Fragrance is a broad term that encompasses many chemicals that can be found in various consumer products. Common household products such as air fresheners, hand lotions, laundry detergents, incense, and felt-tip art markers all contain fragrances. In addition, children can be exposed to fragrance chemicals through the inhalation of these volatile organic compounds (VOCs).
Fragrance is a mixture of chemicals that give a perfume or cologne its unique smell. Fragrances can also be used in scented household products like shower gels and bathing foam. Fragrances can be made of either natural or synthetic ingredients. The FDA defines fragrance as a combination of chemicals that have a “distinct aroma”. The exact composition of a particular fragrance varies depending on its source.
In general, perfumes fall into three categories. There are natural fragrances that contain natural ingredients, while synthetic perfumes contain synthetic chemicals and can be more difficult to create. Fragrances also contain three structural parts: the head, middle, and base notes. Each of these notes affects the overall scent and perception of the others. For example, the top notes are small molecules that have a fresh, airy scent, such as citrus fruits. Some other common top notes are light fruit and herbs.
Fragrances contain thousands of chemicals. Most of these aren’t disclosed, but some are linked to a variety of serious health problems. Some fragrance chemicals are derived from petroleum, but many are natural. Fragrance houses produce proprietary blends and sell them to companies that make perfumes and colognes. The chemicals used in these products also include preservatives, dyes, and stabilizers.
Fragrances have been used in ancient civilizations for thousands of years. There are even archaeological discoveries that show that some people used fragrant substances as incense. The first fragrancery was discovered on Cyprus in the Bronze Age, covering 4000 square meters. The Romans further refined this practice. Even the Mesopotamians used perfume balms as a form of personal hygiene, carrying them from birth to tomb and putting them in the afterlife.