Category Archives: fragrance lawsuit

Susan McBride Update

This blog has made it to the big time. No, not the cover of the Rolling Stone. It’s the Fashion & Style section of the New York Times: Sickened by the Office (Really)! Breathe Free is mentioned in the seventh paragraph on page 2. (Hopefully they won’t make you log in, but their registration is free and they’re pretty low key about mailing you stuff.)

If you’re looking for the discussions mentioned in the article, follow this Susan McBride Lawsuit link.

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.

Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 3

This is part 3 of my series where I address some of the comments I’ve heard and read and provide a view from someone who suffers similar problems to those of Susan McBride. See the previous entries:

Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 1
Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 2

7) “Why don’t you just stay home?
We didn’t tell that to the people who were bothered by cigarette smoke. We didn’t tell that to the people that needed a wheel chair ramp. Although, I suspect that many of you who would suggest that I stay home would make the same suggestion to the person in a wheel chair. But for the fact that it wouldn’t be politically correct…

8 ) “Why don’t you work somewhere without fragrances?
And then when I ask where, you tell me to start my own business. Great idea. Would you like to give me the money to get that started?

As if everyone could start a business and immediately have money to support themselves? That’s not a relistic answer at all.

9) “Why don’t you just wear a mask?”
What happens when it permeates my clothing, gets into my car?

The entire intent of the modern fragrance is that it permeates everything. They use VOCs because the are volatile. That helps the scent remain airborn. Until it lands on something, like my clothes.

It may sound trivial to you (I see you out there rolling your eyes), but to those of us with a chemical sensitivity, these fragrances come home with us. B/c we wear no fragrance, we can smell it. Whereas if you wear all kinds of fragrances already, you won’t notice it. (Liken it to how you feel after going into a smoke-filled bar – it’s the same thing to the chemically sensitive.)

So I can’t take the mask off when I leave the office b/c it is in my clothes. Once I’m in my car, the smell is in my car. So, pretty much, I’ll have to wear the mask EVERY time I’m in my car. Then I come home, I have to change clothes and shower for the second time that day.

And worst of all, I have to relive that fragrance in my clothes when I go to do the laundry. Wear a mask? You’re forcing me to be like the boy in the bubble. It was OK for him b/c he was only one person. But there are literally millions of us. More than anyone truly knows.

10) “For some women perfume is essential to their sense of femininity; they never leave home without spraying some on. It would be the epitome of unfairness to ban perfume in the workplace to accommodate just one employee.

First, if Priscilla needs perfume to feel feminine, then she needs some serious help. We shouldn’t all have to suffer her perfume just to accomodate her feelings of inadequacy.

Second, for every Susan McBride that comes forward, there are likely many others that will be helped. In fact, she’s doing everyone a favor by getting these toxins out of the workplace. Every office needs a Susan McBride.

See the previous entries:

Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 1
Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 2

Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 2

As I’ve mentioned previously, Susan McBride has sued the city of Detroit to have her co-workers banned from wearing perfume at work. Not surprisingly, this has drawn a lot of reaction from a lot of people. Just do a google search and you’ll find websites that post the article and allow their visitors to comment.

This is part 2 of my series where I address some of the comments I’ve heard and read and provide a view from someone who suffers similar problems to those of Susan McBride. If you missed part 1, read it here.

4) “You made this up

Why? Why in the world would all these people claim this problem if they didn’t have it?

Let’s see what impact fragrance issues have had on me:

  • I’ve pretty much taken myself out of the mainstream workforce. Even though I need to work to live like everyone else.
  • I’ve chosen, instead, to start up my own business. So, laziness is not part of my problem.
  • I’m isolated to the point that there are only a handful of places that I can go without problem. And even the grocery store isn’t on my list. Heck, if I wanted to be a hermit, I would just become one.
  • I’ve created a website and a blog to bring this to everyone’s attention.

And I made this up? Hah!

There are some that understand. When I worked in an office, I had one observant co-worker. He said that he could see in my face that I started out looking good on Monday and as the week progressed, I looked sicker and sicker. (Too bad management couldn’t figure that out.)

5) “That is a frivolous lawsuit

You know, I am definitely not lawsuit happy. I’m pretty much against what are commonly called frivolous lawsuits. Like the judge who sued the dry cleaner fo $65 million b/c they lost his pants! (He lost, thank goodness.)

But I don’t believe that this case is in that category. To call it frivolous says that you don’t understand and don’t want to understand what is behind it. These health problems ARE real, and they impact far more people than you or I know.

What is frivolous is this insistence on wearing perfume, even in the face of the fact that you are impacting the health of those around you.

6) “There’s really nothing harmful in fragrances. What’s the big deal?

The fragrance industry has hood-winked, er I mean lobbied, the FDA into believing that the ingredients in their fragrances are a “trade secret.” To reveal the ingredients would impact their profit margins. So in reality, we don’t really know what’s in a fragrance.

Studies have been done, chemical analysis has been made, and a whole list of compounds known as VOCs have been found to be in fragrances. Ingredients include many of the compounds, such as benzene, that are known carcinogens.

Whole groups of people protest whenever they learn of ground contamination with these compounds. Why? Because it gets into our drinking water. So, let’s think about this a minute. What happens to the fragrances we use, as well as the fragrances in our laundry soap, bath soap, cleaning products, shampoos, hair conditioners, deodorants, etc. Yup! Eventually, they all wind up contaminating our drinking water.

Stay tuned, I’ll have more comments next week.

Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 1
Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 3

Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 1

As I mentioned previously, Susan McBride has sued the city of Detroit to have her co-workers banned from wearing perfume at work. Not surprisingly, this has drawn a lot of reaction from a lot of people. Just do a google search and you’ll find websites that post the article and allow their visitors to comment.

I was appalled, though not truly surprised, at some of the comments that I read. Over the next several posts, I would like to address some of these comments and provide a view from someone who suffers similar problems to those of Susan McBride. I’ll start with 3 that I found quite often.

1) “She must be a slacker or malingerer. Trying to get out of work.

This type of comment generally comes from someone who hasn’t read all the facts about the case. They just read the initial article, which, btw, came from a french news service. Digging a little deeper, you learn that Susan DID try to talk with the perfume-wearing co-worker. The co-worker agreed to turn off her “air freshener” but refused to stop wearing the perfume.

She’s not trying to get out of work, she’s fighting for her right to work. Sadly, people further think that she’s not really sick, it’s just an allergy. They’ll say “She doesn’t look sick”. As if there were some way she were supposed to look. And how would they know?

2) “Why doesn’t she just work from home?

There are so many problems associated with that suggestion. I know. The last 2 years I worked in corporate America, I worked from home. And it was an up hill battle to get that ‘privilege’ (as my “manager” called it). She preferred that I remain working in the office, with a migraine so bad I could not think, than to work from home and be productive. (She measured productivity by how many hours you were in the office and how much time you spent chatting her up about all the work you were doing.)

If you are fortunate enough to be able to work from home, it isn’t the marvelous treat some think it is. I hear it all the time. “You’re so lucky to be able to work from home.” Lucky, hardly. It seriuosly separates you from the rest of the office. Even with e-mail, there’s still “Out of sight, out of mind.” You aren’t considered for the top projects. You’re overlooked for bonuses and raises. It’s a very career-limiting move.

3) “Why should we have to do anything? She is the one with the disorder.

That has to top the list for insensitivity. Why should we do anything? For the same reason we put up wheel chair ramps, provide handicapped parking, put up important signs in Braille, etc. We all have to live on this planet. We all have disorders or afflictions of some sort or another, whether we admit them or not.

It’s not as if we’re asking people to not drink water or breathe air. We’re talking about perfume. A luxury. Something that you can live without. I have a friend who taught Nursing School. She said that years ago, they instructed nurses not to wear perfume. I also know people that work with the public and understand that their perfume doesn’t belong there. We need more people like that.

If you have to wear perfume, save it for your date. (Although you might want to make sure your date’s ok with it.)

Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 2
Walk A Mile In Our Shoes – Part 3

Dear Susan McBride,

If you should happen to read this, then you already know that I can certainly empathize with your plight. I fully know what it’s like to ask people you’re in close contact with to please not wear their perfume in your presence. And I also know that far too many of them do not understand your condition or what their perfume does to your body. You say allergy, they hear “I don’t like it.” They hear what they want to hear.

It’s a very brave thing to take this up as a lawsuit. I’ve already read enough on the web to know that many people won’t see your position. It makes my blood boil to read the comments they post around the web. But just remember they are insensitive and ignorant. They won’t read the facts behind this to learn that you had exhausted all other options. Some say “Work from home. Go on disability.” As if those are easy options. Trying to work from home is very difficult. But easy compared to going on disability. They talk about their “right” to wear perfume. As if you have no rights? Why are their rights important but yours aren’t?

Stay home, they say. If you wound up on welfare, they would attack you for that as well.

Just remember that there are many, many people that can empathize with you. Seek them out when you get weary from all the rude and insensitive comments.

To all readers: If you found this blog b/c you were looking for more info on this case, why don’t you leave a short comment of support. Or, if you just can empathize with Susan’s problem, leave a comment.

Watch this blog, too. In some upcoming posts, I want to address some of the rudeness that I found while researching this.

Woman Sues To Ban Perfume At Work

This could be a boon to those of us who are highly sensitive to fragrances. Susan McBride works for the City of Detroit and is suing to have her co-workers banned from wearing perfume at work. Seems the perfumes cause her severe headaches, nausea and coughing fits. She is citing disability laws – which is correct. Frankly, there are so many business in violation of disability laws for the same reason.

For me, I currently work out of my home. And I’ve done so for over 4 years. I honestly don’t think that I could go back to work in an office environment. My husband comes home from work and his clothes literally reek with perfumes from his co-workers.

I hope that she is successful in her lawsuit. It will make great headway in resolving this health issue.

Read the whole story.