Is Your Scent Contributing To Bad Indoor Air Quality For Your Classmates And Co-workers?


You’ve probably seen the “scent free environment” signs in the washroom at school or work.

They seem self-explanatory, but they represent an educational campaign you should carry with you into every professional environment you may enter.

What is a “scent free” work environment?

A scent free work environment requires its employees to refrain from coating their body in scented products.

The reason for such a policy is not limited to allergies; a growing number of individuals feel discomfort caused by the chemicals in these products. These chemicals can cause headaches, dizziness or even nausea.

“It’s not just allergies,” says Sandford Underhill, who works in the human resources department at Centennial College, where students are familiar with the “scent free environment” signs in the washrooms.

The washrooms are equipped with antibacterial soap, which doesn’t proffer a strong scent. “In most cases, it’s the chemicals that make up the scents that are the problems. It’s really an education campaign to educate individuals on what scent is.”

The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) lists perfume and body odours as possible contributing factors to a bad indoor air quality in a work environment.

Indoor air quality has become an important issue in occupational health and safety over the last few decades. As Underhill points out, “If someone has an environmental disability, the employer has an obligation to accommodate.”

Similarly, a work environment must meet a certain standard of quality as far as chemicals are concerned. Scents are made up of chemical bodies that must be considered for the health and safety of those working in the environment.

What does this mean for employees and students?

When we hear “scent free,” the first thing we think of is cologne or perfume, but there are other scented products employees should refrain from using in a shared environment.

These include deodorants, aftershaves, hair products, lotions, soaps and cosmetics. All of these products may contain certain chemicals that may give off scent and cause discomfort among those sharing the public space.

The campaign for a scent-free environment is a recent project, but Underhill says many organizations are taking a proactive stance in workplace policies, making it an important consideration not only for those who run the organization, but for the workers who participate in it.

How can I enforce a scent free environment where I work?

If you wish to render your work space a scent free environment, you can talk to a manager or someone working in the human resources or security departments. The CCOHS website provides some background information as well.

About the author

Marisa Baratta loves writing, especially about topics pertaining to environmental change, animal issues, human rights and health. She loves helping others and wants to make a positive difference in the world. She is always working on publishing her books, which seek to inspire and incite laughter. She has been published in the National Post, t.o. night newspaper and on several online magazines. She completed a BA with a specialization in English and a bilingual certificate before studying Book and Magazine Publishing at Centennial College. She lives with her family and two cats (can you spot one of them in the picture?).