August 23, 2005 Testimony forRI Governorís Commission on Disabilities

Special Forum On The Concerns Of People Affected by Household Chemicals.


I speak on behalf of myself, who has been affected in the workplace by both fragrance and toxic cleaning products.My diagnosis by my primary care physician was asthma, and chemical sensitivity.Companyís who would not institute policies to protect people afflicted by such conditions forced me out of the workplace.There are a very high percentage of toxic chemicals in fragrances, which have never been tested by the FDA for safety in humans.And there are a growing number of people with such conditions. Employers should make every attempt to protect all employees; especially to limit exposure related sick days, health costs, undue stress and medical leaves.


I worked for an insurance company in the 1990ís and was greatly affected by the perfumes and colognes of co-workers.I also left work most days with migraines, breathing problems and fatigue.The fluorescent lighting there also had an effect on my overall health.All fluorescent lighting should be changed to full spectrum lighting for optimal work environment.Years later, I worked for a health insurance company and lasted there only several months because they had a full reconstruction project going on only about 8 ft. from my desk, including knocking down walls, glue and paint.I landed another job several months later at a healthcare industry.At this homecare agency, the employees wore perfumes, lighted scented candles at their desks and washed the lunchroom down with Clorox wipes.For people who are sensitive, the chemical Dioxin in Clorox is outright dangerous.I left this job only months after being employed.


At this point, I became frantic, I could not remain unemployed and wondered how I was going to survive.I went to my doctor for help with disability.He flat out said he could and would not help me because he wasnít sure the chemicals I came in contact with was the true cause of my illness. I felt I had no support system, for my primary care physician did not have any proper training in medical school for chemical sensitivity. I tried to search out other professionals in Rhode Island who might be able to help, but there were none.


So, I continued looking for a safe place to work while out on unemployment.The stress of it all was overwhelming.I finally got what I hoped would be the right job with caring, understanding folks.What I found was just the opposite.This was a mental health facility where I worked as a medical records clerk.I encountered strong perfumes on many employees again.And in this facility they would wash down pretty much everything with bleach, to kill any kind of germ that might be taken in by the patients. And they would constantly spray antiseptic spray in the air.

I heard it was actually sprayed in through the vents in the ceiling.They also had reconstruction going on inside during working hours.Once again, I did not last here more than a few months.

I would again get all the same symptoms, go to my doctor and he would tell me again, the best thing to do was get out of the environment so I could get my breathing back to normal again. And time and time again, unemployment had to pay monies out to me.Needless to say, not

of my own accord, I went through quite a few jobs in a short period of time. There is no excuse for this.


Something must be done to help those of us who are hard workers and want to work for a living, not be on disability!Environmentally safe-cleaning products must be used and naturally safe antiseptic sprays only in medical environments.Policies at all work places must institute ďOĒ tolerance for anything scented and/or toxic.No more scented products, including candles, bathroom deodorizes, cleaning products and health anti-bacterial/anti-viral sprays, perfumes and colognes.There are many other safe alternatives.Therapeutic essential oils would be one. Or the great natural cleaning products at Whole Foods Market, which are the best thing that every happened.Just walk into a Whole Foods Market and just see, feel and breathe in the difference.If they do it all chemical free, everyone can.Everyone will be healthier and isnít that what we all strive for!


This is definitely a workable and solvable problem if only someone would take the time to help this group, which by the way grows daily. Something must be done not only so the asthmatic and chemical sensitive donít end up on the streets but also to help one another out, because if this hasnít happened to someone in your family, chances are it will soon.We must keep in mind the future, for our children and to give them an environment in which they can thrive.And we would be also helping out the skyrocketing healthcare costs in numerous ways.


I would like to be of any help possible to get legislation changed and follow suit as others already have, to make for a healthier workplace in Rhode Island.



Deborah A. Pina

Johnston, RI02919

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