Health and Artificial Fragrance — What’s the Connection
Our God-Given Senses
Who can resist the aroma of fresh baked bread, or the tempting smell of cinnamon or vanilla? What would life be like without the smell of salt air, the scent of piney woods, or the fragrance of our favourite flowers? Natural scents add immeasurably to our enjoyment of life, and are tied to strong memories of past events. God gave us our sense of smell to enhance our personal experience of his awesome creation. Fragrant incense was an integral part of the temple service, symbolic of the praise and prayers of God’s people, that is a sweet-smelling aroma to God.
But something has changed in the past few years. No longer is that “vanilla” scent the product of the vanilla bean. Rather, it is a toxic chemical counterfeit that excites the senses while damaging the respiratory tract and producing ill-health.
There was a time, not so long ago in Canada, that wherever you were, whether on a flight or in the airport lounge, at your favourite restaurant, or even in the respiratory wing of a hospital, you could find yourself subjected to the toxic effects of secondhand smoke. Luckily the dangers of smoking for both smoker, and bystanders, has become well-documented over the past decades. The discoveries of medical science were brought to bear and legislation was put in place to protect the health of the public. As a result most public places are now “smoke-free” zones.
The Smoking Connection
Many Church of God groups however, were years ahead of the civil authorities. Smoking had been banned for many decades in their meeting places, and they had encouraged members to overcome the smoking habit. Why? The bible did not specifically speak to the issue of smoking. But using discernment and the wisdom of the scriptures, most Church leaders came to the conclusion that smoking was detrimental to the health of individuals, and the health of the congregations. It was a habit that did not properly honour the human body as “the temple of the Lord.” And the problem of second-hand smoke was a question of whether the smoker was “loving neighbour” as scripture admonished.
The New “Smoke” in Our Air
Fast-forward to 2017 and as a rule smoking is limited to a few outdoor venues in Canada. Good news for those with allergies, asthma, and other lung conditions. However, there are new, and equally dangerous air pollutants contaminating our indoor and outdoor environments. In Canada, WorkSafe, and other workplace organizations have documented the danger of artificial scents, and toxic cleaning products in the work environment. Some government agencies have enacted their own scent-free policies. But this time, the Church of God is lagging behind in recognizing and addressing this danger that impacts the health of the brethren.
Healthy living – A Biblical View
The health principles in scripture are all based on the foundational principles of “love your neighbour as yourself” and “your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 3:17, 6:19) It was this understanding that put the Church of God at the forefront of the “Healthy Living” movement in the 1950’s and earlier, that saw a return to natural whole foods, breastfeeding for infants, and non-smoking policies for baptized members. These teachings of the Church of God, may not have been matters of “salvation” per se, but they demonstrated a sincere respect for the intent of scripture. These teachings were fundamental to living healthy prosperous physical lives in God’s service. In keeping with the example of Daniel and his friends, the church taught the importance of not “defiling” our bodies with food or drink (or by extension, other substances) that would produce ill health. (Daniel 1:8-17) The good health these men experienced and their ability to serve God in the King’s court was a direct result of choosing a healthier diet/lifestyle that produced good results. It was cause and effect. This principle still operates in 2017.
In order to serve God effectively in our day we, like Daniel, need to consider those things in our environment that would contribute to ill health, and we need to consciously avoid them. This has become an ever more demanding task, as toxic chemicals have been introduced into our environment at every stage of the production and marketing of goods. But, God’s expectation is that we do what we can within our own sphere of influence to create a healthy environment for ourselves and others. And this is where the issue of “second-hand scent” comes into focus.
Often, those who are unwilling to look into these issues are like the parents in a “peanut-free” school, who having no problems with peanuts themselves are “incensed” that their child’s liberty is curtailed and they can no longer bring their peanut butter sandwich to school. It matters little to these parents that, as a result of their lack of compassion and an unwillingness to change their “peanuts in the lunch bag” habit, other children could suffer terribly. But really the scent issue is a little different, because as much as it may be “life-altering” to the more sensitive individuals, it is actually toxic to everyone, to lesser or greater degrees.
What Does Science Reveal?
So let’s look at some of the facts.
What do these scented products contain? A variety of petrochemical products from acetaldehyde to phthalates, benzene to toluene are present in artificial fragrances. These products are known for their role in chronic disease, including asthma, eczema, endocrine disruption, reproductive issues, respiratory issues, and cancer. So the effects of these petro-chemical scents are not unlike the impact of tobacco smoke on those who must share the air with them. For some the harm is immediate, with flu-like symptoms, difficulty breathing, chest or sinus congestion, headache, or dizziness. For others they feel little in the way of immediate impacts, but the daily assault of these chemicals on their bodies will eventually result in more devastating and long-term effects, like cancer, or emphysema. Our society has wisely made efforts to limit public exposure to the noxious substances found in tobacco smoke. And some agencies are beginning to understand that steps need to be taken to also limit exposure to the same or similar toxic substances in artificial fragrances by creating “scent-free” zones.
Called to Live a Life of Love
As Christians, who are called out of this world into a relationship with the Father and Jesus Christ. One of the hallmarks of our fellowship should be our love for the brethren.
“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13:34-35
But this love is more than an emotional feeling; it is a practical application of God’s principles for the welfare of others. God’s desire is that we should all prosper and be in good health. Caring for the needs of others both inside and outside of our church fellowship.
2 Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers. 3 For I rejoiced greatly when brethren came and testified of the truth that is in you, just as you walk in the truth. 4 I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. 5 Beloved, you do faithfully whatever you do for the brethren and for strangers, 6 who have borne witness of your love before the church. 1 John 3
In considering our personal hygiene habits, and our use of toxic fragrances or cleaning substances we need to ask ourselves the hard question. Are we loving our families, our neighbours, and our brethren when we habitually use products that contaminate the air, and create health problems for ourselves and others? Are we doing what is reasonable to eliminate those products that are damaging to our environment and fouling our air? Are we “dressing and keeping” God’s garden, and caring for the temple of His Spirit? We need to examine ourselves, and act in good conscience towards God, when it comes to these “physical” issues.
Sow to Reap Good Health
God’s principle both physically and spiritually is that “We will reap what we sow.” And good health comes from sowing good seed, making good choices based on “truth,” the reality — the facts about the environment, the human body, and the human spirit. If we know the truth, then there is a blessing that comes from acting on the truth. This truth encompasses the understanding of God’s spiritual plan for all of mankind, but it also includes the mundane daily choices we make that are either in harmony with “doing good to all men” or not. No one can compel us to make these choices. But our love for God and his creation can make us sensitive to our own needs and the needs of others. Let’s remember Paul’s admonition, “Let all that you do be done with love.” 1 Cor. 16
So are you going to begin your own research, and take steps towards creating a “scent-free” zone at home, and in your congregation? You don’t have to wait until you or others you love begin to suffer the effects of chemical exposure as I have, to have your eyes opened to the reality. Begin to sow the seeds now. Small actions can reap big rewards.
For information about scent-free alternatives:
For more information about the chemical composition of products here are several good sources:
Personal Hygiene Products and Cosmetics:
More about biblical healthy living principles: