Home > Genius, Humor, Query, Random/Rants > Smelly People Beware: The Conundrum Of The Scent-Free Zone.

Smelly People Beware: The Conundrum Of The Scent-Free Zone.

September 6, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments


What exactly are my obligations when I encounter a “Scent-Free” zone?  I understand the notion: some people may have an allergic and/or some sort of reaction to the chemicals that are included some scented products.  Ok, that’s fair.  No one wants to be responsible for another person’s hives or seizures, normally.  Additionally, no one wants to have to attend to a person who is suffering said reaction, whether they are trained and properly equipped to do so or not.  I get that part.  But what am I supposed to do once I enter this “zone” smelling like…well…anything?

Whether you’re wearing cologne, deodorant, hair products, or recently laundered clothes (freshly washed clothes are a scent as distinct as anything), everyone smells like something.  If you washed your hair, it smells like your shampoo.  If you washed your body, it smells like your soap.  Your hands smell like whatever you touch.  Your feet…just smell. If you’re a young male who has hopes of fulfilling the empty promises claimed by body-sprays of becoming an attractive female magnet, you may be doused head to toe in Axe.  Even if you neglected to apply your clear blue Old Spice that morning, you’re going to be emitting your natural body scent or some kind (in this scenario, likely a foul one).

So when I encounter a place that has such a warning posted (usually hospitals, or medical centers of some orientation), am I then090520091402 supposed to leave, go home, wash off everything that smells, and then return?  Do I have to make a new appointment if I can’t make it back in time for the current one?  Will they give me a new one if there’s an opening later in the day? Am I supposed to note that place of business, and subsequently every other establishment in the city with the same set of rules?  Should I have a notebook of which to refer to before I get up in the morning to make sure I don’t put anything that smells in case I am going to a scent-free building on that day? What if I forget, and then show up at a known scent-free zone? Will they still admit me? Should I declare my current scents at the front desk?  As you can see, these zones create a vortex of important unanswered questions.

My suggestion is this: they need to put up some sort of scoreboard in the building that everyone can see, instead of the signs.  This board would indicate how many people are currently occupying the building space that have a scent-related condition.  These people would be required to make themselves known upon entering the scent-free zone.  The tally would be placed on the board, and then all who enter would know for sure if it were clear to enter if they had applied any sort of scent prior to arriving.  This would also act as a fail-safe to the weary and prepared person, who had perhaps not utilized and form of scent in hopes of not unintentionally provoking any outbreaks anywhere he went that day, but had packed a bag of deodorant, cologne, or other products that he could later administer when he knew the coast was clear.  It wouldn’t be any sort of prejudice profiling, it would simply allow non-scent reactors to help themselves and scent-reactors go about their days together, happy and healthily.  It can’t miss.

It’s either my idea, or put them all in glass boxes like we do to the smokers now.  I think my method is a little more humane, don’t you?

  1. Ang
    May 5, 2010 at 8:17 am

    So what are all of us who become ill from other people’s scent offences (smoking, perfumes, air fresheners) to do? live in a bubble? walk around with respirators on all the time?? If you wash regularly and wear non-scented anti-perspirant, you won’t stink, and you also emit pheromones (which are natural scent hormones, for those who don’t know) which will naturally attract a “mate” (or mates. whatever.) Then you won’t be causing people like me to suffer severe asthma attacks and migranes, casuing me not only to be unable to breathe, but become nauseated and dizzy so I can’t walk straight or drive to get away, and have to leave “said building” until “you” leave it? What about the scent that lingers in the air after you’ve long gone? Do people now have to go around retrofitting their buildings with negative pressure filtration systems because you want to leave chem-trails where ever you happen to want to go?

    I can argue both sides… where does one draw the line? If you want to pollute the air… do it in your own space.

    • May 5, 2010 at 10:50 pm

      Hi Ang, and thanks for your comment. I think we may have got off on the wrong foot. I have every respect for whatever condition you may have. My intention was only to inquire as to what the proper protocol should be once I’ve unknowingly encountered a scent-free zone while currently inhibiting a scent of some sort. How do I know who I am affecting? What am I supposed to do? If I have an appointment, it’s not like I’m able to run home and take a quick shower. Should I stop purchasing anything scented? Between every grooming product out there, I’d be difficult to find much that doesn’t have a scent of some kind.

      Maybe I should be asking what specific scents are generally the culprit of problems for people with scent-related illnesses? I think these zones need to be better marked so that people like me can enter buildings without inadvertently causing harm to people like you.

      • Louise Gee
        December 23, 2010 at 4:12 pm

        Hi Dave

        I stumbled upon your blog entry when searching for signage to use in our Scent-Free Workspace. I’ve been looking for input from others about how they deal with these issues including input from those who feel they are on the other side of the fence from those who are sensitive. People like yourself who are unsure of the protocol. (There is actually a third type of person who doesn’t get it and doesn’t care. I don’t think you are one of those.)

        I guess the important question I have for those people who wear scented products is why you think you need to at all.

        Most people smell just fine providing they wash on a regular basis. Even a day’s worth of ‘sweat’ isn’t bad for most healthy individuals. Yet a lot of people don’t think they are ‘clean’ unless they’ve bathed and prepared themselves in scented products.

        Also, most household tasks can be accomplished with simple cleaning ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda yet many chose to use products that smell like lemons, pine trees, rosebushes, and whatever smell that Fabreeze is supposed to be. More and more products in the marketplace have scent added to them. I’m using Fabreeze as the example. A thoroughly detestable smell (IMHO) and one that makes me extremely ill.

        Along with this shift to making everything smell like something else is the increase in the percentage of the population that identifies as chemically sensitive.

        To answer your query, there are no scents specifically that are better or worse than others. People react to different things. This is because fragrances contain many many ingredients. There is no requirement to list those ingredients. The perfume industry uses the guise of “trade secrets” to hide what they use for fear of it be replicated and honestly, if people knew what was in them there might be an uproar.

        Look at it this way. If something smells like peppermint but it isn’t made from peppermint, then it is a chemical that is replicating the smell, usually by tricking your brain into thinking it smells like peppermint. It does so by affecting the nervous system. These chemicals are nerve agents. This is where the problem stems for people.

        If you’ve ever had an asthma attack, or a severe headache you know how debilitating it can be. I generally get migraines from chemical exposure. Each time I have one caused by exposure to chemicals I feel like I’ve had a stroke and it is often days before I feel ‘normal’ again. Who is to say though that I am getting back to normal – it may be the case that each time it happens my brain is affected and will never be the same. A very scary possiblity for someone who happens to like her brain and what it does. Especially considering I do not have control over what I am exposed to in some cases.

        Just some feedback for you. Glad to hear your further thoughts. You are welcome to post here or alternatively email me at weezerthewonderful at that hotplace.


        • SDC
          December 23, 2010 at 5:46 pm

          Thanks very much for your comment, Louise, it is the exact kind of topical discussion I was hoping to engage. I’m glad that you can see I don’t wish to affect anyone with a scent related condition by way of my own unintentional doing, unlike the previous commenter Ang, who I believe misinterpreted my intentions of writing the post.

          The last thing I would want to do is be spraying a room with Febreze, have you walk in, and unintentionally cause you to have a severe reaction, because I wasn’t aware of what I was doing.

          You raise a very interesting point about the potential long-term affects on the brain by way of chemical exposure; from what we know, the brain rarely recovers prompty to any sort of injury, and you may be on to something with your hypothesis about it not fully recovering at all after a reaction from scented chemical exposure.

          It’s another great question all together why we believe we need to smell like things at all, and seek to apply these scents by unnatural means. I know my wife would be beside herself without her scented candles, Clinique Happy perfume, and Febreze. I just gotta think most of it is commercialism. On the other hand though, it’s not crazy to want yourself or things around you to smell good, especially if they currently smell bad. A good example for me is as a hockey player, I’ve become totally immune to the smell of my hockey equipment. My wife and others non hockey players cannot even be in the same room with the stuff, so to them, a scent injection is necessary. Now obviously most of us don’t smell like hockey equipment on a daily basis, but I’m only saying there’s a time and place for it; and that, as you mentioned, everyone’s scent related reactions are subjective to the person, scent sensitivity surely is too, as some may not even be capable of smelling something that is causing another person a very uncomfortable situation.

          In the end, I’d be great if people who suffer these conditions were able to make the public more aware of their sensitivity, but I don’t know a way to do that which wouldn’t appear to be segregating. I guess simple general signage is the best option now, unless you have any other suggestions, especially as some one with a scent-related condition?

          Thanks again for your feedback.

  2. Rose
    August 30, 2011 at 9:06 am

    One other point from a scent sensitive person. I found a brief but wonderful way to experience what those who aren’t affected by scents do. I was in a crowded classroom with assigned seats. I was forced to sit next to a person whose hairspray made me sick. I happened onto Zinc lozenges and took two before I went to class one day. I didn’t smell her hairspray… I had to ask her if she was wearing it. She was. I used the lozenges for a few more days, but alas, they stopped working and I had to transfer out of the class.

    My point being that the reason most people like scents may be that it doesn’t attack them like it does us; that in fact, they may not even smell them at all even if they’ve never been exposed. It may just be a pleasant little whiff of rose to them, whereas it is something that attacks my whole head in a very loud and overwhelming way. I probably smell scents 100x more than the regular joe. I became sensitive living in a highly polluted metro area, Salt Lake City, for most of my childhood, adolescence and young adulthood. One day I got bronchitis. After that, I could no longer stand being around smelly chemicals like perfumes and their like nor could I breathe any type of pollution without severe reaction. You know how you see people jogging along a main street with tons of traffic with no problem? I couldn’t do it.

    In an ideal world, the scary crap they put in “fragrance” would be outlawed, the term itself would never be seen in an ingredient list, and everyone would keep the creeps in check who deregulate stuff like that. In a perfect world, I’d not have grown up in a heavily polluted city, no one would have ever. In an ideal world I could still enjoy the scent of fresh roses and peach blossoms. But I can’t, and those of us who have scent sensitives probably never will.

    Until then, I have a small fan set up next to my reception desk for the times when I have to attempt to clear the room of perfumes. I have a cheap, but somewhat effective ionic air cleaner and I have permission to set anyone up in another area of the building if they are too perfumey. I understand the conundrum of those who wear perfumes: 1. Almost every product has a scent and 2) they can’t really smell them. I have a very hard time finding bath and body products without scent/perfume. You can’t go anywhere without a corporation inventing and then pushing some scented product. There are stores that put scents in their ventilation systems. In Japan there are scented clothes! And most people don’t see a problem because they can’t smell them like those of us who are sensitive can. My only hope is that enough of us become sensitive that we become a large enough block of consumers that it will be cost effective for everyone to remove the chems from their products. I’m just lucky that scents don’t cause asthma attacks or migraines for me yet. I can usually shake the sick in and hour or so after I encounter it.

    As for your original post… I don’t know what would be best. I think the way I use my signage is more to educate people about the problem and hope that next time I see them they will have cut down or remembered to not wear it at all. Even better would be that they’ve stopped all together.

    Sincerely, Rose

    • SDC
      August 30, 2011 at 11:14 am

      Great comment, Rose. Well written and articulated. Again, I totally understand that the scents are causing you discomfort. I think you make the best point of all — all you can do is hope the signs (and blogs) can educate people to the point that next time they go out, they don’t douse themselves in the fragrances they believe smell and make them feel so wonderful.

  3. May 26, 2013 at 10:47 am

    Howdy! Do you use Twitter? I’d like to follow you if that would be okay. I’m definitely enjoying your blog and
    look forward to new posts.

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