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Strong Yoga Accessories

be.strong 25oz Stainless Steel Canteen

Embody the intention to be.strong with our eco and fertility friendly, non phthalate, BPA free drinking containers.

$14.95 each + shipping & handling

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Scented Products | Intoxicating and Toxic

—Sheryl Eisenberg

Walking into my teenage son's room the other day, I nearly gagged. No, it wasn't the smell of unwashed clothes or half-eaten food that got me. It was the opposite problem—air freshener. His own personal can.

I know what you're thinking. He's up to something. Well, maybe...but if he is, this isn't the sign.

("It's good you put that in," he says on reading the preceding paragraph. "Otherwise, people might think you were gullible.")

Like many young people, my son has been conditioned to expect everything to have a good smell—not the genuine good smell of things themselves nor of fresh air wafting in from an open window, but an aggressively pleasant, artificial smell.

(He nods in agreement.)

It's a mark of the times. From fabric softener to garbage bags, and moisturizer to lip gloss, today's household and personal care products are perfumed. Cleanser companies encourage us to choose their products based on scent rather than cleaning properties. Personal care items are advertised as fashion statements. The deodorant made by Secret is promoted, literally, as a form of self-expression.

(I lose him here, but not before getting his consent to publish the above.)

To me, it's absurd, but I'd say "to each his own" if it were just a question of fashion. Unfortunately, it's also a matter of health. An individual fragrance may be made with dozens if not hundreds of synthetic chemicals and need not be cleared for safety before going to market. As a result, dangerous substances may be—and are—routinely added to the cosmetics, cleansers and laundry products that end up in our homes.

Not only doesn't government require safety testing. It doesn't require that the ingredients in fragrances be identified on product labels. The ingredients are protected as trade secrets. And our right to know what chemicals we're exposed to? Trumped, for now, by the fragrance industry.

However, we are not totally in the dark, thanks to independent testing done by academics and public interest groups such as NRDC. What these tests show is not reassuring.

A 2007 study of air fresheners by NRDC found phthalates (pronounced tha-lates) in 12 of 14 brand-name products tested, including some marketed as "all-natural" or "unscented." Phthalates are endocrine disruptors that can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems. None of the air fresheners tested listed phthalates on its label.

Similar results were found in a 2002 study of cosmetics by a coalition of environmental and public health organizations. In this case, phthalates were identified in 52 of 72 products tested. While a follow-up study conducted in 2008 found some reduction in their use, many personal care products for men and women still carry these dangerous chemicals.

Other hazardous chemicals in fragrances include volatile organic compounds, some of which are carcinogenic and cause neurotoxic and respiratory effects. Another class of chemicals of concern is synthetic musks, which, according to preliminary research, may be endocrine disruptors, like phthalates.

For reasons that are not yet well understood, fragrances also seem to trigger allergic-like reactions in certain people. The phenomenon—called multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) or sometimes sick building syndrome—can be terribly disruptive to sufferers' lives. People with MCS may experience headaches, nausea, confusion, abdominal pain and a host of other symptoms when exposed to common chemicals at levels others find tolerable.

So should you buck the trend and eliminate or cut back your use of scented products? Yes, it's the safe thing to do. These chemicals may have long-term effects not just on you and your family, but if you are of reproductive age, children to come.

How should you go about it?

Do not rely on product claims of being "unscented" or "fragrance-free." A product labeled as such may still be made with fragrances. It's just that the purpose of the fragrance is to mask the natural odor of other ingredients, instead of giving off a detectable scent. From a health and safety standpoint, it's all the same.

Nor should you rely on the words "natural," "organic" or "hypoallergenic." They do not guarantee the absence of fragrance.

Instead, avoid air fresheners, use fewer cosmetics and little or no perfume, consult online resources to find safe products, and try truly natural cleaning agents: water, white vinegar and baking soda. See the sidebar for more specific tips, including product look-up information.

As to my own efforts to protect my son—I've thrown out his air freshener and forbade him to get more. Our next battlefront: deodorant.

If you would like to check your own body products, go here and type in the product that you are using and it will break down the ingredients and the level of toxicity.

Information is power. Choosing to not use products that are harmful to us, sends a message to the manufacturers that consumers are getting savvy. It also protects you and your future children from these contaminants.