scent free zone signChemical Sensitivities, Common Problem

I think just about everyone has been out in public and had the displeasure of smelling someone who was too heavy handed with their perfume that day. You think to yourself ‘I can’t believe they think that smells good!’ or ‘Geese, what did they do, bathe themselves in Chanel this morning?!’ What may be an annoyance to you that passes when you leave the area, can cause a severe, long-lasting allergic reaction to me and many others like me who suffer from chemical sensitivities.

For years I was irritated by the smell of perfumes, but never had any severe reactions. The first time I had a severe reaction was about a year ago when I was working in my office and a patient with really strong perfume came into the area where I was working. I tried to work through it, but my skin turned so bright red, the patient asked me if I was ok. I had to politely tell her I thought I was having an allergic reaction to her perfume, and I excused myself. I was really embarrassed and confused as to why this was happening to me. I did research online and found out my condition is referred to as having chemical sensitivities. Some people have such severe multiple chemical sensitivities that it is considered a disability by the ADA.

For me, short-term exposure to just one person with excessive perfume causes:
  • burning in my nose
  • irritated and swollen roof of mouth and throat
  • hives
  • flushed and irritated skin
  • severe headache
  • inability to focus or concentrate for hours after exposure
Your fragrance may smell beautiful to you, but it is toxic to your body AND mine..

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency Material Data Sheets (MSDS), there are 20 common perfume ingredients that are on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste List. These ingredients include: benzene, benzyl alcohol, limonene, acetone, and ethanol. Most people have no visible reactions to the perfumes they wear or smell. The majority of people most likely are completely unaware of the hazardous ingredients in their favorite perfumes. Fragrances do not have to be FDA approved.

Do you know what you’re spraying on your body?

Let me breakdown for you some of the chemicals in your favorite fragrances and what they can do to your body:

  1. Acetone (often found in cologne) acts as a depressant for the central nervous system. Side effects from exposure may be nausea, slurred speech, dryness of the mouth.
  2. Ethanol vapors when inhaled can produce symptoms similar to indigestion.
  3. Benzaldehyde is a local anesthetic and narcotic.
  4. Limonene is a carcinogenic and should not be inhaled.
  5. Benzyl Acetate is a carcinogenic linked to cancer of the pancreas.
Scent should be enjoyed by you or someone in your personal space, not the entire room..

If your scent is so strong, people beyond your personal space can smell it, it’s no longer a scent, it’s air pollution. I think as time goes on the general public has started to become more aware of what they’re putting in and on their bodies, but we still have a long way to go. I’m thankful that I work in an office where there is high awareness for holistic health and we work really hard to create an environment that is safe and healthy for all of our staff and patients. We take measures to keep the office safe for those with chemical sensitivities including sending all new patients a welcome email that includes the request for them not to wear fragrances. The image above is a sign we just had created by our graphic designer to display in our offices to create awareness of our Scent Free Zone.

-Melissa Bacon

Office Manager, Natural Dentist Associates

PS. Many sensitive individuals like me can benefit from Dental Material Testing we offer in the office.