700 people falling ill at Camp Hill Medical Center in Halifax, Nova Scotia gave birth to the fragrance free movement. The year was 1990. Some kind of chemical contamination was the cause. After the air cleared, about 100 people (including doctors and nurses) claimed their symptoms lingered so much so they could not return to work.
The people of Halifax were aware of an unusually large number of people were suffering from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) in their area, so a ban; a fragrance ban was put into place.
Other businesses in Halifax climbed onto the bandwagon including the local newspaper and telephone company. A vast majority of Halifax schools also had fragrance bans.
And then this happened
A 17-year old with Dippity Do hair gel and Aqua Vela aftershave went to class at his high school. The scent he was carrying around was against his school’s fragrance ban. And in today’s terms, it went viral. All sorts of news reports and commentary exploded about the impossibility of a fragrance ban, but the idea stuck because scents are harmful to your health.
Consider the San Francisco Ecology House built for 1.8 million in 1996. It was designed for MCS sufferers and in fact they were consulted about materials used. Carpet was avoided in place of tile. Anything that could emit odors was nixed. They even went so far as to have fragrance free plants placed in front of the structure. Unfortunately, too many chemical issues in the building forced residents to go elsewhere.
Mount Saint Vincent University, in Halfax, continues the ban with this doc written in 1998:
- Scented products contain chemicals which can cause serious problems (sore throat, runny nose, sinus congestion, shortness of breath, headache, dizziness, anxiety, anger, fatigue, mental confusion, inability to concentrate, irritability, nausea, and muscle pain) for many people, especially those with asthma, allergies and environmental illness.
- 15-25% of today's population have some type of respiratory problem that can be adversely affected by strong odours from scented products.
- 17% of Canadians suffer from migraine which can be triggered by strongly scented products.
- Approximately 4,000 chemicals are used to make fragrances, and several hundred can be used in a single product.
- Virtually no testing for neurotoxin effects is done on fragrant chemicals, although research on animals has produced severe health problems.
- The University places the onus on individuals to realize the importance of choosing unscented products in creating a health environment for everyone.
Keep in mind those percentages are probably higher today than they were 21 years ago.
Fast forward to 2010
The city of Detroit issued a fragrance ban in their offices after a ruling by a federal lawsuit brought on by Susan McBride, a city senior manager. She said she could no longer do her job in her office because of fragrances worn by other employees. After several years fighting this, McBride won. So, the city installed three signs warning workers to avoid "wearing scented products, including colognes, aftershave lotions, perfumes, deodorants, body/face lotions (and) the use of scented candles, perfume samples from magazines, spray or solid air fresheners".1
2018 - 2019
Nellie’s in Toronto, Canada is a shelter for women and children fleeing from physical abuse. Did you know it has a fragrance free policy for those wanting to donate personal care products to their cause?
A company in AU just came out with the first Unscented Fragrance-Free Air Freshening Solution. They have it correct in calling it unscented AND fragrance free!
Their site also mentions surveys among Americans and Australians and their preferences concerning scents. Americans chose by almost a 60% margin preferring to travel in scent free airplanes. Hotels were a close second at 55% for scent free rooms. Australians were close behind with 57% respectively.2
Linda Sepp comments on her site, Seriously Sensitive to Pollution.com says, “The UK has released their Clean Air Strategy 2019 document and it contains some groundbreaking measures that, if implemented, will have very positive impacts on the environment and our health.”
“It encompasses many areas of air pollution, including indoor air pollutants for the 1st time in any meaningful way, which as NOAA (National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration) recently pointed out, have as large an impact on outdoor air pollution as vehicle exhaust!”3
Closer to home
Love to dance? if you want to attend English Country Dances at Oak Park, IL they too, have a fragrance free policy. They ask to refrain from using perfumes, soaps, conditioners, etc. that emit fragrances.
At the dance venue, they provide fragrance-free hand soap and hand sanitizer. Way to go!
The Portland State University has a fragrance free policy in place, as well as Jefferson City Public Schools in MO.
Or if you’re ill and you’re in Boise, ID there’s always the Boise Natural Health Clinic. They too have a fragrance free policy.
Speaking of travel
A number of hotels now promote Pure rooms that have been sanitized with the worst offenders in a hotel room, the heater or air conditioner. They also have medical grade air purifiers and microfiber mattress and pillow covers among other things.
And if you’re hotel adverse, there are a few sites to find fragrance free homes to rent, although we’d love to see more homes available!
Now let’s work on laundry soap manufacturers…
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.4
Fragrance free signs we like
- PUT YOURSELF IN SOMEONE ELSE’S NOSE
- WE SHARE THE AIR please keep it healthy and fragrance free
- YOUR PERFUME, MY POISON
- FRAGRANCE FREE SEATING ZONE
- THANK YOU FOR NOT WEARING FRAGRANCE
- DO YOU REALLY THINK AIR FRESHENERS FRESHEN THE AIR? (words such as reproductive toxins, allergens, neurotoxins, hormone disruptors etc. float above a spray can)
- SHARE THE RIDE…NOT YOUR FAVORITE MUSK (transit signs in Canada)
- CHOOSE FRIENDSHIPS OVER FRAGRANCES