Aromas, fragrances and whiffs make a lot of scents — (The Long View_

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Walking into the big-box home improvement store, there was no way of avoiding a signature smell of springtime. Stacked high in the pallet racks were hundreds of bags of fertilizer, their acrid aroma heavy in the air.

Walking into the big-box home improvement store, there was no way of avoiding a signature smell of springtime. Stacked high in the pallet racks were hundreds of bags of fertilizer, their acrid aroma heavy in the air.

From time to time on a spring zephyr, this same odor wafts its way from a nearby lawn as neighbors try to coax maximum green out of the ground using one these made-from-petroleum tonics. When their grass has received this sort of treatment, I walk my dog in the other direction, as I’ve no idea how exposure to that stuff affects pets or people, and do not wish to find out via personal experimentation.

But you have to admit, we expose ourselves to plenty of substances which might be harmful. Did you read about rocket fuel components showing up in breast milk across the country? Or how plastics that line food and soft drink cans adversely affect the endocrine system?

Heck, it wasn't that long ago society didn't know and seemed to not care about the harmful effects of the many chemicals in cigarettes. My father and many others found out the hard way.

I will sometimes meet someone who wears perfume or cologne. Not being a scent wearer, the cloud of fragrance with which I am enveloped at these greetings is quite striking. At least the products they wear have been proven benign via years of use.

Not so for other products targeted at the olfactory.

I cringe when visiting someone who has tiny smell-making devices plugged into the outlets of every room. Some of these aromatic appliances even have motion sensors, causing them to squirt something into the air whenever you pass by. Others merely heat a small block of some unknown substance that evaporates into a pleasing bouquet.

Of course we've had for generations the option of products that release pleasant whiffs via aerosol can or pump spray. I shudder at the notion so many fragrant particulates are accumulating in my lungs over time. 

But that cringe worthy thought is rooted in fear of the unknown.

While “air fresheners” may have passed perfunctory tests on humans or animals, there are to my knowledge no long-term studies on the effects of breathing that stuff. Each package advises you keep the stuff away from children and pets, though.

And while I don’t know what those plug-in modules are puffing into the air, but whatever it is enters my body with every breath. As the years pass, I’ve become more selective about what I allow in there.

One thing is certain – the scent of chemical fertilizer passes unappealingly through my nostrils. As such, my new yard’s lawn will be fed with homemade stimulants from organic gardening recipes. And for my garden’s nutritional needs, the fertilizer will be based on the decidedly natural substance that cows excrete.

It doesn’t smell any better, true, but at least we know it’s not harmful to man nor beast.

Pat Grimes, a former South Bay resident, writes from Ypsilanti, Mich. He can be reached at pgwriter@inbox.com.