WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
Exposure to perfumes and other scented products can trigger serious health reactions in individuals with asthma, allergies, migraines and/or chemical sensitivities.
Fragrances are found in a wide range of products. Common scented products include perfume, cologne, aftershave, deodorant, soap, shampoo, hairspray, body spray, makeup and powders. Other examples with added scents could be air fresheners, fabric softeners, laundry detergents, cleaners, carpet deodorizers, facial tissues and/or candles.
Generally, it is a personal choice to use fragrances; however today's fragrance chemicals are by their very nature shared. The chemicals vaporize into the air and are easily inhaled by those around us. Today’s scented products are made up of a complex mixture of chemicals which can contribute to indoor air quality problems and cause health problems.
Fragrance chemicals are known to be skin sensitizers. Some are also respiratory tract irritants which can trigger asthma and breathing difficulties. Susceptible individuals can experience a variety of symptoms including headache, sore throat, runny nose, sinus congestion, wheezing, shortness of breath, dizziness, anxiety, anger, nausea, fatigue, mental confusion and an inability to concentrate. Although the mechanisms by which fragrance chemicals act to produce symptoms are not yet understood, the impact on all those affected can be quite severe, resulting in great difficulty in work and study activities.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Be considerate of those who are sensitive to fragrances.
- If you do use scented products, use them sparingly.
- A general guideline for scented products is that the scent should not be detectable more than an arm’s length away from you.
- Do not apply scented products in a public area.
- Avoid using products that give off chemical-based scents in your work area.
- Avoid using laundry or cleaning agents that are scented and air out dry cleaned clothing before wearing.
WHAT CAN YOU DO IF YOU ARE SENSITIVE TO SCENTS?
- Comfortably, approach the scented individual and let him/her know how you react to fragrances.
- Inform your supervisor or instructor of your sensitivities, your symptoms and the types of exposures that improve or worsen these symptoms.
- Consult with your physician about your symptoms.
- Consult the resources listed in the attached guideline for further information or assistance.
If your school requires additional resources to assist with promoting a scent aware workplace please contact the divisional Safety Officer for print materials. Sample materials can be found under related links on the right.