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Kate Grenville had always associated perfume with elegance and beauty. Then the headaches started.
Like perhaps a quarter of the population, Grenville reacts badly to the artificial fragrances around us: other people’s perfumes, and all those scented cosmetics, cleaning products and air fresheners. On a book tour in 2015, dogged by ill health, she started wondering: what’s in fragrance? Who tests it for safety? What does it do to people?
The more Grenville investigated, the more she felt this was a story that should be told. The chemicals in fragrance can be linked not only to short-term problems like headaches and asthma, but to long-term ones like hormone disruption and cancer. Yet products can be released onto the market without testing. They’re regulated only by the same people who make and sell them. And the ingredients don’t even have to be named on the label.
This book is based on careful research into the science of scent and the power of the fragrance industry. But, as you’d expect from an acclaimed novelist, it’s also accessible and personal. The Case Against Fragrance will make you see—and smell—the world differently.
‘One spritz of aftershave or perfume can leave other people retching and clutching their heads—you never see that in the ads.’
‘Beginning with her own physical reaction to fragrance that begins with a headache a lot of us know ourselves, she investigates the fragrance industry and its side-effects and interweaves these facts with the personal to create an accessible work of non-fiction.’
‘By 2015, Grenville was getting headaches from those stinky diffusers in taxis, from washing powder, from scented candles, and was sprinting through hotel foyers with a scarf over her nose. But instead of going mad, Grenville did what she does best: fixed her intelligent and discerning eye on the problem. This reader started out sceptical and ended up convinced: we have hardly any idea what goes into the manufactured smells we surround ourselves with. Read this, and gasp.’