The Cost Of Smelling Good May Be Too High

Several weeks ago, I used the rest room of a local hotel. Upon entering the facilities I was hit with such a strong odor of perfume that I began coughing uncontrollably followed by a sneezing fit. I looked around to find the source of the odor and found the box (pictured above) on the wall from an outfit called Pacific Breeze* - The Smell Good Guys. Aside from the overwhelming stench from the box, I found nothing redeemingly good about the product. When I complained at the front desk of the hotel, I received blank stares from the young staff members. I told them that the way to keep a bathroom from smelling bad is to clean it, not cover the odors with more odors… and chemicals. I also let them know that these heavy perfumes injected in the air can cause asthmatic and other respiratory attacks, some of which are serious enough to require hospitalization.

This phenomenon is not uncommon among hotels, especially large chain hotels where everything is dictated by a far away management team whose judgement is not to be questioned. I ran into a similar phenomenon years ago in a Las Vegas hotel that had, as the staff cheerily informed me, its “signature scent” which was blown through vents. But why would a hotel want to gas their clients in a cloud of chemicals? Short answer, money. Longer answer, they don’t give a shit about their clients, their staff, or their health.

Just a week or so after the gas attack at this Bellingham hotel, I ran across the following article in the Guardian about fragrances and the chemicals used in their creation and dispersion. [”Why smelling good could come with a cost to health”]

“About 4,000 chemicals are currently used to scent products, but you won’t find any of them listed on a label. Fragrance formulations are considered a “trade secret” and therefore protected from disclosure – even to regulators or manufacturers. Instead, one word, fragrance, appears on ingredients lists for countless cosmetics, personal care and cleaning products. A single scent may contain anywhere from 50 to 300 distinct chemicals.”

So I returned to the hotel I mentioned above several weeks after having spoken to the staff to find that not only is the “breeze” box still on the wall of the men’s room, it is doing a discernibly greater amount of dispersing than several weeks earlier. I held my breath, did my business and got out before the coughing and sneezing fits returned. I avoided standing about washing my hands because I always carry hand sanitizer, but even that has a perfuming agent. Try to find a sanitizer these days without the scent. Then I remembered that at home my trash bags are perfumed. What? Do the manufacturers really think this will make my garbage not stink? Then I see the box of dishwasher powder - lemon scented. The only lemon scent I want on my dish is from the lemon juice I put on my fish. My mind transports me to the TV commercials for odor dispensers such as “Glade* or the spray bottles of “Febreze* that you use to cover up pet odors, teenagers’ socks and such. The way to eliminate pet odors and smelly socks is to clean them, or so I thought.

The Guardian article continues:

“Besides common reactions to fragrance – about 35% of people report migraines or respiratory problems because of fragrance – health advocates have more serious concerns. Could fragrance chemicals, combined with the other chemical cocktails found in daily life, be shaping serious disease trends?”

So step up to the chemical cocktail bar where you will not be smelling the roses (at least not the real ones). Washington state has lists of such chemicals found in some fragrances. Here is but a short list that applies specifically to chemicals that children should avoid: Ethylenbenzene, styrene, 1, 2-Ethandiol, Ethylenglycol, Phenol, Ethyl paraben, Benzophenone2, Estragole, Nonylphenol, Di-isononyl phthalate, 2-Ethylhexyl-p-methoxycinnamate, 1-Butanol, Acetaldehyde, Methyl ethyl ketone, DEP; Diethyl phthalate, n-Propyl paraben, Methyl paraben. What is this shit? And why would anyone with a shred of integrity sell a product containing this stuff?

If you cannot pronounce the ingredient, you probably want to avoid it.

*Although I specifically mention these products as sources of chemicals you may want to avoid, the list of such products is pretty much endless. Caveat emptor.

About Dick Conoboy

Citizen Journalist and Editor • Member since Jan 26, 2008

Dick Conoboy is a recovering civilian federal worker and military officer who was offered and accepted an all-expense paid, one year trip to Vietnam in 1968. He is a former Army [...]