Stink! a documentary currently showing on Netflix is a must watch and not just of interest to those trying to live a low-tox lifestyle. If you haven't seen it, the documentary does a brilliant job of explaining so many aspects of product smells (intentional and unintentional). The whole journey starts with a pair of pajamas this guy bought for his children for Christmas. Upon opening them, the smell was apparently awful and it was very eye opening to watch him try to uncover what this smell was AND if it was safe for his kids. (no spoiler alert here, you can watch it yourself to find out what the lab tests revealed about 1/3 into the movie).
I always knew chemicals and fragrances were things to be cautious of and grew up in a home where there were few, and green cleaning was favoured. Me and my mum both suffer from sensitivities to various things including perfumes, newspaper ink, synthetic fragrances, air fresheners, chlorine, cleaning and skin care products. But it doesn't end there, a new rug, new clothing, a shoe store, artificially scented candles or just a trip to a shop full of synthetic items can have an impact.
I don't need to live in a bubble, and can tolerate a certain level, but these things can give me headaches, sinus problems, dry mouth and lip tingling just being around them. So of course, when I recently signed up to Netflix, this went straight onto my watch list.
Here are some really interesting things I learnt From watching it:
> Manufacturers don't need to disclose harmful chemicals used on clothing at ALL in the US (and I suspect it may be pretty similar in Australia)
> Synthetic Fragrances come from petroleum products (I had no idea), because its easy and cheap and of course most people don't know it could be toxic and companies are not going to tell us what exactly they used because its a secret recipe. I assumed this to be differnet in Australia, but it isn't. we are a little better on somethings with references to fragrance numers, but only on some things.
>The term 'Fragrance' on ingredients listings can contain hundreds of chemicals that aren't disclosed (for a number of reasons, including that the consumer might google it and discover its toxic)
> Chanel #5 and toilet cleaner contain some of the same ingredients, so next time a perfume smells like shit...well maybe it's just acting as a memory jogger of your toilet.
>Flame retardants are scary and are added to loads of synthetic fabrics (super interesting the reason behind why flame retardants were created!) I read this article when searching for how to wash this crap out of your kids clothes - I guess you do the opposite to everything they mention and cross your fingers. (One of the reasons I prefer buying second hand clothes is to skip the initial chemical stuff of new things)
Things the Documentary Confirmed
> Lynx (or Axe) deodorant is disgusting - I didn't know it was deadly to some, so not only will it kill your sex life beacause it smells so awful, but if you're unlucky, you could have a severe reaction to something in it and literally die!
>Don't trust manufacturers - search for proof and beware of stinks
> Don't assume your products are safe
>Phthalates are bad news, they are endochrine disrupters (mimics hormones in the body) and can be found in all sorts of products, even clothing. I googled it and found this interesting article written by Choice asking Is Plastic Food Packaging Dangerous? - turns out all the healthy living and plastic avoidance wont prevent you having phthalates in your system.
> The race for profit saddens me the more I learn and its at the expense of people, the planet
>Chemicals end up in the body, including what we wear, smell, touch, eat and put on our skin.
> Off-gassing IS a real thing and if you haven't heard about, it refers to chemicals that essentially come off products and into our environment. So something like a new carpet will off gas a heap of substances into your home.
> Women use way more skin products than men and may have a higher risk.
>Ingredients listings and product labelling still sucks.
> Sometimes we don't find out we bought toxic items until there's a recall because someone got really sick. That stinks!
> Don't use scotchguard on anything you plan on touching, including your couch.
> Transparent, honest, ethical companies are awesome and we need more of them and be willing to pay extra for things like natural plant extracted fragrances or chemical free products.
>Don't forget the formaldehyde in the baby shampoo that was used by who knows how many kids babies and only changed a few years ago.
What I Still don't know
>What's the deal with the chemicals in: Smelly stickers, scented markers, scented toys like the ridiculous plastic insert in build-a-bears. Is all that smelly Smiggle gear actually safe?
> What is in the 'outback' scented soap my daughter brought home form a Christmas craft activity? Do people want the smell of the outback in their soap? I've been to the outback and it didn't smell like that
>What is in the clothing I own? I have a pair of black leggings that have a chemical smell no matter how many times I wash them. I bought them because they were cute. Now I don't want to wear them and because they are a concern, I also don't want to repurpose or donate them.
Remember when they had to recall all those black and blue jeans because it turned out the dye was super toxic? I remember, because I really wanted a pair of those jeans as they fitted me perfectly and then had them taken off me at the cash register - it still makes me angry that the store (which shall remain unnamed) hadn't properly taken them off the shelves. Here's the recall if you don't remember it. They were Azo dyes and can be easily absorbed into the skin from clothing, furniture and other items. You can read a little more about them here.
> What is in my daughter's lipbalm and why does it stink? She won it in a lucky dip and I though oh well, we don't buy those and she was excited despite the plastic and that's ok. BUT they stink a LOT and after using it once, she complained to me that it made her lips hurt. She watched part of Stink! with me and started to understand why her crazy mum does weird stuff all the time. She wants to get the lipbalm out and reuse the containers, which I said to her that they may have absorbed that stuff which will then go into our homemade balm if we refill it. Oh, so complex and I guess i'll melt it out and attempt to recycle the containers. Its absolute trash.
What Can You Do About It?
>First, watch Stink! yourself
>Continue to ask questions and search for the facts
> Read labels on the products in your home or ones you might purchase
> Try some simple Green cleaning swaps
> Start making your own beauty and skin care items
> Steer clear of unnatural fragrances where you can
>Tell your friends and family, don't keep it a secret like those sneaky companies
>Sign up to product recall notifications (just in case) - Australians can head here
If you want to start learning a little more about some of these issues, here are some books I recommend. These are affiliate links which mean if you click and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This doesn't impact the fact I believe these books are great resources, and if you don't want to own them, most libraries should have these readily available.
The Case Against Fragrance by Kate Grenville
LowTox Life by Alexx Stuart
Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan
Stink! confirmed a lot of things I knew and suspected along with so much more. I really enjoyed the film even if some parts left me feeling a little paranoid and overwhelmed at how these chemicals are everywhere. It was a great movie and despite the worrying topic, left me feeling pretty hopeful.
I think we owe it to our kids and the future generations to uncover more about what happens behind the scenes that could be causing permanent damage to people and the planet. Lets ask more questions and demand a better world.
I've covered some of the points within the film, but if you want the rest, you'll just have to watch it. I really didn't want to spoil the experience for those yet to see it.
Have you watched Stink! yet? What was the biggest thing you took away from the film that is making you rethink things?