Leddy Library employees are encouraged to be sensitive to the needs of their colleagues and students with respect to scents. For the workplace, staff is encouraged to use only unscented personal hygiene products (e.g. shampoo and conditioners, deodorants, soaps, lotions, creams) and to avoid wearing perfumes, fragrances, aftershaves or colognes. Also, the use of air fresheners and deodorizers, potpourri, scented oils, incense and candles in the workplace is discouraged. As a general guideline, any scent should not be detectable at more than an arm’s length from the source.
Employees concerned about scents or perfumes used by a colleague are encouraged to discuss their concerns directly with that colleague in a sensitive and discreet manner. If such a one-to-one discussion is not possible, employees should bring their concern to their Department Head or to the Associate University Librarian.
There is a growing understanding and concern that certain people are affected by exposure to scented products. Fragrance sensitivity and other chemicals can become a workplace concern when it leads to absences or a decline in worker productivity. Even very small amounts of scents and perfumes have been cited as a trigger to attacks in those with allergies, asthma or multiple chemical sensitivities.
When scented products have been blamed for adversely affecting a person's health, some or all of the following symptoms are reported: headaches, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea , fatigue, weakness, insomnia, malaise, confusion, loss of appetite, depression, anxiety, numbness, upper respiratory symptoms, shortness of breath, difficulty with concentration, skin irritation (Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety “Scent-Free Policy for the Workplace”). Problems regarding fragrances have emerged with increased use and exposure. As a result there are concerns for both those who use scented products and those exposed to others’ scents. Many of the identified concerns such as skin allergies are well recognized. A conservative estimate indicates that one to two per cent of the general population has a skin allergy to fragrance.
Fragrances can induce or worsen respiratory problems such as asthma, emphysema, bronchitis, and allergies because of their irritant effect. The National Academy of Sciences reports that 95 per cent of the chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. They include benzene derivatives, aldehydes and many other known toxics and sensitizers— capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions. The Ontario Federation of Labour issued an Allergy Alert that cited perfume as a serious health risk.
In the absence of specific legislation addressing the hazards of fragrance, employers are still required under the general duty clause of the Occupational Health and Safety Act to "take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker".
An awareness of this health concern is growing and other postsecondary institutions have recognized this concern and developed policies addressing it; notably, Trent University, Dalhousie University and the University of Saskatchewan. Additionally, the issue is being discussed at the University of Toronto and McMaster University. There is a need on the part of the University to protect people, as much as is reasonably possible, from the negative effects of chemicals and other pollutants.
Additional information can be found at the following pages:
Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety: Scent-Free Policy for the Workplace
Dalhousie University’s Statement on the Use of Scented Products is available at:
OSSTF/FEESO Update, Vol. 32, No. 7, February 2, 2005 addresses chemical sensitivities at:
Trent University’s Policy is at:
University of Saskatchewan’s Scent Awareness Program is available at:
Worker’s Health and Safety Centre: a no-non-scents approach at: