It has been determined that at least six percent of the population experiences
medically diagnosed chemical sensitivity, also called “environmental illness.” Another 15 percent of the population
self-reports this sensitivity.
Fragrances (as defined in one
hospital policy manual) include “any product which produces a scent, strong enough to be perceived by others”
such as colognes, perfumes, after shave and hair care products, lotions, powders, some detergents and fabric softeners and other personal and clothing-care products.
Ninety-five percent of the fragrances in these products are synthetic petrochemicals,
and it has been well established that many of these chemicals are toxic. (National Academy of Sciences, 1986). They can induce rhinitis (runny nose) and asthma attacks, and even cause permanent respiratory damage. Worshippers sensitive to these chemicals “get trapped” in a pew when someone
wearing fragrance sits in front, in back or to the side of them. We need to give
these people a safe place to sit.
We truly don’t know how many people may have left our congregations
in the past because of fragrance sensitivity. UMC clergy person, the Rev. Nancy
Firestone, a national expert in this subject area, has noted that, “Many people slip away unnoticed because they can
no longer tolerate fragrances.”
Fragrance-free, or at least fragrance-reduction, policies have been implemented
in many workplaces throughout the nation and increasingly in churches across the different denominations. Has your congregation
considered such a step?