Try this:  Grab something under your sink you use to clean your house. Anything will do.

Scan the ingredients. After all the sodium dichloro-s-triazinetrione dehydrate-9H-etcetera, look for the following: “Fragrance.”

There’s the "innocent" culprit.

There’s no agency, including the FDA, mandating a tell-all of what comprises “fragrance.”  It’s a vivid Black Hole of who-knows-what.

Even though most of your cleaning, make-up, polishing, freshener and SPF products get finished telling you keep them in a “cool, dry place” and always “out of the reach of children,” you figure you’ve got things pretty much in hand, right?

But the film Stink explores the hundreds of unreported carcinogenic substances that exist:

1. In the world of furniture, bedding, linens, carpeting and stuff in the house, and

2. hidden, unregulated, in the word fragrance.

Whelan began his research when he bought some pajamas for his two young daughters after his wife had died (of cancer). When they opened the Made in China package, a noxious and powerful smell filled the room. Dozens of phone calls later, to the sellers of the P.J.’s, the Justice Stores, and even all the way to the manufacturers in some factory in rural China, he was no closer to what the smell consisted of. All the answers he got were in the realm of “Sorry, Sir, that information is proprietary” or “We actually don’t know what the… smell …you’re talking about is, and couldn’t identify any chemicals you think might be in the package or clothing items.” Ta ta.

It’s five days after the screening, and I’m obsessively reading the backs of everything from face-creams to sunscreen, from toothpaste to new sheets. Everything is suspect.

Think you are an informed consumer? Think again. Whelan goes from analytical labs to company CEOs to track down what turn out to be hundreds of unidentified elements, some of them poisonous in large amounts, some aggregating in our systems even in tiny amounts, accumulating over years.

There’s suspicion that the exponential rise of autism, cancers, major allergies and auto-immune diseases noticeable in our clinics and hospitals (and schools) has a great deal to do with the chemicals no one is charged with delineating. Let me repeat: No one is charged with defining or explaining what these chemicals in “fragrance” are. The cheaper the object, the likelier it has a vast armamentarium of bad things to give it that “fresh” or “lemony” scent. 

Real perfume is not the problem -- but the cost of perfume is not what most housewives are spending when they fill their closets and shelves with aromatic “fruit” scents and exotic “herbs” in our shampoos, antiperspirants and deodorants. Even, dare we say it, hand-sanitizers. Yes.

Depressing as all these uncomfortable findings are, when he approaches CEOs of “nice” companies, they are often really ignorant of the wreckage of our hormonal balance they are engineering. Phthalates, for instance, actively interfere with fertility, particularly in men. Hormone-disrupting chemicals, even in small quantities, interfere with the DNA of the human body -- even, more terrifyingly, with babies in utero, concentrating them such that the infant emerges already more polluted by chemical wastes than the adult mother giving birth to it.

Blood analysis, Whelan finds, shows the average American has 183 harmful pollutants in our blood. Infants -- ready? -- have even higher percentages of chemical poisons or effluents, sometimes as high as 197 separate chemicals that should not be there.

At 91 minutes, the film might be overlong for most. But as uncomfortable as you feel, sitting there reeling from the nauseating facts on disappearing additives to make things feel or smell or taste better, this is an important heads-up for us all.

Thinking back to Myanmar from which I just returned, all the food I ate was from the ground or a tree; the washing was done with local un-fancy soaps without chemical additives. And the only sun protection factor used was a hat or visor and protective clothing.

Lest you forget, new apartments, buildings, furniture, floor coverings (carpets and wall-to-wall) and sheets all outgas or have damaging sizing for weeks or months. Don’t subject yourself and your families to the flame-retardant and anti-spill chemicals all these are doused with before you get them into your home. Wait until they’ve outgassed and/or been washed multiple times.

One thing really surprised: It was at a Federal-level investigation held of various products with unspecified chemicals, and our senators and officials in Washington, DC, were  grilling CEOs on what ingredients, specifically, were in various products they sold. Sen. John Kerry actually, for the first time, seemingly ever, seemed intelligent enough to ask probing questions and unrelenting follow-ups of the subjects gathered in DC.  A first.

Stink isn’t a pleasant movie-movie. But its message is aromatic -- save yourselves from absorbing, inhaling, surrounding yourself with, rubbing in and becoming sensitized to noxious and ultimately dangerous mystery chemicals, insofar as you can. Read -- and reject.

The movie will make you angry. But it’ll make you aware.

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