Our Numbers are Legion

I’ve been addressing some of the comments made by those who have no understanding of what Susan McBride is going through. Today, I would like to draw your attention to some of those who suffer similar work issues as Susan McBride. It’s quite frightening to read the stories of how these people are forced to suffer with illness because someone wants to smell “pretty”. The tales tell of people so insensitive that they don’t care if they are making you sick. Of management that is afraid to offend the perfume wearers. Of people who retaliate when you don’t like their perfume by spraying it into YOUR office space.

Here are some comments from fellow sufferers. First a couple from Breathe Free:

Well here’s the short version of our office nightmare. For the last 6 yrs. several of us have suffered with our co-worker’s chemical soup of scented products day in and day out. After asking, pleading, requesting etc. our co-workers to tone it down, all to no avail, two of us went to management, also to no avail. We work for a Union, appealed to them for help, also to no avail. Now were asking the Human Right Commission, of our county government, to help in obtaining some sort of office accomondations under the ADA guidelines so we can continue to work w/o becoming ill everyday, so far this too is of no avail, they want more information from our doctor. The next step is the same action Susan McBride took – lawsuit. Where is it written that people think they have a right to wear something to the office that makes other workers sick? Everyone w/o the problem considers it a control issue, I do too, control over my health and well being.

Thanks for you web site. I was not able to sing in a university chorus concert today that I’d spent an entire month rehearsing for, hours and hours, because of perfume in the sopranos. It helps to know someone else has a web site so I don’t feel so alone. I am starting to feel that I will have to give up singing entirely because of this. And you do not want to get me started on the elevators at work. I sometimes just push the next button so I can get off as soon as possible, but by then it is sometimes too late.

I would REALLY like to find out how Susan began the process of the lawsuit. I am in the same situation. And it is SO unfortunate that the ONLY way to get through to companies and co-workers is by suing. I work at a large telecommunitcations company and HR had 2 suggestons: work at home OR they will get me a cube far far away from the workforce. PLUS I had someone that STATED she DELIBERATELY wore her perfume.

And some selected comments from around the web:

I work in a Public Library and belong to a union. Recently, I also had a triggering of an allergic reaction to roses that were delivered to the office followed by a certain scent worn by one individual. It turned out to be a body gel not perfume.
The union doesn’t really help my situation. The coworker is allowed to wear whatever and I have been reassigned my tasks out to the most open area for my department. Things are much improved but the bullying I went through for over a month bordered on harrassments charges. I was told by my grievence rep that most cases of such are hard to prove. Things have died down but there are a few people who still get in my space with their perfume loud and clear.
I don’t dislike perfume it is just that I can’t tolerate those heavy, heady scents anymore . My head and throat get a nasty reaction to it . I have total empathy for the employee, Ms McBride, and can probably guess what she has been put through too. Bullys do grow up to be adults and god help us have kids that continue the cycle.

If you only knew what was in perfumes…. I am highly allergic to chemicals in fragrances also. It sounds like she tried everything she could short of quitting her job. I must carry an epi pen since I have been in Anaphylactic shock due to perfumes and
it causes my blood pressure to spike to extremely dangerous levels. The reference to second hand smoke is right on the mark. Perfumes today are full of carcinogens and hundreds of other chemicals that are banned for use in pesticides, paint thinners, etc, but they can still use them in perfumes. The industry is NOT regulated. I only learned all of this through extensive research since my first reaction in 1991.
I recently quit my job after fighting for 5 years to get people to not wear perfumes. It is pretty embarrasing to have to fight for your right to breath. I am glad she had the nerve to file a lawsuit.

The right to breath is a basic right we are all entitled to. We do not have the right to harm others. I have no intentions of filing a lawsuit against anyone. In the 60’s the tobacco companies hid the fact that smoking would even hurt you. Guess what? Surpise-it causes lung cancer. Everyone will benefit in the long run if this lady wins. I am sure she would have preferred it to have been handled differently. I agree everyone is lawsuite happy, but we need to be told the truth about fragrances. For anyone that cares to know the truth, there are 700 chemicals in one perfume. When analyzed the perfumes contain very harmful ingredients. Common ones include ethanol, methylene chloride, g-TERPINENE, a-TERPINEOL, ethyl acetate. When reading the MSDS (for the ones that are smart enough to know what that is) the common harm from these chemicals are cancer and CNS disorders (central nervous system) Common know disorders are MS, Parkinson, Alzheimers, epilepsy, sudden infant death, ADD, ADHD. All of these have become increasingly more common and everyone wonders why. I recently read an article about brain cancer increasing in children from 10 to 12 years old. Why are all of these suddenly increasing in the last 10 to 15 years? In the early 90’s are when the chemical replacements for natural stabilizers became commonly used. You do the math and when one of children or parents comes down with one of these and I hope you wonder why we did not do anything sooner instead of putting down someone that cares. Again, I have nothing to do with any lawsuit, I have just done a lot of research trying to handle my problem on my own since people like you don’t care. and yes, I do have the right to breath and it IS a basic right know matter how ignorant you are.

It seems a lot of people don’t understand allergies. Even on TV, people with allergies are portrayed as wussies or hypocondriacs. It’s ridiculous. I’ve even had friends (now ex-friends) who gave me a hard time about my allergies, like I have a choice! I don’t understand why people wear perfume. I could see wearing it for a date, to appeal to a member of the opposite sex. But why wear it at work? If I came across someone wearing perfume, I would assume they stink and are trying to cover it up, LOL!

I’m with this woman.
I suffer allergies and have had the same reaction to certain fragrances. It can make you feel like you’ve got the flue. Sure, you can take pills, but they’re not always effective, and they have side effects. And we all know that many people apply to much of these products— either because they don’t bathe or because of some psychological problem that makes them think they stink. Often thee people are obese, so there is more surface area to transfer the chemicals to the air.
Perhaps she’s going after the wrong people, or for the wrong reasons. Perhaps the office lacks adequate ventilation. Perhaps the perfume makers should be named in the suit.
Perhaps individual offenders should be named.
Go ahead and flame if you want, but I say personal rights stop at my nostrils.

Allergies to scents can be fatal. There are all types of allergic reaction up to and including toxic shock and respiratory failure. Furthermore, many allergic reactions get more severe with each subsequent occurrence. Blaming this woman for her allergy is like blaming someone for their cancer – those that are suggesting she is “the problem” should all be ashamed of yourselves.

This is a legitimate work comp claim. Also, if she complained to her supervisor then it could also be a legitimate law suit. Many, Many, companies have a ban on wearing strong perfumes because it can trigger asthma attacks and/or migraine headaches. Not only for those that work in a space but for the general public that they may have to interact with.

I am also fragrance sensitive – perfumes and strong chemical scents trigger both my migraines and my allergies. I don’t use perfume or room sprays, and scented candles and room fresheners are forbidden in my home. That said, calls for her to work from home or get over herself fail to address the problem – she has tried to ask her co-workers to tone down their cologne and was refused. Her manager tried to ban perfume in the office and was ignored. One of his employees is being adversely affected by anothers behavior and harsher steps are needed. And perhaps she isn’t able to work from home.
One last point – most perfumes are all chemicals and are very strong. Why do some people insist on marinating themselves in their favorite scent and then get huffy when others object to not being able to breathe around their noxious cloud??

For years she suffered with infrequent bouts of dizzyness, nausea, and crippling migraines that would put her in the ER for demerol shots and she had no idea why. I’d come home from work and find her curled into a fetal position on the bed crying with pain. Finally she found she was allergic to the musk used in many perfumes. She began avoiding people wearing perfume and the attacks diminished – until a new supervisor came along who drenched herself in musk. She couldn’t ”move on”; too many years invested in the pension fund and there were no other openings for her job skills. Her boss was offended when she asked her not to wear that scent anymore and made it a point to drench herself in musk after that. Claimed my wife was faking even after her doctor wrote a letter to the hospital administration. We were about to sue when upper management finally adopted a ”no scent” policy and the problem abated.

I’ve got this problem too, only not quite as bad as those discussed by posters here. But I will say this: Suffering from allergies is a definite disability, and should be covered by the Americans with Disabilities Act. Working from home would be a great solution, if she is allowed. Not many employers (especially public employers) would let her work from home. If this is the case with her, then she’s got a strong argument in court.

I suffer the kind of migraines that make me wish for death at times. They can be triggered by perfume odors, chemical scents, drinking alcohol (even the smallest amount), room deodorizers and bright, bright sunlight. That this lady tried to get her coworker to cooperate shows good faith. The thing about migraines is that unless you’ve ever had one, you really don’t know what you are talking about with regard to the level of pain. That’s not meant to dismiss you who say it’s wrong of her to sue, but she did speak to her work associate and her bosses. What more could she do if her office was unwilling to assist her with a work at home plan or banning perfumes at the workplace? I used to come home from church every Sunday with a migraine due to the ladies who wore perfume. Did I complain to my fellow worshippers or the pastor? No. My own mom drenches herself. Do I complain to her? No. I just make my visit shorter. But if you are stuck in an office for 8 hours with someone whose scent is overpowering, it feels like a prison.

Aluminum magnesium silicate can be found in many perfumes, and fragranced products. This chemical is known to be an eye irritant, it is also a known asthmagen. You can look up almost all the ingredients on any cosmetic online – I have gotten kind of picky about what I put on my skin I figure if it is not safe to eat what makes it safe to apply to my skin.

Just before this suit was filed I went to the building mgmt. office where I work (a fed. facility) about co-workers bringing in Glade aerosol spray into the bathroom (a common area). I was kindly told that there probably wasn’t a regulation against it and that I would most likely have to use a different bathroom. The federal government has a regulation for everything else…why not this? I was elated to see this lady take on the City of Detroit over the offending perfume just 2 days later.

In April 2002 I left the workplace because chemicals in fragrances, lotions, hair sprays, aftershave, etc., were bringing on more and more migraine attacks. There were some co-workers who were understanding, but for many others wearing their favorite perfume was more important than my health.
There are hospitals that ban fragrances because of how it affects its patients. There are restaurants, hotels and even casinos that have banned indoor smoking, and many used to think that was frivolous too. I know the more this issue is discussed in the media the more society will become aware of chemical sensitivity. I mean seriously, aren’t you tired of all those “plug it in, plug it in” type commercials?

That’s just a sampling of reactions posted as comments to the lawsuit. There are many, many more out there.

I’ve said for a long time that we should be able to charge insensitive perfume wearers with assault with a deadly weapon. It started as a half-joke, but it isn’t really a joke. Migraines and asthma are just two conditions aggravated by perfumes that can and do result in death. Hence the analogy. I bet if you could make the charge stick, just once, that you would see perfume sales plummet.

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2 thoughts on “Our Numbers are Legion”

  1. I work in a government job, about 400 people per shift, all in one huge open office. A fair percentage of these also smoke, then use perfume to cover-up the stench of the smoking. So I get hit several ways. PLUS smoking goes on at the entrances, all in the presence of NO SMOKING signage.

    I’ve been sick for about 10 years, with no satisfaction. Doctors are now beginning to discontinue their relationships with me after only a few visits. My albuterol supply, though plentiful, is not always enough to keep me symptom-free, amd I’m forever lugging around a heavy nebulizer in a backpack.

    I’m represented by a union, but the local chapter is extremely impotent when it comes to dealing with (mis)management, who tends to bully union stewards into forcing an employee to “give in”.

    My workplace is a former military hospital, so there’s no telling how contaminated it may always have been, prior to it being reorganized in the 1960’s. We have a doctor contracted to assist in accommodation requests, but I have never been provided the forms I need for 7 years now, although I’m very willing to complete them.

    Yes, I’ve been moved around the office, and I currently use a partition and a fan at my desk, but nothing helps in the long term. I am also informed that a grievance had been filed years ago because of management’s having forbidden fragrances in the work area, and now people can do whatever they want. Oh, and did I mention that this building is KNOWN to be a sick building, per my union ? It’s sad….your tax dollars at work, folks !

    Sadly, a lawsuit is probably the ONLY way to get these idiots to wake up and realize that I’m not kidding around about being sensitive to both perfumes and tobacco smoke, both of which are flowering plant substances, and causes a vasomotor reaction, which, for me, equates to wheezing, dizziness….you folks know the drill.


  2. If only perfume sales would plummet! Somehow, though, I doubt it will happen. Too many people out there just love their stink-stuff. I like the comment about the “plug it in.” Or the fabric softener commercials, where the main thing they talk about is the “fresh” scent. I want to throw up when I see people taking those great big deep breaths of those products in commercials. I’ve seen it in real life, too. Somebody takes a big whiff of a product then shoves it under her friend’s nose; “isn’t that prreeeeeeeettyyyy?” “oh, I love it!” ooooh, aaaaah! Honestly, I can’t believe people are so brainwashed into thinking these smells are pretty and fresh. Want to smell real freshness? Go get out in nature.

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