Odors in the Workplace

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Odors in the Workplace

Postby Wilberforce » Wed Mar 31, 2010 9:49 am

Odors in the Workplace
Lourdes Salvador
March 31, 2010

Researchers Dalton and Jaén of the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania say, "There is mounting evidence that the presence of airborne chemicals that produce odor and irritation can be a significant impediment to a productive and healthy workforce, even among individuals without chemical sensitivity."

Environmental chemicals affect all of us in one way or another. Some are more profoundly affected than others. Asthma, allergies, cancer, chemical sensitivity, and migraines have all been linked to chemical exposure.

Most of us don´t realize we are being bombarded by chemicals every day. Some often overlooked examples include perfumes and fragranced products, air fresheners, newly and previously applied pesticides, wood smoke, and petroleum based products.

"Studies investigating odor and irritant-induced symptoms in occupational environments suggest that poor indoor air quality, coupled with psychosocial factors such as the work environment, personality and stress, can lead to the development of building-related complaints and exacerbate chemical intolerance and symptoms," say Dalton and Jaén.

Even chemicals which generate the pleasant odors we enjoy may cause health problems. Recently, scent makers have made a push for introducing scent through the HVAC systems in stores and buildings. They claim these signature scents keep customers in stores longer and increase productivity and improve mood in the workplace.

However, Dalton and Jaén assert that, "the practice of introducing pleasant odors in the workplace to improve productivity and mood is not well supported by current research." And, "Managing the response to odors and irritants in the workplace is critical to maintaining the health and well being of workers."

As more and more workers request workplace accommodations to reduce exposure to chemical laden perfumes and fragrances used by co-workers, lawsuits are beginning to pop up. One recent lawsuit involved a $100,000 settlement and new scent free workplace policy for City of Detroit employees when a worker, Susan McBride, filed a lawsuit after the City failed to remedy a problem with a co-workers strong scent that was causing breathing problems.

"There is a critical need for regulatory organizations in the United States and elsewhere to harmonize guidelines for occupational exposure limits, say Dalton and Jaén. Management must educate workers and engage in solutions when these situations arise, not only for the health of the complainant, but also for the health and productivity of the entire workforce.

Because the vast majority of people misperceive scents and odors as harmless, Dalton and Jaén assert that, "management must engage in risk communication and education of workers in order to ensure that misperception of risk from odors does not lead to illness and loss of well being."

More importantly, each of us must educate ourselves regarding the health dangers of these common, everyday products. The assumption that such products have been safety tested is disproved by the fact that over 80% of the chemicals on the market used to make these products have not been tested for human safety. We must learn to sift through the propaganda industry presents to generate sales and work to uncover the truth.

Before you decide you´d rather smell of perfume than body odor, consider that there are many natural and scent free soaps and deodorants which control body odor. Perfume was used to cover up body odor many years ago before societies had running water to take daily bathes. Many people still consider the use of heavy fragrance to mean that someone is too lazy to bathe.

Scents are health hazards. The United States District Court agreed in McBride v the City of Detroit.


Dalton PH, Jaén C. Responses to odors in occupational environments. Curr Opin Allergy Clin Immunol. 2010 Feb 1.

This article originally appeared in the MCS America News, April 2010 Issue http://mcs-america.org/april2010.pdf. For more articles on this topic, see: MCSA News.

Copyrighted 2010 Lourdes Salvador & MCS America

• The Surgeon General has determined that there is no safe level of exposure to ambient smoke!

• If you smell even a subtle odor of smoke, you are being exposed to poisonous and carcinogenic chemical compounds!

• Even a brief exposure to smoke raises blood pressure, (no matter what your state of health) and can cause blood clotting, stroke, or heart attack in vulnerable people. Even children experience elevated blood pressure when exposed to smoke!

• Since smoke drastically weakens the lungs' immune system, avoiding smoke is one of the best ways to prevent colds, flu, bronchitis, or risk of an even more serious respiratory illness, such as pneumonia or tuberculosis! Does your child have the flu? Chances are they have been exposed to ambient smoke!
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Re: Odors in the Workplace

Postby pm2.5mary » Mon Apr 26, 2010 6:48 pm

Thank you for posting this! Well done.
"Particulate pollution is the most important contaminant in our air. ...we know that when particle levels go up, people die. " (Joel Schwartz, Ph.D., Harvard School of Public Health, E Magazine, Sept./Oct. 2002)
Find more at http://burningissues.org
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Re: Odors in the Workplace

Postby deepak » Mon Apr 11, 2011 12:21 am

Stress Management in Workplace

You really post something great... i like it...
Thanks for the post....
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Re: Odors in the Workplace

Postby HippieCat » Thu Jun 09, 2011 1:58 pm

While I know I'll be catching a lot of heat for posting in such an old topic, I found this article WoodNyet posted to be really, really interesting! I was actually doing a yahoo search on migraine triggers when this particular topic came up. Unfortunately, in an age where aromatherapy and extreme cleanliness/anti-bacterial environments are the new big thing, it's hard to avoid harsh aromas that provide a fresh scent to the atmosphere. Many air fresheners, perfumes & scented candles are more overbearing than pleasant; and this can be a major problem for someone who has sensitive olfactory senses. The very thing that most people think is making the room "nicer" is causing people with allergies a world of pain. If companies could lighten the scent of their products, it would get the job done while relieving migraine/allergy sufferers of their symptoms. Febreze is a great air freshener that does just this.

Now, I happen to be a candle lover and I'm prone to getting really bad migraines. It's a win/lose situation. Although my house smells really pretty, the strength of the odor makes for difficult breathing and a headache that won't quit. Does anyone happen to know of any brands of candles that can help to relieve my migraine triggers and make the room smell "fresh?" If not brands, what about particular scents? Are Glade or Scentsy any good? Thanks a lot folks! =)
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Re: Odors in the Workplace

Postby mbpowell » Fri Jan 25, 2013 3:01 pm

Being a HVAC Contractor we are constantly asked about Air Quality devices. The standard removable/washable HVAC filter is not sufficient in dealing with many of the IAQ concerns brought up in this article. There are literally hundreds of options to deal with IAQ concerns in your home/office. However, being in the industry for over 65 years we have had our fair share of success and horror stories from these products. We were recently shown a product that we were so impressed with, we have them in our office and our families homes. The Top Tech Air Knight and REME systems. These units sell for $1,000.00 for the Air Knight and $1,500.00 for the REME. Here is a promo video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ylhvh5ztOfk Of course there are other options, but if you are looking to upgrade/replace your existing HVAC system…IAQ is something that must be addressed.
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