Bargain-basement perfumes and fragrances, mostly made in China, are big sellers at markets and shopping centres around the country.
They're so cheap that we bought a bagful for just $20. But do we really know what we are buying is safe to use on our skins?
SA author Peter Taubert, a mild asthmatic who lectures on the dangerous chemicals we consume and come into contact almost every day, warns that almost all fragrances�from cosmetics to household products�contain toxic chemicals.
"With fragrances all they have to say on a label that it's a fragrance. What you don't realise is that up to 5000 chemicals could be used to make up that fragrance," says Peter.
The most common ingredients are ethyl alcohol and toluene. These and other chemicals found in fragrances and cosmetics have been linked to a raft of health problems, including cancer and asthma.
"Toluene is a chemical which can cause asthma in perfectly healthy people. It was found in virtually every sample of fragrances tested in the United States," warns Peter, who says our health regulators aren't tough enough.
Lab analysis by Today Tonight showed a distinct difference in quality between brand�fragrances�which can contain up to 200 compounds and oils�and the cheapies with fewer and sometimes unknown ingredients.
Pearce Pharmaceuticals, a Melbourne company which sells Chinese-made fragrances, told us their products are well established, were not poisonous or toxic and posed no health risks. CEO Geoff Pearce insists they are made to relevant standards and claims some of the chemicals used are approved by American regulators.
Last year customs seized 30,000 bottles of Chinese-made fragrances imported by Pearce Pharmaceuticals for alleged trademark infringements. This was denied by Mr Pearce. The seized items were later destroyed.
Alan Rodgers, who runs the internet-based warehouse direct business Perfume dot com which sells legitimate fragrances at discount prices, says fake perfumes could contain anything from goat's urine to synthetic fixatives.
"You don't know what's going on your skin,'' he says.
And going by Alan's prices, it appears you may be may be paying far too much for that favorite Parisienne scent. He says steer clear of big department stores when shopping for brand fragrances.
We found huge differences in women's and men's fragrances when we compared Alan's prices with those at Myer, David Jones and a leading pharmacy. The biggest difference was up to $115 for Bulgari for women and $113 for Champs Elysees.
However if Peter Taubert had his way, wearing perfumes and after shaves to work and in public would be banned, like it has in parts of Canada. He believes they might be in breach of our occupational health and safety laws if they cause serious allergic reactions.
Peter Taubert - 08 8531 1118 or www.compsafe.com.au
Peter is the author of 'Your health and food additives', 'Silent Killers' and 'Read the label know the risks'.
Discount perfumes can be purchased via Peter's website at www.perfume.com.au