Did you know... fragrance sensitivity?

Did you know . . . A rarely-discussed but much-more-common-than-you-may-realize disability is related to fragrance sensitivity.  A study published in 2017 in Preventive Medicine Reports conducted by Anne Steinemann, PhD, a professor of civil engineering at the University of Melbourne School of Engineering suggests “that fragrance sensitivity is not only a common issue, but can be quite severe. One-third of the study participants reported experiencing one or more health issues from scented products (whether they used the items themselves, or were exposed to them in public places)” (https://www.health.com/allergy/fragrance-sensitivity-health-effects). Common reactions include respiratory difficulties including coughing, sneezing, and asthma, congestion and watery eyes, migraines, and various skin reactions.  Fragrance can be found in substances other than perfume/cologne, including products such as deodorant and hairspray, laundry detergents, candles, and so-called chemical “air-fresheners.”  People who respond most severely to fragrances with debilitating migraines and asthma may leave classes, meetings, or offices as quickly as possible or prematurely, and avoid places likely to have fragrance such as stores and public events, including church.  If you are someone who enjoys using perfume/cologne or fragranced hand lotion or someone who uses scented candles of “air-fresheners” in your work space, you may not be aware of people who spend as little time as possible near you or in your work space thus leaving you unaware of the negative effect of your personal choices on the health of others.  Most hospitals and other health-care facilities restrict employees from using fragranced products in order to protect the health of their clients.


In 2008 Leagle reported on a court case which found that by not accommodating an employee who was sensitive to a colleague’s perfume, her Americans with Disability Act (ADA) rights were violated (https://www.leagle.com/decision/infdco20081126998).  A blog from the law office of Cullen and Dykman cites there was a $100,000 settlement in the case (http://www.cdllpblogs.com/?p=1208). Despite the ongoing debate on the validity of a condition often referred to as “multiple chemical sensitivity,” this court case sets a precedence of viewing fragrance sensitivity as a disability because it can limit the  major life activity of breathing.