Thursday, September 21, 2017
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No Scents is Common Sense:

Due to the health concerns arising from exposure to scented products, The Star of Hope Spiritualist Church has instituted this policy to provide a scent-free environment for all members and guests.  We ask that you refrain from using scented products when attending our events.

While “scented products” generally refers to chemical & manufactured scents, we ask that you also use natural aroma oils, etc in moderation (as little as possible -none would be better) when attending our events, as they too can cause discomfort to those of us who are sensitive to aromas.

The following information was taken from the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety website:

What is meant by scent-free?

When we talk about scents, we usually mean the smells or odours from cosmetics (perfume, make-up, shampoo, deodorant, etc.) or from other products such as air fresheners, cleaners, etc.

Unfortunately, there is no exact definition for scent-free, fragrance-free or unscented. Products labelled as unscented may actually contain ingredients that are used to mask or hide the smell of other ingredients. However, certain product composition statements are required, including:

Odour or fragrance

If a product formulation has been amended to add or change a fragrance, terms such as "fresh scent," "floral scent" or "lemon scent" that describe the resulting odour may be added by notification. The terms "fragrance-free" or "unscented" may be added by notification if the product is odourless or nearly odourless, and contains no odour-masking ingredients such as a perfume. The term "de-scented" may be added if the product contains an odour-masking ingredient.

(Source: Regulatory Directive DIR2013-02, Notification/Non-notification. Health Canada)

While it is important to be aware of the lack of consistency when these terms are used by various manufacturers, the terms can still be a rough guideline when choosing products.

Can scents cause health problems?

When scented products have been blamed for adversely affecting a person's health, some or all of the following symptoms are reported:

headaches

dizziness, lightheadedness

nausea

fatigue

weakness

insomnia

malaise

confusion

loss of appetite

depression

anxiety

numbness

upper respiratory symptoms

shortness of breath

difficulty with concentration

skin irritation

Allergic and asthmatic patients, as well as those with other conditions, report that certain odours, even in the smallest amounts, can trigger an attack.

The severity of these symptoms can vary. Some people report mild irritation while others are incapacitated and/or must give up many 'normal' activities in order to avoid exposure (such as going to public places).

These reactions can be known as a condition called environmental sensitivities. According to the Women's College Hospital:

"Environmental sensitivities (ES) describes a chronic condition whereby a person has symptoms when exposed to certain chemicals or other environmental agents at low levels tolerated by most people. The symptoms may range in severity from mild to debilitating.

ES has also been called multiple chemical sensitivity, chemical intolerance, environmental hypersensitivity, environmental illness, toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, and idiopathic environmental intolerance."

What types of products are associated with environmental sensitivities?

Any product or chemical may be associated with environmental sensitivities. As stated by the Public Service Commission of Canada "Individuals with environmental sensitivities may have adverse reactions to foods, chemicals or environmental agents, singly or in combination. ... Environmental sensitivities include adverse reactions to specific allergens, such as cleaning agents, dust, perfumes or building construction materials."

This document focuses on sensitivities from scented products. Other documents that may be helpful include:

Indoor Air Quality - General

Indoor Air Quality - Moulds and Fungi

When dealing with a sensitivity issue in the workplace, be sure to address any and all possible causes.

What types of products contain scents?

Scents are included in a very large range of products including:

shampoo and conditioners

hairsprays

deodorants

colognes and aftershaves

fragrances and perfumes

lotions and creams

potpourri

industrial and household chemicals

soaps

cosmetics

air fresheners and deodorizers

oils

candles

diapers

some types of garbage bags

It is important to remember some products which claim to be 'scent free' may have only masked the scent by use of an additional chemical. Be sure to research the product carefully if using scented products around those who are sensitive.

I have read that there are carcinogens in fragrances. Is this true?

While it depends on the formula, there can be chemicals in fragrances and related products that have been determined to cause cancer in occupational settings or in laboratory animals.

The OSH Answers document What makes chemicals poisonous? has more information about the effects of chemicals on the body.

Are there any labeling requirements for products or cosmetics?

In some cases, yes, but these labeling requirements may not give you all the information you may need.

For example: Products like cleaners and air fresheners sold to the general public (in grocery or hardware stores) require consumer labeling only. These labels focus on immediate hazards such as corrosion (burns to skin/eyes), explosion, fire and poison. Only certain ingredients will be listed on the package or product. To find out all of the ingredients in the product, it may be necessary to contact the manufacturer directly.

Legislation from Health Canada requires labels on the outside packaging of cosmetics. These labels contain a list of all ingredients as used in the International Nomenclature of Cosmetic Ingredients system. This requirement provides consumers with the information they need to make informed choices about the cosmetic products they buy.

Are there laws in Canada that cover environmental sensitivities?

Yes. Accommodation is required under the federal and provincial human rights Acts.  Please contact your local human rights commission for more information.

Employers should be aware that there are differences between individuals, and build these concepts into their workplace standards or policies as proactively as possible.