About fragrance sensitivity

Fragrance commonly triggers symptoms in people with:

  • asthma
  • rhinitis (hayfever)
  • sinusitis
  • eczema
  • dermatitis
  • migraine
  • autism
  • mastocytosis and other mast cell disorders.


It can also trigger

  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • poor concentration
  • nausea
  • anaphylaxis
  • epileptic seizures
  • and other symptoms.


Fragrance can trigger histamine release, which is probably how it leads to many of the above symptoms.

People with fragrance sensitivity can be considered to have a disability under the federal Disability Discrimination Act and state equal opportunity and anti-discrimination legislation.


What is fragrance?

“Fragrance” or “parfum” is a mixture of chemicals that give a product a scent. Companies do not have to say which chemicals are in a fragrance. Over 3000 chemicals are used in fragrances. Fragrances commonly contain no natural materials—they are derived from petroleum. Even the fragrance ingredients that do come from natural raw materials can cause health effects, particularly as allergens.

These are a few common fragrance ingredients:

Synthetic musks stored in body fat, found in human blood and breast milk, hormone disruptors

Phthalates hormone disruptors, linked to preterm births and altered brain development

Benzaldehyde: skin irritant, neurotoxin, causes respiratory depression and somnolence, mutagenic, linked to cancer

Benzyl alcohol: toxic to the nervous system and skin, hormone disruptor, linked to cancer

Cinnamaldehyde: allergen, skin irritant, neurotoxin, hormone disruptor, mutagenic, linked to cancer

Eugenol: skin irritant, neurotoxin, hormone disruptor, linked to cancer

Isoeugenol: allergen, skin irritant, neurotoxin, hormone disruptor, reproductive toxin, mutagenic, linked to cancer

Limonene: allergen, skin irritant

Linalool: eye and skin irritant, neurotoxic, mutagenic