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Guidelines on wearing scented products

Scented products indoors can have an impact on health

Some people have become very sensitive to certain chemicals as a result of past exposures. They can suffer a wide range of health effects such as rashes, severe headaches, nausea, dizziness and fatigue, whenever they are exposed to very low levels of chemicals in scented products.

The potential impact of chemicals in scented products on human health is magnified because people spend much of their time indoors. Most people on a daily basis use soap, shampoo, deodorant, laundry products, hair spray, lotions, cosmetics and fragrances. Many scented products are respiratory irritants. They are known triggers for asthma, allergies and migraines. Even people that do not have pre-existing health problems can have an irritation to their upper airways, eye symptoms and general malaise.

What do you do when a co-worker/student is wearing a scented product that is causing you problems? (i.e. headache, trouble breathing, running eyes/nose, nausea, etc.)

Approach your co-worker/student in a positive manner and share your concerns about the scented product being worn in your area. Express how their wearing scented products is affecting your health. Cooperation and understanding will be the solution and the problem will be resolved.

What if I'm approached about the scented product I'm wearing?

It is okay to feel surprised and taken aback. Listen to your co-worker/student in a non-defensive way. Listen to the problems that the fragrance is producing on their health. Discuss openly about the scented product, ask questions. Is it the amount? Is it the type? Be willing to reach a resolution in a cooperative manner.

What if approaching a co-worker/student about not wearing a scented product in the area does not work?

Talk to your supervisor about your concerns. Explain to your supervisor what you have tried to do in an attempt to resolve the issue.

What will my supervisor do when I complain about the scented product problem?

Your supervisor will ask you questions about how exactly the scented product affects you. Be as specific as you can regarding your symptoms, i.e. headache, running eyes/nose, etc. Explain what you are doing to relieve the symptoms, what works and when do the symptoms clear up.

Your supervisor will make notes about what you have said about your concerns, an Injury Report may be filed. Guidance may be obtained from the Safety Office or Joint Health and Safety Committee (JHSC) member.

Your supervisor will then discuss your concerns in a non-threatening manner with the person(s) involved, and explain the health concerns that have arisen regarding wearing the scented product in the area. Your supervisor will suggest that the scented product not be worn in the area because of the health effects.

What happens when the scented product continues to be worn, even after the supervisor has had the discussion with the person wearing the scented product?

The Department Chair or Head will respond to each situation separately based on the specific circumstances involved. The department through the supervisor of the area will endeavour to resolve the issue in a way that is respectful of the feelings and dignity of all concerned. However, the department's response will be guided by its responsibility to provide employees and students with a safe environment, which does not compromise their health or well being. Where necessary your supervisor may direct that a scented product not be worn in the area.

Source: Region of Waterloo: Health and Safety Fact Sheet

Scented products posters

The poster shown below is available for your work/study area from the Safety Office at ext. 33587 or safety@uwaterloo.ca. You can also self print the poster by clicking on the picture below. 

For more information refer to the wearing scented products guidelines above and environmental allergies/sensitivities guidelines.

If you have any questions contact Linda Brogden, Occupational Health ext. 36264.

We share the air poster