Fragrances and the Workplace

There are increasing complaints of fragrances causing health problems in the workplace. Fragranced products used in the workplace, as well as fragranced products used by others, often adversely effect those with allergies, asthma, migraines, and chemical sensitivities. There are few policies in place that address this issue. This creates problems for the fragrance sensitive, other employees, and employers.

In order to establish policies on fragrance employers need to have information that supports fragrances pose health risk in the workplace. Individual complaints without information to back those complaints are usually not enough for policies to be established. Employees that use fragrances often have difficulty in understanding how a product they use can adversely effect a coworker. Very often it is up to the employee that is fragrance sensitive to provide the needed information. While there is a great deal of anecdotal material, finding concise information based is science is often difficult. This makes it extremely difficult for a case to be made for a "fragrance free" workplace.

The issue of fragrances in the workplace can be addressed from several perspectives. Fragrances add to indoor air pollution and are a general health concern whether a person is fragrance sensitive or not. Fragrance policies can be established on these grounds. Or the issue can be addressed when employees are fragrance sensitive and request accommodation. If a major life function is effected, an employee can request accommodation under the ADA. There are also economic aspects to be considered. When employees miss work because of illness, it is costly to the employer. Lost productivity and increased health insurance costs are among the economic concerns.

An integrated approach that address fragrances as a indoor air quality issue, a health issue, and an economic issue provides a more solid basis for limiting fragrance use in the workplace. This helps both the employer and other employees to understand that fragrances are a concern for all, as well as being a health issue for those that are fragrance sensitive.


Indoor Air Quality

Health Conditions Effected by Fragrances

Economic Considerations

Workplace Policies



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