What to do about air pollution at the office for Healthy Workplace month

TORONTO, ON (Oct. 9, 2012)— It’s Healthy Workplace Month and if you think “air pollution” is a worthy focus, you wouldn’t be far off. Most employees would never refer to their indoor work environments, but the office air they are breathing could be more harmful than the air outdoors.  One of the reasons is because of scented products.  All those beautifully scented products like perfumes, colognes, cleaning products, and “air fresheners” are actually cocktails of chemicals.

“People think that because something smells nice, it’s safe.  This is a dangerous assumption.  It is very rare to find any scented products that are made from things in the natural world.  Almost all commercially produced products are made with completely synthetic/man-made chemicals,” says Liz Rice, Enviro-Health Speaker. “Further, the companies that make these scented products can actually hide behind trade secret laws and avoid listing products’ ingredients – which further contributes to hiding the danger from consumers’ awareness,” Rice adds.

According to the Asthma Society of Canada, fragrances from toiletries and cosmetics can cause problems for asthmatics.  It can be difficult to avoid being exposed to other people’s products and probably even more difficult to approach them about it.  So how does one ‘make no scents make sense’ in the workplace?

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS) recommends enforcing a scent-free policy that would reduce or ban the use of scented products like hair spray, perfume, and deodorant that can trigger reactions such as respiratory distress and headaches.  “Each person’s body has a unique toxic load tolerance – a tolerance level that we’re not aware of until we reach our threshold and react badly,” Rice comments.

Rice recommends that every workplace have a policy on reducing personal indoor air contaminants, i.e., scented products worn by staff.  It is important that this policy be explained, and where a Health & Safety Committee exits, that the policy comes from them.  Rice also reminds employers not to single out any employees as it may cause conflict with their coworkers.  Each situation should be handled seriously, especially when an employee requires workplace accommodation.

The employer should promote the benefits of this policy — making the air cleaner for all employees.  The Lung Association suggests an ongoing education program; when employees are aware of the health effects of scented products, they will be more prepared to handle the change.  Liz Rice agrees that, “this policy should never be introduced without accompanying explanations.  A ‘We Share the Air’ educational component is recommended when the policy is rolled out.  It is critical that everyone understands that for many people, this isn’t an issue of personal preference or about someone not liking your perfume; for some of your coworkers this is a health and safety issue.”

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About Liz Rice

Liz Rice, Speaker and Founder of Enviro-Health Presentations (@EHspeakers) is an Eco Resource, long-time environmentalist and organic food advocate.  Liz started the Toronto calendar of eco events in 2009, to encourage others to get passionate about the planet.

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Media contact: Sandra Gabriel | 1-888-336-3763 x: 47 | [email protected]

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