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Friday, 11 February 2011

Perfumes, Cowboys and Codswallop

Over the period of the bad weather we found ourselves watching programmes on Sky that carry advertisements. Often we prefer to “box” them to watch another time when they can be avoided. Amongst other things is the saving of time that can be substantial. At least we turn off the sound with all the heavy thumping.

During this period of all the advertising that was on a remarkable amount was for perfumes and fragrances and also in some of the media there were a large number of stories about this or that famous name selling their own mix.

The marketing largely concentrated on lifestyle and sex, sometimes there were suggestions of fresh air and the wonders of nature or health but not much. The use of these perfumes and fragrances was alleged to be about performance. There was no mention that this was unlikely and in any case the products might have entirely the opposite effect.

But put “Perfume Marketing” into MS Bing or Google or other searches and you are given a large number of hits to rummage around. Essentially, the selling of these perfumed products is not about content or reality. It is all about marketing and image.

What is clear is that this market and the manufacturing of all the products is now roughly the “Wild West” of the consumer chemical industries. You can more or less do what you like, say what like, claim what you like and there is no hindrance in effect.

On one site there were recommendations about how anyone could set out to sell their own and how to do it. If you had web site selling banned drugs you would soon be shut down. Also that would happen if you were selling known poisons.

But shovelling out extreme concentrates of chemicals, the effects of which you do not know or care, under the heading of perfume is open to anyone anywhere. I know that the majority of cyanides are supposed to be “inert” but what happens when you put them into a mix of petro-chemicals and alcohols, use fine particle technology and then vaporise them under pressure?

Moreover, there are no questions asked. This is a sector where the mantra of “commercial confidentiality” applies even more than in the case of financial swindlers. You really can do what you like and take money from people on the basis of selling the image only.

If anyone who is badly affected tries to ask what is in them they can be brushed aside. In the UK if you were to suggest that some of the stronger deodorants and fragrances were damaging you could face legal action for defamation. Companies routinely deny information even where anaphylaxis is involved.

Yet the evidence is that many people are affected and some very badly. We do not know what the numbers are because doctors are reluctant to take into account environment or lifestyle issues beyond the officially sanctioned smoking and drink issues.

Moreover, many surgeries are now equipped with fragrance devices. Quite what these are doing to their critical targets for blood pressure and the rest is a real question and neither they nor the health authorities have any clue about the answers.

It took almost a century before the dangers of smoking were admitted. It took major health disasters before Clean Air Acts were passed. At present diseases that cause serious damage to far fewer have money thrown at them to find treatments.

Sooner or later the health problems will have to be admitted. It is probable that this will only happen when they have gone critical and a chaotic situation has developed. But then it will be too late for too many people.

How many families do I pass are reeking of fragrances with their children coughing and sucking at inhalers?

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