Saturday, October 10, 2015

Scent Pollution in a Stinky, Stinky, Stinky World

Dear friends, colleagues, and people who stumbled in here by mistake:  STOP STINKING UP MY AIR.  I'm not talking about your personal body odors.  I'm referring to scent pollution, which is a very serious topic.  And so, please, let's not allow any humor into this discussion.

Oh, grow up.  I'm not talking about this!

Scent pollution is a serious health problem.  In the last ten days, Mr. Sprockets and I have been forced to leave several establishments due to overpowering horrible odors coming from patrons and the establishments themselves.  

1.  The library.  We no sooner step in than I'm virtually thrown to the floor by an overpowering odor of "L'Air Du Stink," also known as "I bathed in it."  A woman walking by me had left a toxic cloud of VOCs in her wake.  My stomach turned over.  My tongue began to tingle.  Next to me, Mr. Sprockets started coughing and could not stop.  We had no choice but to leave.  

2. Our optometrist.  After waiting two weeks for an appointment to try to determine why the glasses they made me weren't right, we were punched in the the face by a cloud of Death Gas in the waiting room.  "What is that smell?" we asked.  "Smell?" the receptionist inquired politely, her olfactory sense obviously reamed out and scarred by constant inhalation of VOCs.  "Oh, you mean our French Vanilla Serenade Plug-In! Don't you like it?"  

Like it?  Sister, do you know what's in that stuff?  The thing does plug in (and is a fire hazard, but that's another subject) but there is nothing even remotely French or vaguely vanilla about it, and that ain't no serenade.  

Studies have shown that the odor in about 95% of all scented products -  perfumed, candles, washing powders, dryer sheets, cleaning products and all cosmetics - is derived from petrochemicals.  Oil.  Bubbling crude.  Texas Tea.  Brought to you by the makers of gasoline.  The only exceptions to this are cold-pressed essential oils.  And some of them are overpowering, as well.  If a smell makes me nauseous, it's not good for my health.  

I believe in personal freedom.  If you want to smear it on your body, or eat it, wear it, or even marry it, be my guest.  But when you pollute my air with your choices, that's where your freedom ends.  The noxious chemicals you're choosing to spew into my air go  into my nose and my lungs and my brain.  Studies have shown these VOCs are often more dangerous than second-hand cigarette smoke.  Google it.

We left the optometrist after making an appointment for next week, when they will have presumably taken steps. . .such as what?  The office windows don't open.  The VOCs have permeated the upholstery, the carpet, the drywall.  Their decision to allow this pollution means that I have two choices - breathe it in some form or find another office.

In response to continual and pervasive scents, we've had to modify our behavior somewhat.  The local Jo-Ann Fabrics puts their faux cinnamon-scented pinecones in the lobby area, between the two sets of sliding doors.  This allows them to build up such an amazing concentration of VOCs that I can smell them 15 feet from the front of the store with the doors closed.  So we hold our breaths coming and going.  Still, the crap gets on our clothes and in our hair and on our skin. . . .and it's poison.  Apparently (and you can Google this too) employees at various branches of the store have complained about their constant exposure to this rank and unhealthful miasma. Jo Ann has reacted with their usual lack of sensitivity and compassion, and they have chosen to increase the torture period.  This year, the pinecones were placed in our local store in mid-September, and will no doubt remain there until well after the new year.  

Many employers are adopting scent-free workplace policies after receiving complaints from suffering employees. There have even been lawsuits, because some unreasonable people don't want to be forced to find another job because of a coworker's pollution.  I don't know how an employer could guarantee a scent-free and VOC-free workplace, especially when the employer is always painting and putting down new carpet while people are working.  While it's entirely possible to mandate that employees not wear scent, what about the scented washing powder they use, and those abysmal dryer softener sheets?  What about acrid and poisonous dry cleaning fumes?  Scented moisturizers, cosmetics, etc.?  Few people are willing to forgo their scents.

Here at Sprockets Inside, we live a scent-free life.  We have to, because of my multi-chemical sensitivity and Mr. Sprockets' allergies.  Our choices work for us until we go out into the stinky, stinky world.  It's a world where, by and large, people do not understand about scent pollution and act like we're completely out of our tree when we object to it.  These people are inured to smell, and they are unaware that they are breathing in an ocean of petrochemicals and VOCs.   Being desensitized, they use more and more scented products.  Many of these items are highly toxic to pets and children, and therefore to all of us.  

Some people wear charcoal-filter face masks.  I'm testing a new mask to wear when I go out.  In fact, I'm wearing this lovely prototype now as I type.  I sure hope I don't call attention to myself, but if it makes small children run away screaming I'll be pleased.