Fragrance Sensitivity: Impact to learning and working
Fragrance sensitivity can be either an irritation or an allergic reaction to some chemical, or combination of chemicals, in a product. Download a printable version of the Fragrance Sensitivity: Impact to Learning and Working brochure.
While perfumes and colognes are generally what comes to mind when discussing fragrance sensitivity, fragrance sensitivity can come from a variety of everyday items including but not limited to toiletries, cosmetics, air fresheners, cleaning products, and pesticides.
Fragrance sensitivities may be protected under the Americans with Disabilities Act as Amended (ADAAA). Fragrance sensitivity can result in the following symptoms which can adversely affect a person’s health and their ability to learn and work:
- Dizziness, light-headedness
- Loss of appetite
- Upper respiratory symptoms
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty with concentration
- Skin irritation
Accommodating Fragrance Sensitivities
Not everyone with a sensitivity to fragrance will need an accommodation. However, to make this determination, the following questions should be considered during the ADAAA interactive process with the student or employee:
- What limitations are the student or employee experiencing?
- How do these limitations affect learning or job performance?
- What accommodations are available to reduce or eliminate the limitations?
- What accommodation (s) do the student or employee feel are needed?
- Once accommodations are in place, identify a future date to evaluate the effectiveness of the accommodations and determine whether additional accommodations are needed.
- Consult with the EEO Office.
- Remove the offending fragrances.
- Remove the person from the area where the fragrances are located.
- Reduce the exposure to the fragrances.
- Maintain good indoor quality.
- Provide an air purification system.
- Create a fragrance-free workplace environment.
How you can help
- Educate students and staff about fragrance sensitivity.
- Avoid using perfume and cologne and other scented personal care products.
- Look for natural and safe products.
- Don’t buy products that lists “fragrance,” “perfume,” or “parfum” as an ingredient.
- Look for products labeled “fragrance-free.”
Did you know?
- Exposure to scented products can trigger nausea, respiratory anaphylaxis, asthma, headaches, neurological symptoms, and tissue damage.
- Some people require days to recover. The damage can be irreparable and the person’s condition deteriorates with each exposure.
- Perfumes and colognes are no longer the main culprits. Scented personal products and cleaning supplies produce the same reaction.
- Products with labels that contain the words “fragrance free” or “unscented” do not guarantee they do not contain fragrance chemicals.
- Most tests that have been conducted are related to skin sensitivities; very little testing have been done on the respiratory effects.
- Materials used in fragrance are not required to be disclosed on labels, making it is difficult to identify the ingredient or product that is responsible for the sensitivity.