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Environmental Health & Safety

Fragrance / Odor Sensitivity

The University is committed to providing a safe and healthful work environment. This is not only a regulatory requirement, but it also makes good sense. When people feel good they can be more creative and productive. Strong fragrances can contribute to unpleasant indoor environments and, for some individuals, true adverse health symptoms.

It is not known definitively if fragrance sensitivity is truly on the rise or if people are merely more attuned to their environments than they may have been in the past. It can take a while to sort through complex scientific and psycho-social issues such as this; however, there are voluntary actions the University community can take today to demonstrate our compassionate regard for all our members.

Fragrances are typically associated with perfumes and personal care products such as shampoo, make-up, hair-spray, deodorants, body lotions, etc. However, highly odiferous chemicals in the workplace can also be problematic for sensitive individuals. Things like air-fresheners, certain cleaning products, off-gassing from new furnishings (i.e. carpet, upholstery, textiles, laminates, etc.), paint or surface coatings, and even certain food smells can cause symptoms ranging from mild irritation to more severe symptoms such as difficulty breathing, headache, eye irritation, nausea, dizziness, lightheadedness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating, and dermatitis. In fact, fragrance was selected as "Allergen of the Year" by the American Contact Dermatitis Society in 2007.

In compliance with the Hazard Communication Standard issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the University has strict rules about the use of chemicals in University facilities. Paints, cleaning products, air-fresheners, maintenance chemicals and other chemical containing products should be evaluated and approved by Facilities, with the assistance of Environmental Health & Safety, prior to use. It is inappropriate for any University community member to use these types of materials on University property without prior approval.

Beyond compliance requirements, we encourage all University community members to be aware that strong fragrances are problematic for some and to facilitate a fragrance-light environment. The use of heavy perfumes can be an irritant and distraction to co-workers whether or not they have a true sensitivity. A light-fragrance environment may make working conditions better for all employees.

Individual employees with specific concerns about scents or odors should contact their manager, Human Resources or Environmental Health & Safety for additional assistance.


Contact EH&S at (585) 275-3241 or e-mail EH&S Questions.

This page last updated 12/7/2015. Disclaimer.