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Lawsuit Results in Fragrance Ban for Detroit City Employees





MCS America

Lourdes Salvador's Column

...Co-founder of MCS America discusses the latest Multiple Chemical Sensitivity issues.








Lourdes Salvador volunteers as a writer and social advocate for the recognition of multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS). She was a passionate advocate for the homeless and worked with her local governor to provide services to the homeless through a new approach she created to end homelessness. That passion soon turned to advocacy and activism for people with MCS and the medical professionals who serve them. She co-founded MCS Awareness in 2005 and went on to found MCS America in 2006. She serves as a partner for Environmental Education Week, a partner for the Collaborative on Health and the Environment (CHE), and a supporter for the American Cancer Society: Campaign for Smokefree Air.


For more information visit MCS America




Monday, April 19th, 2010:


Lawsuit Results in Fragrance Ban for Detroit City Employees


by Lourdes Salvador

Warning placards will be placed in three city buildings in Detroit, Michigan to remind workers that the use of scented products has been banned.

This change is the result of a recent federal lawsuit in which a city employee, Susan McBride, was awarded $100,000 by the United States District Court under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when a co-worker's perfume created a breathing problem.

The settlement names the City of Detroit, all employees, and agents of the City as those who must abide by the new fragrance free policy.

Notices about the new scent free policy will also appear in the city´s employee handbook and will be discussed during routine ADA training. The text of the notices will read:

"Our goal is to be sensitive to employees with perfume and chemical sensitivities.  In order to accommodate employees who are medically sensitive to the chemicals in scented product, the City of Detroit requests that you refrain from wearing scented products, including but not limited to colognes, after-shave lotions, perfumes, deodorants, body/face lotions, hair sprays or similar products.  the City of Detroit also asks you to refrain the use of scented candles, perfume samples from magazines, spray or solid air fresheners, room deodorizers, plug-in wall air fresheners, cleaning compounds or similar products.  Our employees with medical chemical sensitivities thank you for your cooperation."

Becoming scent free is not as easy as it sounds. People who do not apply perfume or cologne are frequently unaware that they still wear fragrance in the form of hidden scents they carry on their body. Fragrance is added to the vast majority of lotions, soaps, hair care products, after shave, laundry products, and other personal care items.

Some employees have misunderstood the policy to mean that they are no longer allowed to practice good hygiene. This has caused comments such as, "I´d rather smell perfume than body odor." However, adding perfume to body odor does nothing more than add to odor. Sometimes the combination can be downright nauseating.

Strong perfume is usually a sign that someone does not practice good hygiene and is trying to cover up an odor, rather than bathing regularly. Perfume was used centuries ago when running water was not available for bathing. Thus, in our modern civilization where running water is readily available, perfume is nothing more than a mark that people wear for varying reasons, including status. Many have been brainwashed into thinking that perfume makes them smell good or sexy.

Quite to the contrary, the City´s new policy encourages good hygiene practice. There are many quality unscented soaps, lotions, deodorants, and hair care products on the market. There are also many natural solutions which do the job just as well for pennies on the dollar. Avoiding fragrance actually encourages routine bathing, which is a benefit to the health of staff and visitors.

Scent is not added to products to make them clean better or work better and has nothing to do with how well a product works. From a profit perspective, manufacturers generally add scent to products for branding reasons to encourage people to become addicted to the scent, therefore become brand loyal.

Many people with allergies, asthma, fatigue, and other common health problems don´t realize that the fragrances that they are always surrounded with may be the cause of their health issues. Because someone who is allergic to the scent in their laundry soap is surrounded by it every moment (clothing, bedding, towels), there is rarely an opportunity to be in a non-exposure situation where the link to improved health can be made.

Scented laundry products are among the most difficult to remove from fabrics because manufactures add a chemical plasticizer to laundry detergents and fabric softeners to hold in that "long lasting freshness". Ten to twenty washes may not be enough to remove this scent because it is chemically bound to the fabric. For people who are allergic or sensitive to the chemicals used in
these scents, a garment can rarely be decontaminated.







Facts About Fragrances

There are 3,000 – 5,000 chemicals used in fragrance.

95% of these chemicals are derived from petroleum.

Over 80% of the chemicals in fragrance have not been tested for human toxicity.

Some of the chemicals found in fragranced products are on the EPA hazardous waste list.

The perfume industry is not regulated by any government agency and is not required to disclose the ingredients in "fragrance".

The National Academy of Sciences targeted fragrances as one of the six categories of chemicals that should be given high priority for neurotoxicity testing.

Personal Care Products to Avoid

  • Perfume and Cologne
  • All Scented Products - including soaps, shampoo, conditioner, and bath products
  • Scented Lotions
  • Scented Shaving Cream
  • Scented Aftershave
  • Scented Deodorants and Anti-Perspirants
  • Scented Hair Spray
  • Scented Hair Gel and Mousse
  • Scented Hair Color
  • Scented Shampoo and Conditioner
  • Scented Nail Polish and Remover
  • Scented Make-up
  • Scented Anti-Bacterial Hand Wipes or Hand Sanitizer
  • Other Scented Toiletries

Personal Care Products to Use Instead

  • Scent - use essential oils if tolerated or eliminate perfume
  • Fragrance Free Products - soaps, shampoo, conditioner, and bath products
  • Lotion - use unscented versions or natural oils such as jojoba, coconut, and olive oil
  • Shaving Cream - soap
  • Aftershave - witch hazel or hydrogen peroxide
  • Deodorant - peroxide, natural salt crystal, baking soda, unscented deodorants
  • Hair Styling - aloe vera gel, lemon juice
  • Hair Color - natural variations, peroxide to bleach, all natural henna for color
  • Shampoo / Conditioner - unscented variations, baking soda, vinegar, citric acid, oils
  • Nail Polish and Remover - safer variations from a health food store or go au natural
  • Make-up - unscented, natural variations or go au natural

A copy of the McBride v. the City of Detroit settlement agreement may be downloaded from

A fragrance fact sheet may be downloaded from


Massachusetts Nurses Association (MNA). Fragrance Free! Creating a Safe Health Care Environment. 2007.

Steinemann AC. Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients. Environ Impact Asses Rev (2008), doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2008.05.002.






For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.


Copyrighted 2010 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America



Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Forums



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