Jan 23, 2020

No fragrances

Headaches, nausea, dizziness. These are some of the symptoms reported by a group of students at California State University, Stanislaus who are trying to rid their campus of the scents that make them ill.

Taking the matter to school administrators, these students say they want a fragrance-free campus policy. Musk-scented colognes and citrusy perfumes seemed to be the most problematic. They said harm from the odors’ was comparable to that of second-hand smoke

Kay Busby, a nurse practitioner at Fresno State’s Health and Psychological Services, said this topic was highly controversial from a medical standpoint.

“This is a very interesting subject, because it brings up Multiple Chemical Sensitivity,” Busby said. “It has not actually been defined; it’s just something that people have reported.”

Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), officially called idiopathic environmental intolerances, was cited by the Stanislaus students as one of the reasons for their adverse reactions. Though it does not have a medical definition, MCS is described by non-specific symptoms, caused by low levels of common chemicals.

Some of these common chemicals are found in the air and the environment. To the group of Stanislaus students, things like perfumes and lotions proved to be just as irritating.

Though she believed people can experience physical reactions to scents, Busby said it may not be possible to pinpoint the cause just yet.

“No scientific studies have been done on it, because it’s not a measurable thing,” she said.

Busby, who previously worked at an allergy and asthma practice for 10 years, said the possible effects of MCS should not be confused with an allergy.

“The difference with an allergy is that it involves the immune system,” she said. “Tests can be done to show this.”

During her years with the allergy and asthma office, Busby heard of complaints with scented candles, potpourri, cleaning products and even strong cooking odors. But with no official medical testing or any results to refer to, Busby said the Stanislaus students would face a challenge in proving their case to school administrators.

Business major Erik Carlow agreed.

“It’s a slippery slope and a vague concept,” Carlow said.

Thinking of common things like deodorants and people who smoke on campus, he wondered where the line would be drawn.

“The school administration should have neither the responsibility nor the authority to pose any limitations on students,” Carlow said.

Accounting major Elisa Andrade tried to look at the issue from both sides.

“Perhaps the opposing students should just advertise the problem instead of infringing on everyone else,” she said.

Andrade wondered if the Stanislaus students should make more of a compromise, instead of calling for a fragrance-free campus.

Though she wasn’t a fan of the fragrance-free idea, Andrade leveled with the distressed students.

“If people are wearing excess cologne to the point that it causes others discomfort, perhaps these are shallow people causing the problem,” Andrade said. “They might be so into themselves that they don’t think twice about drenching themselves in Hugo Boss before walking out the door for class.”

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