Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Waffle And Whiffle

In the world of mirrors, spin, telling less than half the story leaving out the difficult or nasty bits and where it is all about presentation the BBC has lost little of its skill set in these respects.

It is running a series on Luxury and spent three hours with leading figures in the world of fragrances allowing them full rein without a hint of criticism and no questions asked. Doubtless this will go to a hundred repeats.

As well as amounting to an extended commercial for the British Fragrance Association it failed to mention that some of the stuff on the market at the moment is little better than Agent Orange with added overtones of jasmine and musk.

Essentially, there were two interwoven parts to the tale. One was the high price of the luxury market with all that this entailed and the other was the way in which perfumes and fragrances were created for mass markets.

But the emphasis was on the top end with history, tradition, rare and hugely expensive natural substances being brought together to make products at very high prices intended for and to be used by the richest of the elites. It suggested that the mass markets somehow were a junior version of this.

This involved inevitably a trip to the Gulf to meet the ruling classes where the Brit’s grovelled to flog a few hand made bottles with gold leaf lettering of stuff whose contents had been culled from the pages of a family notebook from the 19th Century.

My grannie-in-law left such a Home Book which had recipes, basic home medicine and ways of dealing with rats and mice by tempting them to consume food laced with something from the chemist. Perhaps I ought to add a synthetic fragrance, call it Jerboa and try to flog that to the sons of the desert.

At the other end of the scale, the British “Chav” Class were notable for their absence so that the Vox Populi had to be sought elsewhere. Brazil seemed to be suitable and Sao Paulo sufficiently deprived to allow social community to be claimed.

A lady took time out from frantically flying between New York, London and Paris to visit another strange lady who spent virtually all her spare disposable income on scents and scented products and groups of male teenagers to give guidance on how the markets might move.

These were spotty geeks who were prepared to go without food to pay for the latest stuff to hit the market. If they had been told that the consequences of this passion could be to reduce their sperm count to less than their age they might have had second thoughts.

As it seems that over 2,000 fragrance products go to market each year almost all with a short shelf life so it seems as good a way of backing losers as any. But the big boys and girls do not lose because a small number of companies are making most of the new products and a big winner can more than cover all the losses.

The big names and the names made to be big are fiercely marketed. It is difficult to find a TV commercial without slots for one or other form of these products. You are treated to the full blast of high life, style, sex and suggestion to make you want and buy. There is no hint of any reality either of what they are or where they come from.

What is more the products that are chosen are but a small minority from a much larger number created by the perfumiers dedicated to this work. The great majority were discarded which was called “killing the babies”. The programmes spent a lot of time with some of them who worked hard in largely luxury and very posh locations. The style was very very high.

Why the programme did not visit some of the computer based Chinese laboratories up the Yang Tse in grim industrial areas I do not know. These can produce endless variants of one thing or another, maybe new synthetics for fragrances or maybe new addictive substances to add to the armouries of the drug dealers.

Perhaps there is a substantial overlap between the two, but the BBC did not mention anything about that or the neurological implications of shoving unlimited amounts of high powered stuff up your nose. In New York, London and Paris the ecstatic reactions of some of the people putting together the mixes reminded me of a train journey made in the company of a number of glue sniffers.

There were lots of filming in pretty places and beautiful locations but not one shot of the typical environment from where just about all the stuff in the bottles for the masses comes from. The one above is St. Helen’s in Lancashire, the aromatics factory there has some interesting guidelines about protective clothing and what must be done if there is leakage into the drains.

The BBC were coy about all this. When natural substances were implied or involved there was often mention by name. When the perfumiers and others were taking drops from little bottles there was no mention of what they were or their provenance, it was impossible to read the labels. Anyone for cyanide?

The latest surge is the use of fine particles in the fragrance products and ways of making them stick and last indefinitely. You cannot wash them out nor will dry cleaning do the job. With asthma on the rise along with chronic pulmonary disorders together with issues arising from toxicity one wonders what the Health stance is.

The answer is none at all. The Health Protection Agency has run away from the problem, doubtless told to so by its Porton Down bosses who are now largely working for the fragrance makers. Similarly, the Committee on Toxicity get away from it by claiming at it is all Pavlovian.

The British Lung Foundation say that there is no research in the UK on the issue but as research in the UK almost all depends on government money and this has to show a commercial return anything that might hit the governments business backers to any degree will never happen.

So what has the BBC to say about this? Nothing, it is too busy sniffing the synthetic chemical copies of the scrapings of animal parts to bother.


  1. "Nothing, it is too busy sniffing the synthetic chemical copies of the scrapings of animal parts to bother."
    Alongside the bloodstained poppy seed residues garnered via The ECB and others, Demetrius.

  2. I’d expect allergy to the major risk, but I’ll bet perfume-related allergy is not a well researched issue, even though we know that fragrance is the major culprit in cosmetic allergies.

    Some washing-powders are loaded with perfume, so people who wash their sheets with them are inhaling the stuff as they sleep.