Do you or anyone you know find scented products such as perfume, cologne, air fresheners, laundry detergents or fabric softeners irritating? Does the smell of fresh paint or cleaning supplies cause headaches or other physiological symptoms? Based on national statistics, one in three people have chemical sensitivities and experience adverse health effects from synthetic fragrance exposure.[i] It is estimated 6% of the population are diagnosed with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), a severe form of chemical sensitivity. For these highly sensitive individuals, the over 3,000 chemicals used in many personal care products cause debilitating symptoms from migraines to nausea to anaphylaxis.[ii]
Why go Fragrance-Free in the workplace?
15% of employees have lost workdays or a job due to fragrance exposure. 20% of American consumers will leave a business if they smell air fresheners or other fragranced product.[iii] Employees who experience adverse health effects from synthetic fragrance exposure will almost always avoid other individuals and spaces where the possibility of fragrance exists leading to inefficient communication among team members. Employees and individuals with chemical sensitivities have difficulty focusing and performing their best when exposed to fragranced products. This affects overall productivity for a business. Fragrance policies in the workplace are among the top five inquiries the Society for Human Resource Management receives.[iv] Employee visits to health care professionals may decrease with a fragrance-free initiative as respiratory symptoms from synthetic fragranced products and resulting trips to health care professionals have a strong correlation.[v] Implementing a fragrance-free initiative creates an inclusive environment for all by encouraging employees and visitors to minimize their use of products containing fragrance before entering and while in a building.
Why go Fragrance-Free as an individual?
If you are someone who is not bothered by the smell of chemical fragrance, why go fragrance-free? Our bodies are exposed throughout each day to toxins in the environment. The skin, which is our largest organ, absorbs many of these toxins and the body can only handle so much before serious health issues arise. We have worked with individuals who after 6 months of ceasing the use of fragranced products reported having more energy and feeling better. The overwhelming majority of chemicals used in fragrance have never been independently tested for safety as there is no regulation required for the ingredients in “fragrance”. Some of the chemicals found in fragranced products are on the EPA hazardous waste list. Fragranced personal care products often contain phthalates, a family of chemicals used to help a product adhere to a particular surface. Phthalates in dryer sheets, for example, helps the scent cling to clothes and your skin long after having left the dryer. The concern is many are identified as endocrine disrupters.[vi] There is evidence children’s exposure to chemicals and toxins affects brain development and potentially leads to learning disabilities and behavioral problems.[vii] Your body is already working hard enough to handle the everyday pressures of life so why not reduce the chemicals you expose yourself, your family and your friends to by going fragrance-free?
Frequently Asked Questions about Fragrance-Free
As an employee, I don’t want to be told what I can and cannot wear. Isn’t a fragrance-free policy in the workplace intrusive on my right to wear whatever I want?
It may seem at first that asking for cooperation to move away from fragranced products is a personal and private matter but when the fragrances from these products affect the health and productivity of others it goes beyond just a private concern. Most businesses with fragrance-free policies do not mandate but instead encourage employees to minimize the use of products with fragrance so as to create a comfortable work environment for all.
Will body odor become an issue?
Creating a fragrance-free work-space in a business or going fragrance-free as an individual does not mean stopping the use of all personal care products resulting in poor hygiene and strong body odor. It simply means switching to products without “fragrance” in the ingredient list. Luckily, many of the most common brands on the marketplace make “fragrance-free” or “perfume or dye-free” alternatives. Check out our alternative products page for more tips for shoppers.
Is it expensive and time consuming to look for fragrance-free products?
Going fragrance-free does not mean spending lots of time and money looking for fragrance-free products. Not only are fragrance-free alternatives available in most local stores, many of the brand name personal care items you are used to have a fragrance-free version.
Are some products worse than others?
From a fragrance perspective, some products are more offensive than others. A list of products from most to least offensive is available on our offenders and alternatives page.
Be Educated. Be Changed. Be Thriving.
[i] Steinemann, A. C. (2016). Fragranced consumer products: exposure and effects from emissions. Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, 9(8), 861-866. doi:10.1007/s11869-016-0442-z
[ii] Environmental Working Group. (2010). Not So Sexy. The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance. Washington, D.C.: Breast Cancer Fund, Commonweal and Environmental Working Group. Retrieved August 2016, from http://www.ewg.org/sites/default/files/report/SafeCosmetics_FragranceRpt.pdf
[iii] Steinemann, A. (2016). Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions. Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, 9(8), 861-866. doi:10.1007/s11869-016-0442-z
[iv] Noguchi, Y. (2015, September 22). What’s that smell?! When workplaces try fragrance bans. Retrieved from National Public Radio: http://www.npr.org/2015/09/22/442189543/what-s-that-smell-when-workplaces-try-fragrance-bans
[v] Elberling, J., Linneberg, A., Dirksen, A., Johansen, J., Frolund, L., Madsen, F., . . . Mosbech, H. (2005, January 13). Mucosal symptoms elicited by fragrance products in a population-based sample in relation to atopy and bronchial hyper-reactivity. Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 35, 75-81.
[vi] Kristof, Nicholas (2012, May). How Chemicals Affect Us. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2012/05/03/opinion/kristof-how-chemicals-change-us.html?_r=1&emc=eta1
[vii] Schettler, T. Stein, J., Reich,. F., Valenti, M. (2000, May). In Harm’s Way: Toxic Threats to Child Development. Greater Boston Physicians for Social Responsibility. Retrieved from http://www.psr.org/chapters/boston/resources/in-harms-way-report-download.html