It Just Makes Scents

You’re pretty enough without the perfume… (Photo: zapa1688.blog.com)

Like about one-third of Canadians, I work in a building where the use of scented products is restricted. With my previous employer, there was no policy. Staff would even apply cologne and hair spray at their desks! That is unthinkable to me now.

Sometimes a person would complain directly to a co-worker that their perfume was too strong, but usually the two would just agree to disagree. As I saw quoted in a Globe and Mail article, “If someone tells you that you’re wearing too much fragrance, you are” and “Your signature scent shouldn’t waft beyond the confines of your desk” (a two-foot radius).

I remember trying to find unscented hair products in the early 90s, simply because I didn’t want them to conflict with my cologne, and they didn’t exist!

One big change since then is the decline in smoking: smokers spritzed themselves with cologne after a smoke break, presumably to mask the smoke odour. Then you got both mingling! Since smokers have a much less acute sense of smell, they may have thought their technique worked.

Now people try to avoid toxins and are less accepting of all “chemicals.” For some, it’s for the environment, and for others, it’s primarily for their health. I still find it surprising how many people avoid toxins, but still use scented products. There must be a feeling that there are bad smells needing to be covered up (the lesser of two evils) or that unscented products just don’t work as well. Recently the David Suzuki Foundation got some flack because they listed “fragrance” as a toxin – after all, companies don’t even have to say what fragrance they use or what they contain – because they are protected trade secrets.

This is Shanghai, not Halifax :) Photo: todayonline.com

This is Shanghai, not Halifax 🙂 Photo: todayonline.com

At least 15% of people in Canada have significant environmental sensitivities, and in my area, it’s said to be 25% – probably because of mould caused by our damp weather. Canada officially recognizes environmental illness as a disability for which you can receive workplace accommodations, or disability benefits if necessary.

I don’t have environmental illness, sensitivities, allergies or asthma. But I know so many people who do, that I believe it affects everyone. On a personal level, scents have never bothered me, except when I have a cold. Then, instead of the cold decreasing my sense of smell, everything seems to irritate my nose and causes coughing fits! It only affects me for a few days a year, but it’s enough to help me understand (a little) how it feels to have sensitivities or even asthma.

Because I encounter people with sensitivities daily at work, or when out-and-about, I have gradually switched to as many unscented products as possible. I stopped wearing cologne at work years ago – that’s ancient history. Then I thought that using scented shower gel was OK (since it was rinsed off) but later I switched to unscented soap. I always had lots of lovely shower gels and moisturizers from the Body Shop (etc) but since they are pricey I used to save them for weekends and special occasions anyway!

I had to change my ways when a person in my adult French class had sensitivities and couldn’t be in the same room as my hair gel, even though I thought it was inoffensive. Another student, in an online class I took, had to appear in person for an exam and informed the rest of the class that they had environmental illness and couldn’t tolerate scents. On exam day, the others did not comply (and were very nonchalant about it) and the student was unable to stay and write. I felt angry about that and it sensitized me more to the issue. Finally, I heard someone speak about how difficult it was to find acceptable housing – and to be in any public spaces at all – with severe environmental illness.

I took the plunge then and started buying unscented antiperspirant and moisturizer. My last step has been hair products. I had tried to find low-scent products for years, with varying degrees of success. The unscented ones from the eco store were radically overpriced. I just kept trying until I found some low-scented brands – which happen to be unisex or men’s. I have worked with a person who has extreme sensitivities for over 2 years and they have not once noted my hair care products!

Does your hair need a few products?

The item I struggle most with is hair styling – I like my hair to stick straight up, which requires a heavy hair paste or mud-type product. I will not buy freeze spray! The only unscented one I ever found was made from pure lanolin, and while I’m not a vegan, I have mixed feelings about using pure animal grease on my hair. I also used a product labelled as beeswax but it turned out to be mostly petroleum jelly! I am currently using one of the Alberto Extreme Style products, which is mildly scented but has not bothered anyone I’ve worked with. My latest tactic is to change my hair style and not use gel any more (I’m working on it).

I’ve become so unaccustomed to using cologne that I don’t even think of it any more. I am finding, though, that after more than 10 years in a scent-free workplace, I am not tolerating scents as well as I used to. I really don’t want to develop permanent sensitivities, so I actually make a point of using scented products at home on the weekends: both bath products and home products. My favourites are Victoria’s Secret Love Spell (“cherry blossom, peach and white jasmine”) and I’m also fond of Hawaiian Ginger, and mango anything. Rom and I both like scented candles and we burn incense, too, ensuring both are lead-free. But if we go out to a movie or to dinner, I still don’t feel right if I have used scented products and others around us notice.

As a workplace manager, I am responsible for setting the tone in my building. Our “No Scents” policy is not really enforceable. There was never any education about the policy so the staff are never sure if they are complying or not. There is no legal definition of a scent-free or low-scent environment. On average, most people interpret “no scents” as “no cologne” and they continue to use highly scented products like moisturizers and hair gels.

I think most managers tolerate this and simply address any complaints as they arise. I don’t agree with doing it that way. If no one in an office has sensitivities and everyone uses scented products (except cologne), someday a new employee will have to make a complaint and then they will always be known as The Complainer. The group of workers will begrudgingly cut back on using scented moisturizers and sprays, and will think the new person is oversensitive and unreasonable. The new employee could still be getting sick from the odour of disinfectant wipes, the air freshener in the washroom, or the pet dander from someone’s coat. So I think it’s best if everyone at work is told the rules and everyone is expected to comply, even when no on in the office is bothered by scents – yet.

Be kind to your co-workers (Photo: blackenterprise.com)

Ultimately I think environmental sensitivities and illnesses are like cancers – the triggers are different for each person. I can’t tell someone, “My products are hardly scented at all so they shouldn’t bother you.” Meanwhile that person could be getting nauseous or finding it difficult to breathe. They know what causes symptoms and they have a right to a healthy environment.

While realizing that all of the products below are chemical-based and there are natural alternatives, here is what I currently use.

Shampoo and Conditioner:

  • Organix Teatree Mint
  • American Crew Citrus Mint
  • Paul Mitchell Lemon Sage
  • I recently tried Garnier Fructis Citrus Mint and it is highly scented but seems to rinse cleaner than most, so it seems promising (and much less expensive than the others).

Soap (Bar Soap): Dove Sensitive Skin Hypoallergenic

Everyday Body Moisturizer: Vaseline Intensive Rescue Extra Strength

Serious Winter Body Moisturizer: Eucerin Creme (the one in the jar)

Face Moisturizer: Simple Hydrating Light (safe on and around eyes!)

Antiperspirant (if any needed):

  • Arm and Hammer Essentials Unscented
  • Dry Idea or Secret Unscented
  • Or just unscented cornstarch baby powder

Sunscreen: Coppertone Water Babies or similar lowest-toxin product

Do you have a scent-free workplace? What is your own scent tolerance?

51 comments

  1. Angela

    An interesting post and I have to agree with you as I rarely wear perfume to work and save it for when I am at home and going out. Would just comment though about another whiffy issue in the workplace being when a colleague heats up food to take to eat at their desk. Sometimes it can be so stale and strong a smell that a good blast of perfume might be better. Sealed windows that cannot be opened to aid the AC/ heating system means yesterday’s soup or curry is still lingering long after it is eaten.

    • I know a lot of workplaces have banned microwave popcorn for that reason! I think everyone has different food likes and dislikes, too, even if they have no allergies – for example, I like the smell of curry, but not a tuna sandwich!

  2. We don’t really suffer from anyone wearing too much perfume where I work thank goodness as I am not keen on perfume other than those that are natural essential oils. I use as many unscented products as possible especially face creams which I am very sensitive to. My shampoo and Conditioner is by Liz Earle expensive but a nice smell. Shower gel -Jason Organics unperfumed. Deoderant Pure and Simple by Nivea. All face creams Boots No7 unperfumed apart from Neals Yard Frankinsence Night cream.

  3. I cannot stand *ANY* scents… for myself I use all organic and it doesn’t bother me at all as they are unscented or natural scents.. no chemicals, etc… I use JASON shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, Burt’s Bees Carrot Cream for my face, Dr.Bronners liquid baby soap for face & body. That’s it. I use the same on my girls and wish my son & husband would go organic too, but hubby uses Old Spice, Ds uses AXE. It makes me wheezy when they use too much.. hate it. Ugh!

  4. Very interesting! Here in the US (at least the southwest), I have very rarely heard of any thing about environmental illnesses. I have not found anywhere that requires people to be scent-free. I generally use scent-free products anyhow (Trader Joe’s oatmeal + honey soap, Yes to Carrots shampoo, coconut oil for moisturizer). Is environmental illness an actual diagnosis?

    • Yes, it is an actual diagnosis – probably determined by the symptoms? It makes sense that a warm dry climate would discourage it, except for maybe dust!

      • I looked it up on Wikipedia, and it looks like it’s not a real diagnosis in the US right now. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multiple_chemical_sensitivity

        Reading through it and from hearing about it from others, I think there’s a major psychological component, especially since the symptoms seem to mirror those of a panic attack.

      • Megyn, that’s interesting – I read the wiki article and it refers to a different experience. As I see it, MCS is caused by acute exposure to toxins, such as a soldier being exposed to Agent Orange, or a factory worker producing Teflon. It appears they are chemically poisoned and it permanently affects their immune system. What we refer to as environmental illness or sensitivities in Canada is not traced to a specific cause, but is usually a gradual inability to tolerate scents and everyday chemical compounds. The symptoms are more often allergy-like including a runny or stuffy nose, coughing or wheezing, headaches, nausea or fatigue. There’s a good description here: http://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/hsprograms/scent_free.html

  5. Fiona

    It’s really laudable that as a Manager you are so proactive on health / comfort issues like this. I am moderately effected by scents: I have avoided most scented products for nearly a decade. I get an immediate runny nose, extremely itchy face, redness, possibly hives, sneezing etc. within minutes of using a scented product near my face (makeup, perfume etc.)

    This is a known issue for teachers due to the number of children who can have behavioural or respiratory reactions. I have never yet worked in a school though that has a staff policy on this. Well done for bringing this in at your workplace. Lots of child library users will benefit as well as staff.

    • I don’t know if we have a policy in our schools either, but it is a losing battle trying to get teen (and preteen) girls and boys to knock off the cologne – they revel in it!

  6. My mom has a ton of severe allergies, so I grew up in a house with all unscented or vanilla scented products because everything else would irritate her. She would love a scent free workplace 🙂 I think growing up like that made me more sensitive to scents – I buy everything unscented that I can – laundry detergent, lip balm, dishwashing soap, etc. If it must be scented, I pick something with natural fragrance or oil, or go with the lightest scent (usually vanilla). And as you said, who knows what’s in something with just fragrance as an ingredient? Kinda scary.

    • I buy or make unscented cleaning products, too. Our city specifies unscented products for cleaning its municipal buildings, as well. They’re also not allowed to use bleach or ammonia. I am sure most people don’t want to know about the ingredients in cologne or the cosmetics industry in general – animal musk, whale oil, etc. and of course petroleum products.

  7. Dar, I was the black sheep around my peers. I hate scents and am quite sensitive to them. I, for whatever reason, never bought into the belief that we need to have a scent added to smell good. I prefer a body free of perfumes. In school I had to sit in a corner in the back of the classroom to hopefully avoid the mix of scents from the other students. Luckily for me, most of the students who preferred to sit in the back were men who wore very little.

  8. Lisa

    I seem to been on the more sensitive side with scents, meaning I can’t stand most of them. I try to avoid those things that will produce VOCs or contain synthetic perfumes etc. I generally try to use more natural products, although I do this mainly for environmental reasons. I use castile soaps (Dr. Bronner’s), Nature Clean’s products (made in Canada), and make all my own cleaners including liquid laundry soap. I do still use Aveeno as a moisturizer, but it gets decent ratings on the ‘GoodGuide’ and ‘Skin Deep’. Do you use these online resources? I find them extremely handy to make informed decisions – sometimes what you think is a better product and you pay a premium price is not so great from a health and environmental view.

    My former work place had a scent-free policy too, but I found it worked only on a complaint basis. You are wise to work proactively at it. I do believe that there is also a difference between ‘unscented’ and ‘fragrance-free’ where the former may still have scents that are only being masked. IMHO products such as plug-ins and Febreeze should be outlawed, as the only thing they do is affect your olfactory-system with chemicals to mask an perceived odour.

    • I don’t think air freshener products should be allowed in public places either, especially since they are often trying to disguise mould and mildew odours.

      You’ve made some excellent points. There is a big difference between reducing scents and being good to the environment. I think there is even some tension there. For example, I know people who use all-natural products such as cocoa butter, shea butter and lavender oil, which are 100% natural, but still cause reactions in people who are sensitive to scents. Natural scents and synthetic scents can be chemically identical. And as you would know, most vanilla scents are artificial/chemical.

      So far for my own products, I am choosing them to reduce irritation at work, and haven’t chosen the best ones for the environment yet – I need to study those lists!

      I had to laugh, many years ago at work, an employee was sensitive to chemical odours, but brought in a huge spray of wild flowers for her desk, which included goldenrod and ragweed!

  9. Lisa

    You are right, people may believe that a product that is ‘natural’ is not a chemical(s) or harmful. A substance derived from Chrysanthemums (the ‘mum’ flower) called pyrethrin is still a powerful insecticide, and can be toxic to animals beyond the insects it is used on (I’m including humans as animals). I’m annoyed when I see it in the store and it’s labeled as ‘safe’. Also, most substances can be toxic – it’s all a matter of dose!

    I forgot the one product that I still use that is ‘bad’, and that is hairspray. I can’t seem to find a suitable, friendlier product. My answer is to pick the one with the better rating and use it sparingly. Trying to reduce my footprint, but still have a footprint!

  10. I’ve never come across a designated ‘scent free’ work place- a place I worked previously had a ‘no excessive perfume’ policy, because the manager reacted to strong smells.

    No scents would be not be practical where I work now- but hopefully as the scents come from essential oils, fewer people will be affected. I know certain essential oils have a tendency to cause reactions with repeated exposure, though, and as Lisa says most things are toxic in the right (or wrong!) dose.

    It’d be nice if people could accept colleagues requests to wear less perfume etc with good grace and without labelling them as ‘complainers’! I suppose there is often a lack of empathy, as the perfume wearers are not affected themselves and can’t imagine what it is like.

    • Forgot to add to the above ramble- some body sprays like Lynx make me feel quite ill (the ‘Lynx effect’ for me is nausea!). I also have a friend whose pug had a really bad reaction- he temporarily couldn’t walk- when he went into the bathroom where her husband had been liberally spraying Lynx or similar spray. Even if I didn’t hate the smell, I’m not sure that I’d want such sprays in the house having heard that story!

      • Yeah, Lynx is the UK version of Axe that others have mentioned here. I know teachers live in fear of it with their 13-year-old male students – those kids have no sense of subtlety, LOL! Here, Axe has a reputation as a teen boy product so adults wouldn’t use it. Not good news about the effect on pets, though – obviously doesn’t sound too good for people, either!

    • Hey Nicola – I just have to mention that as an extremely allergic person, “natural” scents are much more likely to trigger a true allergic reaction (as in an immune system response) than artificial ones are. I once had a very serious reaction to tree balsam in a shampoo that I was using. When you have a true allergic reaction, it’s the proteins in the substance that triggers it – chemicals generally have less proteins than “natural” scents do. Just an FYI.

      • Interesting- I am a fairly unallergic person, so I have not really had to deal with reactions to substances, ‘natural’ or ‘unnatural’. I have read that certain essential oils are known to cause ‘sensitisation’ with repeated use- I guess they have more proteins that people tend to be allergic to. I’ve also read on the internet (so, who knows how true it is!) that essential oils are particularly toxic to cats, who can’t metabolise them. So I am really careful with everything I use!

        Do you react to other people’s products, or do they have to be on your skin?

    • I think that’s it exactly. Also I think some people don’t feel “dressed up” or “pretty” unless they are wearing cologne. I believe there are people who react poorly to essential oils and certain natural products, but they tend to avoid shops and malls where they’re sold.

  11. EcoCatLady

    I’ve never even heard of the concept of a “scent free” workplace. Canada sounds like such a forward thinking place. I remember when I still worked at the music school we had an ongoing battle with our janitor because all of our bathrooms were interior rooms with very little ventilation and he would use these horrible pink hockey puck things in the toilet that had such an intense odor that most of us could hardly stand to go in there! So once a week he’d put a pink hockey puck in each toilet, and the next day someone from the staff would go remove them all. Oh my…

    Anyhow, I went scent-free years ago for allergic reasons, and these days I can hardly stand the smell of anything scented – especially the artificial stuff. I kinda can’t believe that toxic soup once smelled good to me. I actually use virtually no personal care products these days – just baking soda, citric acid, & coconut oil in various combinations. But… if you’re interested in truly unscented shampoo, there is a brand called Free & Clear shampoo & conditioner that my allergist recommended.

    • I first heard of scent-free workplaces from my sister who works in a hospital – they are VERY strict about it, even/especially with visitors. With the staff, there is a no tolerance policy. I seem to be OK with the products I use now, in that they don’t bother even the most scent-sensitive at work. But I do want to think about reducing the use of toxins on my own self, so I’ll keep looking into it!

  12. Another thought-provoking post, Dar.

    I know I wear too much of some scents, but other scents make me feel quite ill. You are spot on when you say one cannot tell other people that one’s scent shouldn’t bother them. I actually vomited from someone spraying Lynx and have banned it in my home. Like you when I get a cold, some smells make me cough. It’s like a tickle or scratching in my lungs, not my nose. Others actually make me feel like I can’t breathe out. There are so many handwash lotions that I can’t stand, the smell stays on my hands all day and gives me a headache, so I only use water when I wash my hands out in public. (Water is actually enough if you rub your hands.) and funnily enough, I can’t stand the smell of Vasoline moisturising lotion! Makes my nose itch.

    There’s a brand of perfum that was popular a few years ago. I could always pick when people where wearing it as I would feel ill. When I guessed the brand, the wearer often smiled with pride that they were wearing the scent and I could guess it. Didn’t deflate them by saying I could pick it because I felt ill.

    Scent is so personal, as is a person’s reaction to it. The response I hate the most is, “Well, I think it is nice and I don’t react” implying it must all be in your mind. I love the line, if someone else tells you are wearing too much, you are. Similarly, if someone says they react, they do. Some some respect. And don’t get offended. The smellee can’t help it.

    • Well said, Lucinda! My hair cutting place used to use Aveda products, which have a high percentage of natural botanicals in them, and I would wash my hair again as soon as I got home because I disliked it so much. Recently the most scent-sensitive person in our workplace complained about the strong scents used by a co-worker, and wouldn’t you know, they were using Aveda – I recognized it immediately!

  13. Thank you for sharing more about this – I know I was wondering about it. It’s not a policy I’ve heard of in Australia. I work with mainly men, and there’s very little in the way of scents. The worst, as someone said, is food heated and eaten at the desk.

    That being said, I usually wear perfume if I remember most days. Not drench in it, just two sprays. I try to wear a work shirt two days running, and I find the perfume is a nice faint scent on day two. I also wash my hair daily – I used to really notice the shampoos smell, and now don’t? I just changed the shampoo bar, so I bet I’ll notice the new scent more.

    You raised a very good point about starting things like scent free workplaces before it becomes someone’s request. Resentment for the new scent sensitive person could be a real issue, so I like your approach.

    • It would be nice to wear perfume outdoors/on site! Do you use more on no-work days? I have work / activities all weekend so can’t use scents…not too happy about that, but Oh Well. BTW, I make my own laundry detergent but use a lemon scented soap in it – no one has noticed or commented.

      • I did notice the named scents and wondered. Our washing powder is home made and smells of nothing, imo, compared to commerical products.

        I don’t wear more perfume on weekends, always two squirts! But I won’t put it on til I’m going ‘out’, not just for around the home sorts of stuff.

  14. jamielredmond

    Very interesting.
    I have come across one workplace in Australia that is scent free. At the clinic where my husband did work experience after finishing high school there was a staff member who was very sensitive. I think it was a bit complicated because she interacted with so many members of the public each day. I think that when people made an appointment for an x-ray they would be asked to come scent free.

    • Yes, I know for medical tests they make a point of telling you not to use any products, and they will ask you to wash them off at the hospital if you forgot! At the library where I work, of course we don’t send out members of the public who have used scents, but if we were to see someone about to spray themselves in the library, we would intervene!

  15. What?! I had never heard of unscented buildings. Clearly, this is not something taken into account here in the States yet (at least not in my geographical area). I applaud the idea of scent-free buildings. Too often, clouds of perfumes, body sprays, etc. pollute the environment, and while I don’t have a sensitivity per say, I don’t care to walk through those environments, inhaling who knows what while trying to conduct business. I’m curious to try your unscented products from more of a naturalist standpoint, so thank you for sharing!

    • I have started looking up the products I use on the websites that Lisa mentioned, http://www.goodguide.com and http://www.ewg.org/skindeep

      It’s still confusing because they recommend products which are low-toxin but highly scented, and they list things like grapefruit seed extract and citric acid as toxins!

      • Lisa

        I know sometimes the overall rating can be confusing and it is wise to look at the rating of the individual components in the ingredient list to determine what is causing the issues and then make a judgement from there based on your knowledge and concerns. As you have mentioned, a natural substance, say, lavender, could be of low-toxicity, but is still highly scented. Maybe it has something to do with both these databases being US based, and as we have heard above, the US may not be focusing on the scent-sensitivity issue.

        Also, remember what I said, everything in the right dose is a toxin or “the dose makes the poison.” I looked up both citric acid and GF seed extract and I see them as being rated as very low concern, low to no toxicity, and therefore `safe`. Citric acid is a mild acid, as is vinegar, and if you poor enough of either of them into water you could harm fish, but the GoodGuide did state citric acid “raises no health concern”.

      • Thanks, Lisa, I feel like I have a lot to learn.

  16. I love the idea of scent-free workplaces 🙂 I’m not allergic, but just don’t like strong chemical scents. Even when I was a kid, I would hold my breath when we walked past the perfume counter in shops. Sadly, I don’t think we have anything like that in Australia

  17. linda

    If fragranced products weren’t so full of neuro-toxic, endocrine disrupting, and carcinogenic chemicals, we wouldn’t need to be having conversations like this.

    Some of the health effects caused by these fragrances are truly disabling and can be life threatening to people who have “sensitivities” to the pollution.

    Chemicals used in fragrance these days are being linked to chronic health conditions like diabetes, asthma and autism.

    I am glad that there are more fragrance free environments, but for someone with allergies and “sensitivities” to fragrance chemicals, there is almost no place in the world to get away from them now, they are everywhere, and just like tobacco smoke, they stick to everything and can cause problems from 2nd and 3rd hand exposures!

    This can make purchasing basic daily essentials like food challenging too. Research showed that over 90% of supermarket foods tested had phthalate and paraben residues in them. Some of that contamination is from all the laundry and other products with fragrance chemicals off-gassing in the stores!

    Just like smoking has been banned in most indoor environments, it makes sense to ban fragrances, which can be made of over 3000 ingredients, including petro-chemicals like toluene, benzene, formaldehyde, and others. Google “IFRA ingredients” to see the list (and just like the tobacco industry claimed their products were safe, the fragrance industry makes similar claims now)

    But even banning them from indoor environments like schools and workplaces isn’t enough, as they get pumped out of dryer vents everywhere fragranced laundry products are used, which means some people can’t open their windows or sit in their own gardens, because these chemicals do not respect property lines. Same in apartment buildings where all the air gets shared. There is no escape and no way to protect oneself in those circumstances.

    We all have to breathe, and we shouldn’t be forced to breathe oil, gas, coal and petrochemical based pollutants, which is what most fragrances contain these days!

    It’s mind boggling to me that these toxic chemicals are even allowed into so many everyday products and materials. That is the main issue and problem. They can legally poison us now, just a little at a time…

    • I see what you mean. Just like when you live in a city, you are forced to breathe exhaust fumes even if you don’t own a car. I really do think that regulatory agencies should have the authority to crack down on toxic ingredients, and that the fragrance industry should not have the power they do to influence governments (just like all other polluters).

      • linda

        Exactly! That people get sick from toxic exposures in everyday life is a big policy failure!
        Polluting for profit while externalizing the costs (health care and environmental degradation) is what happens now.

        Why are they even allowed to make cars that exhaust to the outside instead of the inside?
        If there were laws prohibiting dangerous exhaust and air pollution, we’d have non-toxic cars and public transportation and products and materials that are safe even for babies. Did you see the latest from Greenpeace about all the toxic chemicals in childrens clothes, or know that J&J’s Baby Shampoo and Tide’s Free and Clear had toxic chemicals in them?

        So often I see the fragrance free policy debates turn into arguments about personal freedoms… which demonstrates a total lack of understanding about what’s at stake from a public (and personal) health perspective.

        Thanks for having a discussion about this here.

        By the way, where did you get the “about 40% of Canadians work in a scent-free building” stat from?

        That seems really high (or maybe someone thought the placement of a sign stating there was a scent free policy even if there’s no enforcement of it, would somehow qualify for inclusion in that stat?)

        And for a hair styling product that has no smell when it dries, try a little palmful of beer (flat will do) rubbed into your hair when wet. Then style and let dry. I used to use that all the time (I could buy a single bottle of beer for just that use, and kept it in the fridge in a screwtop or well sealed bottle or jar). The next morning you can dampen your hands and restyle, and you’re good to go again.

      • I looked hard for the source of that 40% figure but couldn’t find it so I will delete it. The Globe and Mail article I referred to says that about one-third of workplaces have some restriction on scents, which isn’t the same thing.

        I agree about the personal freedoms argument. By that logic, someone should be able to smoke at the next desk to you, or text and drive. I think we need policy and laws to protect us from ourselves 🙂

      • linda

        Yes!
        I think the first laws we need are to protect us from corporations and industries to stop them from polluting us for profit! There is a movement to make Ecocide a crime, and I think it would really help.
        I really hope it doesn’t take 50 years to get fragrance chemicals restricted like it did for tobacco smoke. Future generations need a major reduction of fossil fuel, petrochemical and other pollutants now.

  18. Julie D

    I love the comment you made, “that if perfume can be smelled past the confines of your desk…past two feet, you are wearing too much”. Usually, I read comments like, “too bad, I like perfume and if you don’t, too bad”. I don’t have a problem with people wearing fragrance at work if I don’t have to smell it all day. I am having this issue at work for the last few months. I work with a 79 year old woman as my co-partner. Her spot is about 7 feet from my desk. She had been wearing this strong floral scent that you could smell when you walked in the front door. On the days she wore it lighter, I could only smell it unless I walked by her. But most of the time, it was very strong and made me sneeze. Then, about two weeks ago, I noticed she wasn’t wearing it anymore and was very relieved. That didn’t last long…now she has a new scent and it’s much worse and stronger than the one before. The first day, I got the worst sinus headache but had to just “suck it up”. I have gone to HR about it but they tell me that “too much perfume” is subjective to each person. What the heck???? They told me I would have to talk to her about it but, I know from hearing her talk about others in her theater group that have said something to her, that she does not care and told me that they would just have to deal with it. People have a right to do what makes them happy but what about the other person? Don’t they have any rights? I am getting really close to saying something but just haven’t worked up the nerve yet.

    • Wow, Julie, what a bad situation! I would be so annoyed, I would be tempted to think up some nasty social behaviour to irritate the other person, like listening to the radio at my desk, or inviting my friends to drop by and have lunch with me at my desk, or eating foods that annoy her like tuna or curry! But seriously, I bet it only takes one unpleasant behaviour from each person in the office to make a point. Evidently you are taking the high road. I guess you will have to say something or she could say later that she didn’t know.

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