Lourdes Salvador's Column
...Co-founder of MCS America discusses the latest Multiple Chemical Sensitivity issues.
Odors in the Workplace
by Lourdes Salvador
Researchers Dalton and Jaén of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania say, "There is mounting evidence that the presence of airborne chemicals that produce odor and irritation can be a significant impediment to a productive and healthy workforce, even among individuals without chemical sensitivity."
Environmental chemicals affect all of us in one way or another. Some are more profoundly affected than others. Asthma, allergies, cancer, chemical sensitivity, and migraines have all been linked to chemical exposure.
Most of us don´t realize we are being bombarded by chemicals every day. Some often overlooked examples include perfumes and fragranced products, air fresheners, newly and previously applied pesticides, wood smoke, and petroleum based products.
"Studies investigating odor and irritant-induced symptoms in occupational environments suggest that poor indoor air quality, coupled with psychosocial factors such as the work environment, personality and stress, can lead to the development of building-related complaints and exacerbate chemical intolerance and symptoms," say Dalton and Jaén.
Even chemicals which generate the pleasant odors we enjoy may cause health problems. Recently, scent makers have made a push for introducing scent through the HVAC systems in stores and buildings. They claim these signature scents keep customers in stores longer and increase productivity and improve mood in the workplace.
However, Dalton and Jaén assert that, "the practice of introducing pleasant odors in the workplace to improve productivity and mood is not well supported by current research." And, "Managing the response to odors and irritants in the workplace is critical to maintaining the health and well being of workers."
As more and more workers request workplace accommodations to reduce exposure to chemical laden perfumes and fragrances used by co-workers, lawsuits are beginning to pop up. One recent lawsuit involved a $100,000 settlement and new scent free workplace policy for City of Detroit employees when a worker, Susan McBride, filed a lawsuit after the City failed to remedy a problem with a co-workers strong scent that was causing breathing problems.
"There is a critical need for regulatory organizations in the United States and elsewhere to harmonize guidelines for occupational exposure limits, say Dalton and Jaén. Management must educate workers and engage in solutions when these situations arise, not only for the health of the complainant, but also for the health and productivity of the entire workforce.
Because the vast majority of people misperceive scents and odors as harmless, Dalton and Jaén assert that, "management must engage in risk communication and education of workers in order to ensure that misperception of risk from odors does not lead to illness and loss of well being."
More importantly, each of us must educate ourselves regarding the health dangers of these common, everyday products. The assumption that such products have been safety tested is disproved by the fact that over 80% of the chemicals on the market used to make these products have not been tested for human safety. We must learn to sift through the propaganda industry presents to generate sales and work to uncover the truth.
Before you decide you´d rather smell of perfume than body odor, consider that there are many natural and scent free soaps and deodorants which control body odor. Perfume was used to cover up body odor many years ago before societies had running water to take daily bathes. Many people still consider the use of heavy fragrance to mean that someone is too lazy to bathe.
Scents are health hazards. The United States District Court agreed in McBride v the City of Detroit.
Dalton PH, Jaén C. Responses to odors in occupational environments. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Feb 1.
For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.
Copyrighted 2010 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America