The Importance of Being Scent/Fragrance-Free - ASEQ-EHAQ

ASEQ-EHAQ

L'Association pour la santé environnementale du Québec / Environmental Health Association of Québec

The Importance of Being Scent/Fragrance-Free

Tip Sheet

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)

The Importance of Being Scent/Fragrance-Free

Empowering Community and Removal of Barriers (ECRoB)


Being scent/fragrance-free means avoiding the use of scented products such as perfumes, colognes, scented lotions, and other fragranced personal care items. Fragrance-free environments can significantly improve the well-being and accessibility for individuals with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), and other health conditions such as respiratory illnesses, migraines, dermatitis, autistic people and those who react to strong sensory stimuli, and people with different disabilities.

Why is being scent/fragrance-free important?

  1. Promoting Inclusivity and Removing Barriers to Access: Being scent/fragrance-free creates an inclusive environment where people with disabilities can fully participate without experiencing adverse health effects. Scents can trigger symptoms such as headaches, migraines, respiratory distress, dizziness, and nausea, making it difficult for individuals to engage in social, educational, and work-related activities.
  1. Respiratory Health: Fragrances contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that can exacerbate respiratory conditions such as asthma, respiratory distress, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and trigger allergies. The chemicals in fragrances can irritate the airways, trigger breathing difficulties, and worsen symptoms for individuals with respiratory conditions.
  1. Symptoms on Exposure to Chemicals in Products: People with disabilities, especially those with MCS, can experience severe reactions to even small amounts of fragrance chemicals. Fragranced products contain a variety of chemicals that can cause symptoms such as headaches, skin irritation, breathing and cognitive difficulties, and fatigue.
  1. Sensory Reactions: Many individuals, including autistic people, and those with sensory processing disorders, have heightened sensitivities to sensory stimuli – including fragrances. Exposure to scents can overwhelm their sensory systems, leading to sensory overload and increased discomfort.
  1. Accommodating Multiple Disabilities:Being fragrance-free is an important accommodation for individuals with MCS and other disabilities who may also have other health conditions. By eliminating fragrances, we create an environment that is accessible and supportive for individuals with diverse needs and reduce barriers to inclusion.

References:

L’Association pour la santé environnementale du Québec / Environmental Health Association of Québec (ASEQ-EHAQ). Frequency of Associated Diagnoses with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). https:/www./aseq-ehaq.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/11/2020-May_MCS-frequency_diagnosis-EN.pdf

L’Association pour la santé environnementale du Québec / Environmental Health Association of Québec (ASEQ-EHAQ). What are fragrances and their effects on health? https://aseq-ehaq.ca/en/resources/fragrance/

L’Association pour la santé environnementale du Québec / Environmental Health Association of Québec (ASEQ-EHAQ), 2020. Mon Poison Votre Parfum. https://aseq-ehaq.ca/wp-content/uploads/2020/07/ASEQ-parfume-poison.pdf

Bains, Camille. (2023). Cosmetic brands will have to disclose fragrance ingredients – a welcome change for those with allergies. The Canadian Press. https://www.vancouverisawesome.com/highlights/cosmetic-brands-will-have-to-disclose-fragrance-ingredients-a-welcome-change-for-those-with-allergies-6753869

Brilmyer, G., & Apolloni, A.M. 2017. Creating Accessible Campuses Through Fragrance-Free Policies. Policy briefs. https://escholarship.org/uc/item/32z6p6cj

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS). (2019). Scent-Free Policy for the Workplace. https://www.ccohs.ca/oshanswers/hsprograms/scent_free.html#section-2-hdr

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Canadian Human Rights Commission (CHRC). (2019). Policy on Environmental Sensitivities. https://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/sites/default/files/publication-pdfs/policy_sensitivity_2019.pdf

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European Union (EU). (2023). Prohibited Substances: Annex II, Regulation 1223/2009/EC on Cosmetic Products, as amended by Regulation (EU) 2022/1531, OJ L 240, 16 September 2022. https://echa.europa.eu/cosmetics-prohibited-substances

Goodman, N., Nematollahi, N., Agosti, G. et al. (2020). Evaluating air quality with and without air fresheners. Air Qual Atmos Health 13, 1–4. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-019-00759-9

Goodman, N.B., Wheeler, A.J., Paevere, P.J. et al. (2019). Emissions from dryer vents during use of fragranced and fragrance-free laundry products. Air Qual Atmos Health 12, 289–295. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-018-0643-

Goodman, N., Nematollahi, N. & Steinemann, A. (2021). Fragranced laundry products and emissions from dryer vents: implications for air quality and health. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 14, 245–249. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-020-00929-0

Health Canada. (2023). Consultation on the regulations amending certain regulations concerning the disclosure of cosmetic ingredients. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/programs/consultation-amending-certain-regulations-concerning-disclosure-cosmetic-ingredients.html

International Fragrance Association (IFRA). (2022). The IFRA Transparency List. https://ifrafragrance.org/priorities/ingredients/ifra-transparency-list

Kumar, P., & Caradonna-Graham, V.M. (2006). The fragrance allergen free consumer product survey: Fragranced consumer products can cause adverse health effects. Journal of Environmental Health, 68(7), 22-28.

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Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care. (2018). Final Report of the Task Force on Environmental Health. Ontario.

Nematollahi, N., Weinberg, J.L., Flattery, J. et al. (2021). Volatile chemical emissions from essential oils with therapeutic claims. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 14, 365–369. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-020-00941-4

Publications Office of the European Union. (2020). Final report: Impact assessment study on fragrance labelling on cosmetic products: https://op.europa.eu/en/publication-detail/-/publication/71005243-433b-11eb-b27b-01aa75ed71a1/language-en

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Steinemann, A., Nematollahi, N., Rismanchi, B. et al. (2021). Pandemic products and volatile chemical emissions. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 14, 47–53. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-020-00912-9

Steinemann, A. (2019). Ten questions concerning fragrance-free policies and indoor environments. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.buildenv.2019.03.052

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Steinemann A. Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions. Air Qual Atmos Health. 2016;9(8):861-866.

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