Is it Time for Your Workplace to go Fragrance-Free?

Many employers are opting for a fragrance-free workplace, to the benefit of their employees and themselves. On the employer’s end, failure to accommodate employees who request a fragrance-free environment can constitute a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as affecting productivity. For employee with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) and other medical conditions, scents in the workplace can cause severe health problems, and even force them to quit their jobs.

Not a Frivolous Complaint

People who don’t have a problem with scented products are often dismissive or even downright hateful toward those who have real health issues caused by exposure to fragrances and other chemicals. Those who are most strongly affected by scented products include those with:

  • Multiple chemical sensitivities
  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder (COPD)
  • Allergies
  • Migraines
  • Autoimmune diseases

Exposure to scented products can cause serious and potentially life-threatening reactions including:

  • Reactive airway dysfunction syndrome (RADS)
  • Asthma attack
  • Headache
  • Migraine
  • Nausea
  • Dizziness
  • Mental confusion
  • Skin irritation
  • Hives
  • Eye irritation and inflammation

Following the CDC’s Lead

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has been fragrance-free since 2009. Its policy prohibits the use of scented or fragranced products in all indoor spaces. This includes:

  • Spray and plug-in air fresheners
  • Incense
  • Candles
  • Potpourri
  • Any fragrance-emitting device
  • Urinal and toilet deodorizers

Applying personal care products at work is prohibited and the CDC encourages its employees to refrain from coming to work wearing scented personal products or clothes that have been laundered with scented products. The policy even states that, “fragrance is not appropriate for a professional work environment.”

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