as to how suddenly, they are ubiquitous!

  7. Jackie

    In the last few years I’ve developed pretty bad allergies to everything from dogs and cats to pollen and scented candles/perfumes/hairsprays/etc… For me it usually starts with a sneeze or a burning sensation in my nose, but if for some reason I need to stay near a scent like that I will start to feel like someone was pouring something acidic in my sinuses, my eyes water, my throat even starts constricting. I honestly can’t believe that I’m so sensitive to this stuff! And, it’s really not the kind of thing, in public situations, I feel like I can bring up. Usually, I just get up and walk across the room/get off the train/etc… On the other hand, I do feel like my *allergy* doctor’s office should have some scent free area/or sign, but they don’t. Sigh. I feel like telling everyone, you smell fine without all that garbage! And for me, high end or low end doesn’t change the allergic effect significantly chanel or something from the drugstore ends in the same result.

    • Katja

      interesting that it has gotten worse over the years… I think people who aren’t sensitive just don’t have an awareness that it might be bothersome to others. I think a sign at the allergists office is a GREAT idea! That would really help educate and protect the patients too!

  8. Smitha

    a friend had noticed this. America’s infatuation with hiding any “bad” odor. Deoderants, candles, detergents, drier sheets – almost everything is scented! It’s just too much!

  9. hayley

    i do still burn select scented candles in my home, but laundry is something that i have completely abandoned in the scent department (with the exception of some tea tree oil for cloth diapers). now that i use unscented detergent and no fabric softeners (gasp!), i can’t even walk into the soap aisle at the grocery store without feeling a nauseated headache coming on. there’s just no need for all this stuff!

  10. TropicalChrome

    I wanted some flameless candles for the candlesticks I bought last Christmas, and I had to pretty much jump through hoops to find any that weren’t 1. imitation vanilla scented 2. cinnamon scented or 3. covered in glitter (which comes off). I pretty much always buy unscented everything because I don’t like these scents at all – they smell cheap and some aggravate my allergies.

    The cherry scent would have sent me over the top – the flavor and smell of cherries is nauseating to me.

    • Katja

      Hmm, everything in my house seems to be covered in glitter already. I’d take glitter over smell any day. but good to know it was not an anomaly if I look for flameless in the future (good with a child and a cat…)

  11. Carol Gwenn

    As in so many other product classifications, price levels are a great clue to what scents are in store: generally speaking, the cheaper the product, the more obnoxious the scent, owing to the amounts of artificial who-knows-what used to make it. Just like with food: the more fake stuff in the product, the less “food-like” it becomes, and the stranger it tastes.

    Real essences, used in the high-end candles, sprays, etc. (i.e., Rigaud) are light, pleasant, just a hint of fragrance. When you get down to products like Air-Wick…yuck. I DO agree with the aggro level of the endless parade of scents in cleaning products: I don’t want my house to smell of anything but clean air when I dust the furniture or mop the floor.

    • Katja

      yes, I have a really lovely spray for my face that has a lavender scent. All natural etc. It’s nice. I tried to get the all natural face cleaning stuff etc, but I broke out horribly (again, I’ve tried before) so I’m back to the Proactive. Oh well 🙂

  12. Mrs. F.

    Agree with you 100%! I get a headache when I encounter most air fresheners / cleaning products / perfumes / colognes / etc. Febreze is another one that kills me. I don’t know what the problem is with just keeping things clean and not loading on the scented chemicals. (Then again, I use deodorant so I’m not advocating a totally chemical-free approach! Just not the smelly ones, please! 🙂

    One that gets me every day is the heavy perfume worn by one of my co-workers. Ironically, she is in charge of our HR policies, including the one that says not to wear heavy perfumes / colognes. :-p

    Kind of a dilemma for me: I am severely allergic to mold, but the mildew-killing shower cleaners I’ve tried give me a terrible headache (the chemicals linger in the air long after we rinse the cleaner away). Anybody have any recommendations?

  13. Nicole

    I am so with you on this. Whenever fragrance-free stuff is available, I buy it instead of the heavily perfumed nastiness. Regular cleaning products just send me over the age. I’ve actually found that vinegar and baking soda will clean almost anything, and the vinegar odor doesn’t linger, surprisingly.

    I think someday we will figure out that all of these chemicals have been contributing to illnesses.

  14. Quiet Dreams

    If you watch TV for any amount of time you will see various commercials addressing our need for products to mask the smells of everything from the carpet to our clothes.

    • Katja

      Yes, it is odd! I’m having trouble accepting comments that are still floating in the inter-tubes, but others from other cultures mentioned this obsession. Masking is a key word. The original odor is not gone. My favorite recent was at a carwash where I could get vanilla, or “new car” smell. Wonder what goes into that concoction?

  15. KellyK

    I tend not to notice it, but I like scented candles. I hope that if my candles bother someone who’s in my house, they’ll let me know and I’ll blow them out.