Our sense of smell evolved to tell us about the world around us. We could tell if something had gone off, was dangerous or poisonous. It told us about other people and about ourselves. Most of all our sense of smell evolved to keep us safe.
Where has our smell gone?
For millions of years people smelled like people and no one thought that it was odd. People like other animal washed on a regular basis, perhaps not as often as we do now, but that was seen and experienced as normal and just as it should be. The ability to smell someone else was a valued and real part of communication. Smell is an emotional marker. We can smell fear, unhappiness, depression, anxiety, anger, frustration, illness and disease. Smell has been a vital part of evolution in all species since time began.
I was moved to think about this when researchers began to recognise that one significant sense missing from our online communication during Covid 19 was that we could not smell the person that we were talking with. Many animals have a highly developed sense of smell, dogs being the greatest example. We now have diagnosis dogs that can smell cancers and even covid. But something happened when we humans were taught that smelling like the real world and like real people was bad. We have chosen to suppress our natural scents with artificial chemicals. Sadly we now know that many of these chemicals are damaging our bodies, endocrine systems and some are even carcinogenic. Yet these false scents are pushed at us by clever media manipulators, big pharma and advertising capitalists.
In the 1950s of my childhood, in post Second World War of deprivation, it was normal for most people in the UK to have a bath once a week. There were no central heating systems and hot water was created through a coal fired boiler or an immersion heater. This did not stop them having a daily strip wash with water from the kettle. Some better off people had a wall heater such as an Ascot that could give you instant hot water. These were gas fed devices. The same was true with hair washing that for most was also once a week. Some clever wag invented the dry shampoo which was like talcum powder put on the hair and combed out. Useful for those of us with greasy hair. However, there were no anti deodorants and perfumes or the ability to have a daily shower.
Now, normal smelling people, that is people who actually smell like people and not like chemicals, are nolonger the normal everyday occurrence. Consider that when you can smell people who smell like people your level of communication and understanding is enhanced. When people are eroticised they give off the pheromones of arousal that means we know they are sexually attracted to us. In the modern chemical world perfumes are used to create an attractive smell. Many perfumes carry hormone taken from the sex glands of animals that can now communicate with another person that we are aroused when we are not and then we can’t understand why they wont take no for an answer.
Back to the 1950s and 60,s someone realised that making people not smell like people was big business. The first were the adverts where someone walked into a room funk of people and one person whispered to another ‘B.O’. B.O. stood for body odour. Within months people where rushing to buy the new deodorants. Next came the bad breath campaign. This culminated into the drive to obtain the ‘Colgate ring of confidence’.
As deodorants grew in popularity there developed a drive to tel women that to smell like a woman was a bad thing. Bring on the ‘Fem Fresh’. Now we were told that a vagina should not smell like a vagina but like a bunch of flowers. At the same time boxer Henry Cooper appeared on adverts for the perfume Brut ‘splash it on all over’ then we had ‘Blue Stratos’. The clever adverts now tell us that we have gone ‘Nose blind’ and that our house should not smell like us or like our houses but of chemicals that are now seen as acceptable. The thing that no one seems to have taken into account is how much our loss of natural smell would our could effect our normal everyday communication and understanding prof other people.
Back along in the 1960s we all burned incense sticks and cones until it was discovered that they were carcinogenic. Then we had candles followed by various oils burners and diffusers pumping pour chemical into our home environments. Oh, I should also mention the mass of smells added to polished and soaps and other chemicals that we use in our houses.
You may never have heard of Phthalates. These are really nasty chemicals that are included in most of the chemical smells that we experience every day. In the past few years, researchers have linked phthalates to asthma, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, breast cancer, obesity and type II diabetes, low IQ, neurodevelopment issues, behavioural issues, autism spectrum disorders, altered reproductive development and male fertility issues. (The Guardian)
Health Effects of Phthalates
There is evidence that Phthalates cause s loss of fertility and prostate issues and cancers. When combined at low levels, some phthalates can act together to cause similar harm as seen with exposure to just one phthalate at high levels. Phthalate exposures in humans has been linked to changes in sex hormone levels, altered development of genitals, and low sperm count and quality.
How does phthalates affect the environment?
Some phthalates are bioaccumulative and have been detected in aquatic organisms. For example, BBP (Phthalates) has been shown to be toxic to aquatic organisms and may cause long-term adverse effects in aquatic environments. Studies suggest BBP may have endocrine disrupting effects in fish worldwide.
I guess that what I am saying is that it is okay to smell like you and not like a phthalate. You don’t see chimpanzees rushing around in states of stress because they smell like chimpanzees. I am not suggesting that we stop washing. It is okay to be clean but not chemically drowned.
Take care and enjoy your armpits