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(Lighting the Way to Less Toxic Living)


The Fragrance-Free Samples Project

For the Friends General Conference Gathering at River Falls, WI, June 29-July 5, 2007

Liberty and a working group of Friends have a small grant from a chemically sensitive Friend to provide samples of unscented personal care products to great numbers of people at FGC this year.

Preamble: A Matter of Conscience

Maybe 5 years ago, the New England Yearly Meeting Young Friends Ministry and Counsel Committee drafted a minute on smoking. They said that because some of their group couldn't medically stand to be in the Young Friends group if anyone smoked, therefore, as a matter of solidarity, no one would smoke. The logic is a bit turned around, but it's useful.

Maybe a dozen chemically sensitive and asthmatic Friends can't stand to be in worship, in workshops or even at common meals if any Friend is scenting their petroleum distillates from their skin into the room's air.

There's an ethical problem with wearing most perfumes to a meeting. Should one Friend be permitted to drive off a few long-time Friends that many of the rest of us care about, just to, say, give himself/herself a possible slight edge in attracting a lover with her/his perfume, or more likely just to feed their own vanity if they're already married/partnered or not looking?

How does one person's right and power to exclude others from worship make the easily medically injured Friends feel? How does this make the close friends of the injured Friends feel? And then, where does "them" become "us"?

By the way, the toluene in most perfumes is carcinogenic. It soaks through human skin like nicotine does in a nicotine patch. Probably no one should breathe or touch toxic chemicals, but Friends probably aren’t going to mandate what individuals do with their own life expectancy. It's what they clearly do to other Friends that is the issue.

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