I know people who have allergies to foods or pollen but I don't know anyone who has a reaction to coming into contact with fragranced products.
It is a very real concern. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity can suddenly appear in an individual who never had issues with chemical fragrances in the past. It can result in individuals experiencing an array of symptoms including, but not limited to, asthma, nausea, difficulty breathing, headaches, diarrhea, and eczema. In extreme cases, some diagnosed with MCS cannot work or take part in daily routines most of us take for granted such as grocery shopping or attending public events due to the encounters with people wearing fragranced chemicals. It is an illness not fully understood but is actively be studied by the medical community. Those with MCS may find an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act. A few statistics include:
- 3 in 10 people in the US find scented products on OTHERS irritating
- 15% of the US population is hypersensitive to common everyday chemicals
- 6% of California's population has been diagnosed with MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity)
Can't people with chemical sensitivities take allergy medication?
While research continues, no medication currently exists and the only reliable way to avoid reactions for those with chemical sensitivities is to avoid the triggers. This often requires cooperation of others.
I don't like being told what I can and can not wear. Isn't this fragrance-free initiative intrusive on my right to wear whatever I want?
It may seem at first that asking for cooperation to move away from fragranced products is a personal and private matter but when the fragrances from these products affect the health and productivity of others it goes beyond just a private concern. The mission of this initiative is to create a comfortable work environment for all.
Won't being fragrance-free result in people stopping their use of personal care products altogether resulting in poor hygiene and strong body odor?
This is highly unlikely. There are many similar initiatives at other Universities and workplaces and this has not become a concern at these locations. In addition, today's marketplace offers many fragrance-free alternatives to the scented personal care products.
Will I have to spend a lot of time and money looking for fragrance-free products?
Going fragrance-free may sound scary but it is much easier than you think. Not only are fragrance-free alternatives available in most local stores, many of the brand name personal care items you are used to have a "fragrance-free" product. Visit our List of Offenders/Alternatives page for a description of the offensive products and suggested alternatives. Having trouble finding a fragrance-free alternative? Just ask us at FragranceFree@colorado.edu as we have lots of experience locating alternatives on a budget.
What happens if I am approached about a fragranced product I use?
If a request is made of you to discontinue use of a fragranced product you are using, you may feel hurt, defensive or even insulted by the request. Please understand that the request is about the chemicals in the fragranced product you use and not about you. Try and empathize with the individual and work with cooperation and understanding towards a satisfactory resolution.
What can I do if I have a chemical fragrance sensitivity?
- Inform and explain to your coworkers and supervisor your condition, what causes your reactions and what kind of problems you are experiencing. Direct them to this website for more information. If you don't feel comfortable approaching your coworkers, please contact your supervisor. If you do not feel comfortable speaking with your supervisor, please reach out to Jennie Norton Brucker for guidance.
- Request alerts from your building proctor when any painting, varnishing, fumigating or floor cleanings are scheduled.
What can you do as a supervisor?
- Listen to the person with respect and civility.
- Determine the products and/or factors that make the problem better or worse, and any actions your employee may already be taking to deal with it.
- Discuss the issue with your staff in an open and non-threatening manner. Inform them that concerns that have arisen as a result of the use of scented products in the workplace. You may choose to have this discussion with an individual or an entire group, whichever is appropriate to the situation. It is important that you not disclose the identity of the person having the issue, unless that person has authorized you to do so.
- Request everyone's cooperation and understanding to voluntarily avoid the use of scented products in the area. Discuss the benefits of a scent-free work area. For more information, visit: www.colorado.edu/oit/fragrancefree.
- If your employee continues to have issues despite your efforts, contact Jennie Brucker for further assistance.