12.19.2007

WHAT? YOU EXPECT ME TO FIND A NEW JOB BECAUSE YOUR PERFUME IS KILLING ME???!!

I'm really steamed. I've come across this ridiculous sentiment enough times today to make my blood boil. I cannot believe anyone is this stupid. Please, tell me you don't think it's logical to expect a person to go find a new job because they have a serious reaction to the chemical soup in their workplace. This is just unbelievably ludicrous. I'm actually sputtering, I'm that mad.

I believe NIOSH and OSHA have something to say about toxic environments, don't they? Maybe we should give them a call. Or, how about the EPA? I've heard they have something to do with air quality. What do you think? Perhaps the Centers for Disease Control would like to put in their two cents worth.

Is it just me, or does it seem like there's a great big, gigantic, humongous gap here? On one side, we've got people who are saying that perfumes and fragranced products make them sick, from mildly uncomfortable to fully, flat-out, unable-to-function sick. Way over there are the people who don't think perfume is a problem and who think some people are just too sensitive and are making up a weird "disease" that doesn't really exist and we don't need to do anything to help them and besides, there are more important chemical problems to worry about, so those too sensitive folks should just get a different job if somebody is wearing perfume in their workplace.

Let's have a look at these notions. 1) Perfume is not a problem. Ok, it's true that real perfume, the kind that is made from purely botanical sources the old fashioned way, is not toxic. I don't know if people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS) have problems with real perfume. BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT THE WOMAN IN THE CUBICLE DOWN THE WAY IS WEARING! Her perfume can be smelled two floors away. You know who and what I'm talking about. But the real question is, is perfume harmful (whether you have any "sensitivity" to it or not)? There's this:

"Fragrance is a known trigger of asthma. Many of the compounds in fragrance are suspected or proven carcinogens. Phthalates in perfumes are known hormone disruptors. In 1989 the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health evaluated 2,983 fragrance chemicals for health effects. They identified 884 of them as toxic substances. The US Environmental Protection Agency found that 100% of perfumes contain toluene, which can cause liver, kidney and brain damage as well as damage to a developing fetus." (from the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia's site Guide to Less Toxic Products)

Moving right along, we have 2) Some people are just too sensitive. Hmmm, I'll admit it may, on the surface, appear that there are "too sensitive" types. But who gets to determine what is "too sensitive" and what is the right amount of sensitivity? We're probably actually fortunate to have these "too sensitive" folks around. Maybe they're like the canaries that used to go down into the mines with the miners. I do not suffer from MCS but I am sensitive to fragrances in my vicinity. I'm very aware of them and I do not like them. I do not, however, get a strong physical reaction like people with MCS get. For some people, the presence of fragranced products triggers migraines that can last three days. And it may not take very much to get that reaction. Are these people "too sensivitive?" I don't think so. And they have a right, yes, a right, to a non-threatening, non-harmful work environment.

Next we have 3) MCS is a weird "disease" (as in, it doesn't really exist because I don't know anybody who has it). It's true there is lots of debate on this one. Is it or isn't it? Well, let's see, if people miss work because of the poor indoor air quality, does that prove there's a condition of some sort? How about if the health care costs sky-rocket because of poor indoor air quality? Here are some statistics: "In 1992, EPA conservatively estimated that poor indoor air quality costs the U.S. $1 billion annually in lost productivity. That same year, the National Academy of Sciences estimated indoor air pollution contributes $15 to $100 billion annually to health care costs." (taken from An Overview of MCS by Cynthia Wilson, Executive Director of the Chemical Injury Information Network [CIIN]). There is substantial research into the causes and existence of MCS. At the request of the US Interagency Taskforce on Multiple Chemical Sensitivities, CIIN prepared a report on MCS as a global health problem. The report, written in 1995, documented MCS health problems in 36 countries. CIIN was the only group to be asked to make a presentation to the taskforce. The Wikipedia article is also enlightening. Please inform yourself before you go jamming your foot even farther down your own throat.

Here's 4) We don't need to do anything to help them. Yeah, you're really being asked to make a huge sacrifice. The important thing here is that, if you made some changes in your life to reduce the amount of fragrances you were putting into the environment, you'd ACTUALLY BE DOING YOUR OWN SELF A BIG FAVOR. Remember that part about it's harmful whether you're sneezing or not? That's a key part of this equation. You light your "aromatherapy" candles, throw those dryer sheets around like confetti and slap a few handfuls of your favorite odour du jour on your neck and you've just inhaled and absorbed a dose of toxic chemical soup. It's not good for you. Besides, not help other people who are suffering from something you have control over?? Come on. Who thinks that way?

Now for 5) There are more important chemical problems to worry about. This one is so silly I'm not sure I can even respond to it. Yes, there are lots of nasty chemicals floating and flying around in our environment and some will do more damage than others. SO WHAT?? Who says that new carpet chemicals are more harmful than the toluene, phthalates and coal tar in perfume? How would we ever adjudicate these sorts of questions? They're completely irrelevant anyway! Our focus, our impetus, our goal, our destination should always be no more damage, no more chemical soup, no more hiding our heads in the sand, no more letting some bit get by because some other bit is larger!

And last, but not least, 6) Get another job. There actually are people who think this is a kind of solution. They don't think the perfume wearer could help out by maybe wearing a lot less, or, god forbid, none. They don't think the perfume manufacturers should be taken to task for ignoring the research implicating their ingredients in horrific damage to reproductive systems. They don't think that human beings should be aware of and considerate of other human beings who are suffering and do something to help. So the person who is choking for 8 hours a day at their job because of the toxic perfume lady, should just quit that job and go find a different one. Doesn't matter if it's a job they've had for a long time, or a job they like a lot and do well, doesn't matter that it's a bad time to be unemployed. Nope. Never mind that stuff. If the perfume bothers you, go get another job. Unbelievable.

To those of you who have to endure someone in your workplace who doesn't have the good sense to tone down the perfume, I say, stand up and say something! Look at the research, print something you can use and take it to your boss or the perfume wearer's boss. Leave anonymous notes all over the place. Quietly ask others if they're having a problem, then hand out copies of the research to them. Form a coalition. By the way, in doing your research, you may come across information about how Canada is taking this much more seriously and has banned fragrances from hospitals and government offices. Use that. The CIIN is a good place to start. Then just trust in Google to take you where you need to go. Good luck and keep us posted.

5 comments:

Just Bill said...

I once worked at a large company and a new receptionist came on who wore 'way too much perfume. Because of this, the reception waiting area was a pretty unpleasant place to wait in. I would just dash through, and felt sorry for anyone who had to spend time in that room.

One day, as I dashed through the room, I overheard the receptionist whine to another woman, "He said I'm wearing too much perfume! Do you think I'm wearing too much perfume?"

I regret that I didn't stop and say "Yes, you ARE wearing too much perfume!" But I "didn't want to offend her". So instead of her learning the truth about her overuse of perfume, everyone else continued to suffer in her space.

Most people would say something if their ears were assaulted by a loud radio in their office. People would complain about too hot or too cold. Why is it wrong to say something if their nose is assaulted?

Any place where people have no choice, such as work, should be places where offensive or harmful things are kept to an absolute minimum.

Anyone who gets upset with the idea of banning perfume in those environments, answer me this: Exactly how does NOT wearing perfume HARM you? How can wearing perfume be so important that you cannot live without it, even when it harms/offends others?

Bill

Self-righteous said...

Thanks Bill. Well said and much appreciated.

UrRidiculous said...

I don't like people doused in perfume or cologne either, but this is why I think it's all B.S.
1. If you want to take the chemical stance "those chemicals floating around in that scent are dangerous!" you could say the EXACT same thing about nearly EVERYTHING in your office environment - from the radiation given off by electronic gadgets to the chemicals given off by the toner in the copy machine to the E Coli being launched around the restrooms with every flush.
If you walk down a busy street or take a bus or commuter train to work, you are probably inhaling 20x the amount of "chemicals" as you are just by smelling someone's perfume. This point alone makes your point blindly ignorant.
2. 99% of the people that say they have this "real disorder" will nearly have a seizure if someone wears too much perfume, but a) cannot tell you what chemical they are allergic to, or b) mysteriously only react to smells they don't personally like. They will sit in an office or home surrounded by plastics and materials composed entirely of unpronounceable 20+letter long chemicals, but are absolutely fine. Wear a perfume they can smell and it's "I have a disorder!"
3. Ever thought about asking the person to tone it down? Or just come bitch about it with copy/pasted google facts on a blog?

Self-Righteous said...

@UrRidiculous:
Interesting and good points. Thanks for stopping by even though you completely disagree with the whole point of the blog.

Anonymous said...

@urRidiculous:

"I don't like people doused in perfume or cologne either, but this is why I think it's all B.S."

This is why he THINKS it's BS. Not he KNOWS it's BS.

"1. If you want to take the chemical stance "those chemicals floating around in that scent are dangerous!" you could say the EXACT same thing about nearly EVERYTHING in your office environment - from the radiation given off by electronic gadgets to the chemicals given off by the toner in the copy machine to the E Coli being launched around the restrooms with every flush."

So the logic is that if everything is dangerous then the people complaining about the dangers are full of BS? That's some logic there.

"If you walk down a busy street or take a bus or commuter train to work, you are probably inhaling 20x the amount of "chemicals" as you are just by smelling someone's perfume. This point alone makes your point blindly ignorant."

So because these things are also "chemicals" they are equally hazardous or non-hazardous? And it's the QUANTITY of chemicals of any and all sorts rather than the actual properties of the differing chemicals that matters?

"2. 99% . . ."

Really? 99%, eh? Where'd you get THAT figure from?


". . . of the people that say they have this "real disorder" will nearly have a seizure if someone wears too much perfume, but a) cannot tell you what chemical they are allergic to,"

a) it is not an allergy. b) How are we expected to pick an individual chemical out from the dozens or hundreds of chemicals in each offending product? And because we can't means we don't react? So, say if a person has summer allergies, if he does not know exactly which plant he's allergic to it means he does not have allergies?

". . . or b) mysteriously only react to smells they don't personally like."

This is another made-up contention. The first fragrance I discovered I reacted to was a fragrance I used myself that I loved.

"They will sit in an office or home surrounded by plastics and materials composed entirely of unpronounceable 20+letter long chemicals, but are absolutely fine."

Different people with MCS react to different chemicals. Some of them WILL react to the plastics. However, if the plastics have off-gassed sufficiently, many may eventually be near them without reaction.

"Wear a perfume they can smell and it's "I have a disorder!""

And because you don't like the disorder, it doesn't exist?


"3. Ever thought about asking the person to tone it down?"

Indeed.

"Or just come bitch about it with copy/pasted google facts on a blog?"

At least you've finally admitted that these are "facts."