Creating a Safe and Inclusive Space for Attenders Sensitive to Fragrance Chemicals



Religious communities of their essence are devoted to the principle of loving and caring for the neighbor. 


This should certainly include making services and events accessible to all who wish to participate! 


This flyer draws attention to an accessibility concern of which many are unaware - the wearing or use of fragranced products in places of worship.


What is the problem with wearing fragranced products?


Most scented products contain chemicals that constantly vaporize into the air and attach themselves to hair, clothing, and surroundings of anyone who wears them.  The problem is not so much the smell itself as the chemicals that enhance or disperse the smell.  Scents are often the flag that such chemicals are present.  There can be as many as 500 chemicals in perfume, for example.  Even wearing “just a little” can have a profound negative impact on someone nearby.


Most people are unaware that the term “fragrance” in commonly used personal care products refers to any of hundreds of synthetic chemicals, usually derived from petroleum.  In one study, every sample of a fragrance product tested contained toluene, a solvent also found in paint thinner.  These chemicals are not tested by any government agency, in fact the exact ingredients in these products are “trade secrets”, and need not be disclosed to anyone.  However, independent research has shown that many of the chemicals in “fragrance” are known, possible or probable carcinogens, endocrine disrupters, or triggers of other health problems.  People with asthma are especially at risk because fragrance can trigger an asthma attack in as many as 74% of asthmatics.  Those with heart or lung conditions may also be affected, and others just have a sensitivity to fragrance chemicals that results in unpleasant and unhealthy reactions.


What kind of reactions might people have?


Skin, eye, and respiratory irritations, damage to the nervous system, allergy symptoms (sneezing, coughing, watery eyes), asthma attacks, headaches, dizziness or nausea, trouble concentrating, sudden mood changes, muscle cramping, or even seizures or loss of consciousness.  (Those with asthma could go into anaphalactic shock from a serious reaction).  For people who have experienced these symptoms scents can create extreme anxiety.  Moreover, use of many cosmetic/personal care products with their untested ingredients and endocrine disruptors interferes with reproductive functions and would be dangerous to pregnant women as well. 


A new perspective?


Most people are used to wearing and using scented products and may be challenged by the idea of changing their habits.  Please consider that the chemicals in some scented products may cause serious problems for some even though the scents weren’t intended to harm anyone.  In fact, the risk of exposure to fragrance prevents many sensitive people from even attempting to attend a service.  You yourself or someone in your family may have some chronic problems that are actually caused by scented products you routinely use, without realizing the connection.  Or you may develop such problems eventually after prolonged exposure


What can I do?


Do your best to avoid the use of scented products.  Read labels and avoid those with the term, “fragrance” in the ingredients list.  If you don’t have a fragrance-free alternative, avoid the use of a product before attending worship - for example, you don’t need to shampoo your hair, apply lotion or even use deodorant for this one occasion.  (If it is really a hot day, you could apply baking soda in place of the latter).  SUPPORT THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A “FRAGRANCE-FREE” SECTION IN YOUR PLACE OF WORSHIP!



Contact Liberty Goodwin, Director, Toxics Information Project (TIP), 401-351-9193, E-Mail: liberty@toxicsinfo.org for more information.  Or visit the TIP website:  www.toxicsinfo.org