BCIT is committed to promoting a safe and healthy environment for the BCIT community. An important part of that is to increase community awareness regarding scented products and their potential impacts on the health and wellbeing of individuals with scent sensitivities.
This describes any product that has an added scent or fragrance. The purpose of adding fragrances to products vary but can range to trying to make the product smell appealing to trying to mask an unpleasant smell. Some common examples include:
- Personal fragrances and perfumes (including deodorants).
- Hair and body products (soaps, shampoos, conditioners, etc.).
- Cleaning and household products (scented soaps, detergents, air fresheners, etc.).
- Plastic bags and other waste management products (can be scented to mask the bad smell of garbage, compost, etc.).
- While not added fragrance – some people have sensitivities to naturally occurring odours produced by certain plants and flowers.
This varies between people; many will not be affected by a scented product beyond whether they like the scent or not. However for some, scented products can cause health effects that can negatively impact their overall wellbeing, as well as their ability to be comfortable and effective in the workplace.
This is not an emotional reaction to a specific scent (i.e. a person disliking a certain fragrance or scent), these are uncontrollable physical reactions to the substances that create specific scents and fragrances.
The health effects experienced by affected people can range from cold/flu-like symptoms, asthma-like symptoms, to symptoms such as headaches and migraines, dizziness, fatigue, nausea, mental confusion, etc. These symptoms can be triggered by fairly low scent levels in the air, and are not the same as toxic effects from high exposures to some of these chemicals, such as what can occur in manufacturing settings. The experienced symptoms are similar to, or can be forms of, an allergy to fragrance chemicals used in some products.
Using scented products is an individual’s choice and they are not banned at BCIT, however BCIT is committed to raising awareness of the potential impacts that scented products can pose to the health and wellbeing to the BCIT community. BCIT encourages all employees, students, and visitors to avoid and/or limit their use of scented/fragranced products when attending BCIT and opting to use unscented or less scented products at the Institute.
- Be thoughtful and aware of the impacts that scented products can pose.
- Consider using unscented products while attending BCIT.
- If using a scented product, do so sparingly and consider replacing products with a strong smell with a less potent product. As a general rule-of-thumb; the scent from a product should not detectable greater than an arms-length away from the source.
- Be respectful if issues regarding scent sensitivities come up, help come up with solutions that can benefit all.
- If you are comfortable doing so, have a polite conversation with the person(s) using the triggering scents. It is best to be specific about what triggers your sensitivities and what kind of symptoms they cause. Most often, people are unaware of potential issues caused by scented products and are open to help.
- Talk to your supervisor/instructor about your sensitivities and indicate how they may assist you. Discuss potential outcomes and how they can help achieve those, such as having the instructor/supervisor discuss limiting the use of scented product in specific areas with a class/group of employees.
- Post scent-free signs in your workplace, after discussing with your supervisor.
- Consult with BCIT Facilities Services or HSE if the cause of the issue may be related to the ventilation within a room.
- Consult with your physician to discuss your symptoms and their recommendation. If a sensitivity is seriously impacting your health and well-being and cannot easily be resolved, you can consider talking with BCIT Disability Management (employees) or Student Accommodation Services (students) for options.
- The most important to remember is that the reason you are being approached is not personal. The reason is because of a sensitivity to the chemicals used to create the fragrance/scent in your products, and not about you or your personal choice of fragrance.
- Ask lots of questions and be open in the discussion, the better that all parties can understand the situation, the easier that a satisfactory solution for all can be found.
If you have been approached by one of your staff members/students who has a scent sensitivity:
- Listen carefully to their concerns and make sure that you clearly understand all factors with the problem (e.g., what are the health effects, what makes it better/worse, what is already being done or the direction in which they would like a solution).
- Work with all parties to implement fair and reasonable solutions.
- Implement measures such as fragrance-free areas, notices to meeting/class attendees regarding the request for scent-free for in-person activities, posting informative posters/signs, etc.
- Indicate use of unscented products is a voluntary request, and not a demand.
- Ensure that individuals with scent sensitivities are not identified to their peers without that person’s permission.
- Direct people to additional services and resources (disability management, accessibility services, facilities services, etc.) as needed.
- Refer any issues that cannot be resolved to BCIT Student Accessibility Services or BCIT Human Resources.