Memorial launches new scent-free campaign

By Michelle Osmond | Aug. 29, 2006

Alvin Kenny's allergy to scents is so severe that he carries an epipen and an inhaler with him at all times and has gone in anaphylactic shock twice. He rarely uses elevators because if someone wearing perfume should get on with him, he could lose his voice for up to 10 days and have difficulty breathing. Mr. Kenny is the co-ordinator of the Campus Card Program with Answers at Memorial and was diagnosed with allergies in 1996 after several doctor's visits.

“I was diagnosed after working with Printing Services for 16 years, he said. “I developed allergies to the printing chemicals which was so severe that I could not even enter the building.”

He left his position but since then his allergies have developed even more.

“I can not tolerate strong smelling perfumes, colognes, household cleaners, etc. I have to be very careful of where I go.”

In 2001, a Human Resources' Wellness and Active Living survey indicated that four per cent of Memorial employees have been diagnosed with multiple chemical sensitivities and more than 50 per cent of workers said that having a scent-free workplace would be beneficial. So, this year, Memorial is launching a new scent-free campaign with the slogan “Your scent is the best scent” aimed at getting students, faculty and staff to reduce the scented products they use.

According to the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) website, people with allergies to scents can have symptoms ranging from headaches and skin irritation to depression and upper respiratory problems. It also states that odours, even the smallest amounts, can trigger an attack.

According to the Lung Association, the problem with scented products is not the smell itself but the chemicals that produce the smell. Perfume is not made from flowers but from toxic chemicals that vaporize into the air and attach themselves to hair, clothing and surroundings. In fact, 95 per cent of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum and one perfume can contain more than 500 chemicals, according to the Lung Association. Even products labelled scent free often contain toxic fragrances used to mask the smell of certain ingredients.

Mr. Kenny is very fortunate. His co-workers and his manager are very understanding and don't wear anything that could trigger an allergic reaction. Unfortunately, Mr. Kenny has found that public places have gotten worse over the last few years, despite the growing population with scent allergies.

“I have to be very careful when people drop by the office. There have been times when I have had to leave the office or stay in my office with the door closed to avoid perfumes and colognes.”

The new Memorial scent free campaign will be unveiled at the St. John's and Corner Brook campuses over the next few weeks.


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