View Full Version : Perfume in the Workplace New 2nd Hand Smoke

10-25-10, 11:10 AM
This is a very long but good article. The rest of the PDF can be found at the link on the bottom

It took decades for the workplace to acknowledge the dangers of smoking and to recognize the deadly effects of exposure to second-hand smoke. Once acknowledged, it was a few more years before the workplace became safe for all workers from the dangers of second hand smoke. We propose in this paper that fragrance is following the same trajectory. To date most of the research on fragrance exposure has been localized in the health care profession and has not received the necessary attention it deserves in the management literature for managers to become knowledgeable about the extent of employer liability and what constitutes a good faith effort to protect workers. This paper serves as a much-needed bridge to fill this vital gap in managerial knowledge.

Current laws (e.g., Americans with Disabilities Act, Workers Compensation, and OSHA regulations) are identified that can be applied to fragrance exposure. The relevant laws and subsequent court cases are analyzed and the legal liability they create for employers with employees exposed to synthetic fragrance in the workplace are clearly identified. We also provide recommendations for organizations who want to demonstrate a good faith effort and be proactive to reduce or limit employees’ fragrance exposure in the workplace, before being sued We present the results of several organizations that have some experience with addressing the issue in their workplaces and identify the lessons learned We conclude by recommending actions employers can take to proactively respond (react) to common situations of exposure that arise for employees with fragrance sensitivity.

The parallels between second-hand smoke and synthetic fragrance use are many. At its core, both are battles over indoor air quality. In the 1960’s, when a few people began complaining about second-hand smoke and possible negative effects on health, the general public and business considered this a fringe movement that was unlikely to gain steam. In 1965, 42.4% of Americans over the age of 25 smoked (CDC, 2007). Smoking was the norm and even tobacco companies did not expect significant change to occur in public perception or behavior. Smoke-free city ordinances date back to 1985 initiated by the city of Aspen, CO (Isaacs et al., 2006). This marked the beginning of dramatic change that culminated with at least 30 states and the District of Columbia passing comprehensive smoke-free laws by June 2007 (Rutkow, Vernick & Teret, 2007). In addition, many local governments and businesses have instituted smoking bans as of 2008 (Bosky, 2008). According to the American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation, currently 50% or more of the US population lives in jurisdictions with restrictions on second-hand smoke.
Similarly, non-fragrance companies that sell fragrance based products (e.g., cleaning products, polishes, and laundry products) are still largely unconcerned by the general public’s increasing awareness that everyday products may be detrimental to their health.

The U.S. consumer is as uneducated about the dangers and health risks associated with constant exposure to the chemicals used in synthetic fragrance products as the average non-smoker was to the risks of second-hand smoke. When ignorance is replaced with knowledge, a large segment of the population will respond with a demand for clean and safe air in the workplace. In the United States and Canada, an increasing number of clinics, schools, public buildings and meetings, buses and workplaces have declared their institutions fragrance-free: a paradigm shift is beginning.

There are key differences between encounters with passive smoke and synthetic fragrance. Passive smoke is visible and easily identified as a by-product of someone smoking cigarettes or cigars in near proximity to others, whereas synthetic fragrance is a vapor that eludes identification. As used today, fragrance is almost unlimited in where it is found and is used in hundreds of everyday, personal care products. Synthetic fragrance is not clearly defined by the manufacturer labels for the consumer to see because the FDA protects the use of fragrance under the provision of “trade secrets” established for the perfume industry many years ago (USFDA).

Synthetic fragrance is added to many products to mask the odor of noxious chemicals contained in disinfectants and cleaning products. Manufacturers using synthetic fragrance need only include the word “fragrance” on the ingredients label to comply with the FDA trade secret standard. Because of these differences, businesses underestimate the potential likelihood of a fragrance free movement reaching the same level of public awareness as passive smoke and having as far reaching and broad results as the nonsmoking movement, which banned smoking in organizations and businesses at local and statewide levels. This could prove costly to all businesses, including businesses that produce synthetic fragrance based products, and businesses that only use synthetic fragrance or allow it into the workplace.

The American Nonsmokers’ Rights Foundation released a largely unknown documentary, “Death in the West”, which showed the contrast between the advertising of Marlboro cigarettes as a sexy and an attractive lifestyle to be desired against the reality of actual cowboys dying of smoking- related diseases. Phillip Morris, a tobacco company, censored the documentary after its first airing in 1976 (ANR, 1976). This decisive, quick, and aggressive action to the movie was characteristic of tobacco companies’ responses to information about the dangers of passive smoke. Fragrance companies are cautiously following their example.

In Halifax, Nova Scotia, many of the public and private organizations went fragrance free over 10 years ago. Several retailers have noticed greater than a 30% drop in sales of perfume since the fragrance-free policies were implemented. Companies have responded in various ways, some have reduced the percentage of floor space devoted to perfume. Others have instituted policies that are reminiscent of the tobacco industry such as changing their marketing strategies and developing a new product mix though their responses are less confrontational than the tobacco industry. For example, tobacco companies made their products more addictive, they marketed aggressively to other regions such as Asian markets, and focused their advertising to very specific segments.

Fragrance companies and associations are also changing their marketing strategies by creating pamphlets instructing people on how to wear scent. The Canadian Cosmetics, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association developed such a pamphlet in 1999 titled, “Enjoying Your Fragrance”. Instructions on how to wear fragrance seem to imply that there is a proper, correct, and safe way to wear perfume. Additionally, some companies are actively promoting unscented cosmetics. The inference is that, unscented cosmetics are fragrance free which is not always true. The two terms are not interchangeable — which is what smokers found out when they changed to smokeless tobacco.

Today a wide range of products are sold using the same general theme as the Marlboro ads: life is better;


10-25-10, 12:33 PM
Ahhh, banning fragrances YES YES YES. With my sinuses, I almost suffocate if I have to walk past the perfume section in department stores. Even had to ask a colleague to change/stop wearing her perfume once, as I couldn't use my microscope with her in the room, I was teary as a baby. She was very understanding and stopped immediately. Now for teenage girls - they seem to think the more perfume you wear the more boys it attracts, I couldn't even stay in the house when mine were getting ready to go partying a few years ago - be interesting to do some olfactory research on 29 year old males in about 10 years.

10-25-10, 12:44 PM
In the USA the fad now is plug-in fragrance dispensers-especially in bathrooms with very little ventilation. The plug-ins have a fan that wafts the narsty synthetic stuff all over....I live in an area with a high rate of asthma and even the HOSPITALS have this stuff in their bathrooms.


10-25-10, 12:50 PM
Reesacat, kindly remove your post above, if this takes off in Oz it will be your fault, I will die! My will would then give instruction to seek you out and shoot you slowly so it hurts more!

10-25-10, 01:08 PM
Maybe this movement is finally gaining traction. When I served on the local school board, 12-14 years ago, we passed a no-fragrance policy for the entire district (8 towns). I assume hospitals and doctors' offices are the same. At least I've never noticed fragrances, but then again, I'm not there very often!

10-25-10, 01:23 PM
Reesacat, kindly remove your post above, if this takes off in Oz it will be your fault, I will die! My will would then give instruction to seek you out and shoot you slowly so it hurts more!
Islander lent me her super powers for a minute and the post is hidden from all who would poison us.....and they will have to hold their breath, too!
Going back to my secret identity in 3...2...1....

10-25-10, 01:31 PM
Reesacat, kindly remove your post above, if this takes off in Oz it will be your fault, I will die! My will would then give instruction to seek you out and shoot you slowly so it hurts more!
I am assuming fragrance plug in's etc. have not hit the rage in Oz?? :rolleyes::rolleyes:

Horrible things...should be banned along with noxious floor cleaners, hairspray/styling/deodorant products, hair dyes, perfumed makeup/skin care....nail polish...need I go on???? Blecccchkt....

10-25-10, 03:24 PM
Part of the problem with perfumes is that when you wear them regularly, you can no longer smell them. That seems to motivate folks to shower in the stuff. I've not worn perfumes for many, many years, but i used to. I would choose ones i liked, but was always disappointed as i couldn't smell them on myself after a week or so. Rather than up the amount i used, i just stopped wearing them.

I remember as a kid my mother would use a very liberal amount of Emeraude. She would get in the car & we had 10 miles to drive to church & i would choke & gag the whole way & be nauseous most of the morning. Can't stand the smell of that one.

One of my husband's friends seems to simply shower in some sort of cologne. If he merely sits in our car, i can smell that stuff for a couple of weeks. I can barely stand to be around him, much less a hug (he is a hugger).

I met my husband when i had a roommate who put those "fragranced" candles & "air fresheners" everywhere in our house. This was before my days of natural health, but i sure hated those things. I did limit where she could put them, but they seemed to grow, i swear. When she moved out, she kindly left a few of the candles around for me. We were doing a happy dance throwing the things away. She was my nicest roommate (didn't have much luck in that area) but i sure couldn't stand some of her habits with product.

Sigh. Do wish folks would give up this nasty stuff.

10-25-10, 05:41 PM
The Veteran's administration and the neighboring Medical University of South Carolina feel that it is more important to "mask" restroom odors than give credence to someone who is sensitive. Various comments I've gotten from my complaints:
MUSC: Don't you realize how important it is to not have odors in the restrooms? That is offensive. Me: Keeping it clean would keep odors at bay. Fragranced air fresheners and toilet bowl cleaners (squirts into the toilets automatically with each flush) are also ODORS and are offensive to me and make me sick. MUSC: Well, I think you're wrong about that.

VA: The LAW dictates that we use these things in the restrooms.
Me: No the law dictates that they be clean, you show me anywhere where it dictates fragranced air fresheners and the junk that squirts in the toilet.
VA: Well, maybe not the law, but we have to use what we're given.

VA: Riding 5 floors in an elevator with a lady wearing enough perfume to stink up the entire hospital actually landed me in the ER....this is the doctor's response to my saying what caused the asthma attack.
"I'm sure you are exaggerating and that short an exposure could not have triggered this. Your asthma isn't controlled and the perfume has nothing to do with this. There is no such thing as chemical sensitivity. If you really get asthma from scents, it is psychological and you need to see Mental Health.

Local Hospital where I was admitted for asthma and I told the nurse who came in to do an EKG that she had to leave:

"Well, I'm sorry if my perfume offends you but we have to take showers and smell good or we'll offend a lot more than just one patient".

Me: "Are you saying I have body odor and am offensive to you as I use no scented products but I do shower?"
Nurse: "Well, I didn't mean it like that".

Anyway, absolutely no kind of appropriate response to verbal and written complaints. Was also told in the hospital that the tech I had was assigned to me and they could not substitute anyone else. She was covered from head to toe in some kind of stinky lotion. Remember I was there for uncontrolled asthma.

The US (the south anyway) medical system is ignorant and continues to insist anything they aren't familiar with doesn't exist and indicates a psychiatric disorder.

10-25-10, 07:27 PM
Uugh my pet hate. And unfortunately those smelly air freshener things are here too... and make me so sick. One of my flatmates put one in our lounge not long ago while I was on holiday (our flat's quite damp and mouldy so it does smell, but it's not so bad if you leave all the doors open in the day if somebody's home and air it out). I got back and just about choked, had to run into my room upstairs, slam the door, open the window, and breathe through a sheet for two hours until my room aired out enough - and my room is above the room it was in!! I took the battery out of the thing immediately and tried airing the place out but it was about two weeks before I could safely sit in the lounge again.

My partner's Mum also uses them all through the house in the UK. Probably because my partner and his father smoke - often in the kitchen and laundry (ewwww) - so the place probably does need freshening up, but really, what's so wrong with opening windows? I get that it's often really cold over there and you need to keep the heat inside, but it's not like that all the time. Whenever they went away and it was just us two in the house the first thing I'd do was take out the batteries, lol.

My best friend is the worst for perfume though. Been wearing it so long she can't smell it so she ends up smothering herself in it. And she smokes too which doesn't help. Gag. Just about chokes me in the car sometimes. Her mother pretty much taught her that if you don't wear perfume you smell bad and so on, so she can't go without it, it's like a compulsion.

As for me? Well, once every 4 months or so I might use a spray of something, but not often and it's the only one I've ever found that I can tolerate (got another couple of friends who also react to perfumes and they can both tolerate it with no problems either - it's touted as being 'non-allergenic' and I've seen it advertised as 'natural ingredients', whether or not it is I have no idea, certainly doesn't smell natural, but interesting anyway). That's usually only if I'm going out for coffee somewhere the morning after a night out and haven't had a chance to wash my jacket and it reeks of cigarettes and sweat from clubs, lol. When I do I make sure we sit outside though and as soon as I'm home I wash the whole thing, so the smell never hangs around long. Probably why I can handle it, lol.

But usually it's just a decent natural deodorant and a daily shower and that's good enough for me. Can't understand the need to swim in perfume. Clean people with good personal hygiene don't smell.

10-25-10, 08:13 PM
Just read in a magazine (with no attribution, unfortunately) that magnesium deficiency can cause overly stinky sweat. Worth a try, anyway...

10-25-10, 08:49 PM
People who eat crap diets always seem to stink more too. Presumably all them extra toxins trying to work their way out.

10-25-10, 10:30 PM
With CFIDS you get bouts of foul-smelling sweats (maybe from the retro-viral infection?) especially if you present with the classic flu-like illness. When I went gluten and dairy free and stopped processed food it eliminated the smelly sweats. I was also on magnesium and other supplements, and eating a lot of produce and taking chlorella.