When a Rose is not Just a Rose: The Importance of Environmentally Clean Air

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A co-worker’s woodsy perfume, the lavender-infused washroom soap, and the lemon-scented floor cleaner may smell heavenly to some people but to those with fragrance allergies or chemical sensitivities, such indoor odors can leave them feeling ill. Offices and workplaces are environmentally complex and building workers may be exposed to a variety of contaminants, some difficult to control because they come in the form of lotions, cosmetics and cleaning supplies. [1]

“Fragrance” is defined as a combination of chemicals that give a perfumed product its distinctive smell. These compounds may be derivatives from petroleum or natural organic resources or may be produced synthetically. One single fragrance in a product may contain a mixture of hundreds of artificial chemicals and preservatives, the most common of which are parabens, phthalates (petroleum based chemicals) and artificial musks, all with their own potential hazards. [5] Add to that, the over 100 naturally occurring VOC’s (volatile organic compounds), such as ethanol, acetone and limonene [2] and for even the average worker, health risks are possible.

For those who experience sensitivities or allergies to specific substances, they can have a reaction even if they do not use the product themselves; they can absorb the matter in a second-hand fashion. Droplets of fragrance oils from products used by others can fall from the air, land on their skin and enter their bloodstream or respiratory airways, causing breathing or neurological problems, and in some cases, systemic illness [3].

While the majority of people do not react negatively to the chemicals found in perfumed products, for those who do, their work productivity can suffer.

The government has remained neutral on the subject. Neither the EPA nor OSHA has set workplace limits for fragrances nor has the ADA deemed chemical sensitivities to fragrances a disability under the American Disabilities Act. Instead, the ADA has defined Disability in general terms, outlining criteria a person must meet to be deemed disabled. Some people with chemical sensitivities will have a disability under the ADA, others will not[3] In instances where there is a proven disability, an employer will have a “duty to provide a reasonable accommodation when the employee’s sensitivity is aggravated by exposure to a substance in the workplace…[but] with limitations.” The law recognizes that providing a completely fragrance-free environment is neither realistic nor easily enforceable.[3]

So, what’s an employer to do?

Providing employees with a clean indoor air environment (IAE) is the most practical and responsible action available to most employers. [2] At Air Impurities Removal Systems Inc, we understand your need for environmentally clean air compliance and have a proven track record and top quality products to implement your clean air plan. Contact an Air Impurities Removal Systems Inc specialist today for a free workplace analysis.