Altering some of the world’s most iconic scents

Perfume-makers are urging the European Commission to back down from possible legislation they fear could kill top fragrances by restricting natural ingredients linked to allergies, industry sources say. Luxury brands fear the EU could force them to change formulas across the $24.3 billion premium fragrance industry, altering some of the world's most iconic scents, such as Chanel No. 5, created in 1921.

— Read more at Exclusive: Perfume-makers fear EU legal blow to industry at the Chicago Tribune.

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30 Comments

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  1. mals86 says:

    I find this rather terrifying.

    • moon_grrl says:

      Same here. :-(

    • Robin says:

      I wouldn’t, just yet — doesn’t sound like this is in the late stages, & I’m sure they just want to get some publicity going for the battle.

  2. ringthing says:

    Ugh. I still don’t understand why they can’t just put a warning under the ingredients list, the same as food labels have now.

    • Bela says:

      There is a difference between things that are ingested and therefore only affect the person eating them and things that are sprayed and dissipate into the air.

  3. Pennrose says:

    There’s no doubt that more people are becoming sensitive to more things in our environment . Perhaps we will have to go to Scent Clubs and sniff our samples in a hermetically sealed and vented rooms like the cigar smokers…

  4. Dilana says:

    In the USA, the fragrance companies would talk about over-regulation hurting business, restricting freedom of choice and being the nanny state. In Europe, they talk about preserving the olfactory cultural heritage.

    By the way, is there any scientific evidence about the extent to which people are actually allergic to those substances, and how many people suffer serious issues from other people wearing fragrances containing them.

    • Kelly Red says:

      Many years ago when I was in college and working a student job there was one woman who claimed to be allergic to ALL scents. Because of her there were signs posted on the doors of the building forbidding anyone to enter who had used scent. Now this was not just perfume, but scented shampoo, body wash, even deodorant. I thought it was stupid that 100’s of staff had to change their own personal habits because of her. I caused a big dust-up at a staff meeting when I asked her what she herself did to keep odors away. I said, I understand you have a condition, people who can’t see wear glasses they don’t expect signs to be 100 feet high. My dad is hard of hearing but he doesn’t expect movie theaters to blast sound at 200 decibels for him and the rest of the audience can wear ear plugs. Why don’t you wear a protective mask to filter out smells rather than expect all of us to change very personal grooming habits? I think it was one of those cases were someone finally called out the elephant in the room. More and more people started to protest the bans and within a month the rule was changed. She ended up wearing a mask for awhile, but later stopped and seemed just fine. Personally I think it was a case of someone holding people hostage to her own “I don’t like perfume” powerplay and not an actual allergy. I question the increase of so called allergies and wonder how many are just people who don’t like scent and demand others bend to their wishes. Okay rant over.

      • Tama says:

        Good rant, though.

        • talintyred says:

          I agree with Dilana and others. Perfume is one of life’s pleasures, why should it be sacrificed for a few people who have allergies. If something is not good for you – then one must take responsibility for it, it is possible to avoid it. if you have diabetes you avoid cakes etc. You can’t just say we won’t manufacture cakes anymore because there are millions of diabetics in the world. Perfume is not unhealthy unlike cigarette smoking, it is inherently a celebration of one of our most important senses. By all means list the ingredients if that will help. I am sympathetic to people who are allergic to perfumes, but considering all the other pollutants our bodies have to process, perfume is pretty minor. There are ways to avoid perfume if there is a problem. Let’s face it, very few perfumes have decent enough sillage to go beyond a foot let alone a metre. It seems ridiculous to punish the majority.

      • Dilana says:

        I know that there really are some people whose throats will close if they smell a peanut or eat food contaminated by miniscule amounts of peanut oil. I do understand why airplanes (where everyone must breathe the same air) have gone for peanut free snackettes.

        I also know alot of people who become miserable if they step foot into a scented body product or scented candle store. Such people usually just avoid the stores and do not buy the products.
        Certainly people can have a strong reaction of distaste to a particular scent, However, is this really different from reacting negatively to the smell of wine or whiskey (or garlic) on the breath

        Howsever, surely any health regulation should be to address a real health problem. I do not know anyone who has had a real allergic reaction, much less a severe one, to someone else’s personal perfume. Yes, perhaps there are people who get a little sniffly, just like they might get to a bouquet of flowers in the room. HOwever, most places do not ban someone from having flowers.

        Plus, does not the European Commission have some more serious problems to address? If I were a delagate from Greece, or Spain, the last thing that I would want to do would be to offend the French (i.e., a somewhat solvent member of the EuropeanCommunity) by calling their perfume industry toxic.

      • poodle says:

        Great rant. :)

      • Pennrose says:

        I hear that !

    • Lys says:

      @ Dilana, you’re partly right – in the US fragrance isn’t considered cultural heritage. But when people in the US object to everything from taking down crosses from war memorials to preserving CBGB, they often do so for cultural-historic reasons.

      • Lys says:

        (yikes, meant “not preserving” – badly worded!) … but saying that if fragrance had more heritage in US, people would defend it on “cultural heritage” grounds too, the way I’m sure Jim Beam or Jack Daniels would get defended if government over-regulation threatened their products’ ingredients.

  5. Robin says:

    I have no objection to anyone who wants to rant, but can’t think of a response…it seems clear that whether or not we like it, restrictions are here to stay and all we can hope for is that they don’t get any worse than they already are.

  6. CareerLady says:

    Why not just re-label perfumes, similar to snack foods which say “this product was made in a factory that also deals with peanuts etc.” — a label would cover the 1 – 3% of the consumers who might be affected by Oak Moss for example. “this product contains allergens.” Big deal! Allergic people can buy tissue boxes along with their Chanel No. 5. Everybody would be happyl.

  7. Kimber-lys says:

    As someone whose grandmother can be triggered into an asthma attack through exposure to certain perfumes, and whose best friend can get horrible headaches if exposed to freshly sprayed perfumes as well, I can say that some people are just plain sensitive, and not trying to be a pain in the butt. My grandmother and friend are both eager to please souls, as well, and would love to truthfully say “Oh, that smells nice!” just to make the other person happy and have a positive springboard to talk about, but that is just so hard to do when your gasping for air and searching for the closest pain relief medication.

    That said, both of these dear people are much more likely to be set off by the smoke coming off of a cigarette at 20 paces, so until the IFRA decides to make Europe a no smoking zone, I call bullshit on this entire sham.

    • Kimber-lys says:

      OK, I just read my comment and realized how angry it sounds. Then I realized that I am angry whenever some one or entity decides to take advantage of people, who have and actual problem, for an agenda that enforces solutions that do not serve the disadvantaged at all.

      I will try to be more upbeat in my next comment.

      • Kelly Red says:

        I didn’t think you sounded overly angry at all. And I should have really pointed out that in the end when push came to shove the woman I was ranting about ended up just fine, she still worked in the building without a mask and all. I do understand severe allergies having a sweet nephew with a life threatening shellfish allergy, he can’t even eat at places that serve shellfish under the risk of contamination. But some people just don’t like smells and cry “allergies” when it is not. That is a disservice to those that do. Yes, why can’t perfumes be labeled like food; maybe on the box?

        • Kimber-lys says:

          Oh, I totally got and agreed with your point, especially knowing people with honest sensitivities. If either one of them was in a recurring situation (such as on the job) that was truly intolerable, they would just have changed desks, taken the stairs, etc.. Neither would expect
          to have everyone else to change their personal habits.

      • mossygreen says:

        I too thought you just sounded honest, not angry.

    • Dilana says:

      Certain atmospheric scent products give me migraines. I don’t imagine they will be banned from commericial places anytime soon.

      However, my point (and it was actually a question) are there people who truly have a health reaction to a perfume another person is wearing. (Similar to your nephew’s shellfish problem). Because if those few people who have an allergy to oak moss only experience problems when they apply it to themselves (or a right near to someone at the point on which they spray it), then labeling the box is a good solution. If in fact, people can get severely ill just by standing near another person who has used a perfume with a certain ingredient, that is a different matter.
      Actual evidence should be proffered before an entire industry must abandon its products.

      • Kimber-lys says:

        Exactly! And there is loads and loads of evidence about the harm of secondhand smoke, and industrial smog causing cancer and asthma and other health problems. But strength of the tobacco lobby, and the lawyers for large, polluting coorporations (plus the fact that environmental laws seem difficult to enforce) means that it will be years before it’s actually safe to breath the air, if ever. But since the IFRA is only going after things (like oakmoss and jasmine oils) that cannot be patented, there is know one to push back.

        Do you think, if we all chipped in a quarter each, we could hire a lobby intimidating enough to make them keep busy researching things like the smell of fast food wrappers and such, finding that those are stinky and too toxic to be used in perfume? I am sure that if we brainstormed we could keep them busy with things we don’t want to ever smell like anyway. :)

  8. Lys says:

    Ban the naturals and expand the use of new synthetics without historical data on toxicity. Like banning soda and putting diet soda in middle schools and hoping aspartame etc. has no long term health consequence when you force feed it to children.

    Also, suddenly Dior cares about Miss Dior?

    • Marjorie Rose says:

      Good point, Lys!
      My version of this complaint is that we are so fearful of homemade goodies being “unsafe,” that we feed each other chemical-filled, artificial but supposedly “safer” processed foods.

    • euse says:

      IFRA is a complete bullshit, there are studies that show that your skin is more exposed to certain “dangerous” molecules if you peel a lemon than if you spray a perfume containing lemon oil… that said, the ifra bans certain molecules that are found in certain natural raw materials, but mostly they are banning synthetics.
      I very much agree with the suggestion of special labeling!!!

  9. Jillie says:

    Coming late to the party, I know, but can ask I question? The article says that the perfume houses fear that regulation will force them to change the formula of classics like Chanel No 5 ….. but haven’t they been doing exactly this for years any way????

    I can’t help feeling that there is something more to this than meets the eye: maybe they are finally complaining, after several years of kowtowing to IFRA, so that they can say to the customer who asks why their favourite no longer smells the same “Oh well, it’s the law! We had to change it.”.

    I suppose cynical old little me is just feeling crabby at the moment, but all I know is that some of my favourites havealready become travesties of themselves, and it looks like this is the future!

    • Robin says:

      Yes, many fragrances have already been reformulated. IFRA has basically promulgated a policy of self-enforcement — they have restricted the use of many allergens and forced the fragrance companies (forced themselves, really, since in many ways they are an arm of the fragrance companies) to comply. What they don’t want is “outsiders” telling them what to restrict, and by how much — that’s basically what this is about as near as I can tell.

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