That the Environmental Advisory Committee recommend that the Health Recreation and Social Services Committee recommend City Council approve:
1. A scent-free program for City buildings, Community Centres and Sport Centres; and;
2. That Light Rail Transit, OC Transpo and Para Transpo buses be part of the scent-free program, and;
3. That the scent free program request people to be considerate of others who may have reactions or sensitivities to scented products, and urge people to observe the program by using the many unscented products that are available, and;
4. That a step approach, starting with a public awareness program and a scent-free policy in the City’s corporate buildings, Community Centres and Sport Centres, Light Rail Transit, OC Transpo and Para Transpo buses to be followed later on by a mandatory scent free program.
RECOMMENDATIONS DU RAPPORT
Que le Comité consultatif sur l’environnement préconise au Comité de la santé, des loisirs et des services sociaux de recommander au Conseil municipal d’approuver :
1. un programme d’environnement sans odeur pour les immeubles, les centres communautaires et les centres sportifs de la Ville;
2. que le transport en commun par train léger ainsi que les autobus d’OC Transpo et de Para Transpo fassent partie du programme d’environnement sans odeur;
3. que le programme d’environnement sans odeur demande aux gens de tenir compte des autres, qui sont susceptibles d’avoir des réactions ou d’être sensibles aux produits parfumés, et encourage fortement les gens à respecter le programme en utilisant les nombreux produits non parfumés disponibles;
4. qu’une approche par étapes, commençant avec un programme de sensibilisation du public et une politique « sans odeur » dans les immeubles municipaux, les centres communautaires et les centres sportifs, le transport en commun par train léger ainsi que les autobus d’OC Transpo et de Para Transpo, soit suivie plus tard d’un programme obligatoire d’environnement sans odeur.
Over the past few months, the Environmental Advisory Committee (EAC) has consulted with other Advisory Committees as well as staff from the Environmental Sustainability Division in connection with the issue of creating a scent free environment.
On 17 November 2005, the Environmental Advisory Committee approved the following resolution:
WHEREAS the Environmental Advisory Committee recognizes that a scent-free environment will promote safe and healthy places in which Ottawa’s citizens can live and work; and
WHEREAS the City of Ottawa is the nation’s capital and should be a leader in innovative environmental policy that promotes air quality in buildings; and
WHEREAS scented products contain fragrances that are a complex mixture of chemicals designed to disperse into the air for a long time and can be found in products such as perfumes, soaps, shampoos, deodorants, hairsprays, cosmetics, household and industrial cleaners and air fresheners; and
WHEREAS with less fresh air circulation the impact of scents is increased on people working in those buildings; and
WHEREAS people are more and more sensitive to toxic chemicals in the environment and it is estimated that 10.6% of the adult population and 12.5% of all children were diagnosed with asthma; and
WHEREAS 72% of asthmatics develop respiratory symptoms when exposed to fragrances and 1-2% of the population have skin allergy to fragrance; and
WHEREAS unscented products are available in stores for similar prices to scented products, including cleaning products for buildings; and
WHEREAS the Halifax Regional Municipality and organizations such as the University of Calgary, the University of Toronto and the Kingston General Hospital have already in place a “No-Scent” encouragement program; and
WHEREAS a scent-free program can contribute to the wellness of people, reducing sick time and providing a healthy work environment that is free of fragrance chemicals; and
WHEREAS a scent-free program should be supported by a good indoor quality program; and
WHEREAS the cost of developing and promoting a public awareness program should be similar to many other City’s initiatives like the reduction in the use of pesticides.
BE IT RESOLVED THAT the Environmental Advisory Committee recommends to the Health Recreation and Social Services Committee and City Council that the City adopt a scent-free program for City buildings, Community Centres and Sport Centres; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Environmental Advisory Committee recommends that Light Rail Transit, OC Transpo and Para Transpo buses be part of the scent-free program; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Environmental Advisory Committee recommends that the scent free program should request people to be considerate of others who may have reactions or sensitivities to scented products, and urge people to observe the program by using the many unscented products that are available; and
BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED THAT the Environmental Advisory Committee recommends a step approach, starting with a public awareness program and a scent-free policy in City’s corporate buildings, Community Centres and Sport Centres, Light Rail Transit, OC Transpo and Para Transpo buses to be followed later on by a mandatory scent free program.
Accessibility Advisory Committee
At its 1 February 2006 meeting, the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) received a draft report from the Environmental Advisory Committee concerning the creation of a scent free environment. The Committee recognized that scents sensitivity impacts persons with disabilities and discussed at length EAC’s recommendation. The Committee approved the following motion:
That the Accessibility Advisory Committee recognizes scents sensitivity as a disability and supports promoting a community campaign to educate the public in reducing the use of scented products.
Literature Review by Ottawa Public Health
There is sufficient information in the literature to support the fact that scented products can trigger asthma attacks in susceptible individuals and cause skin and eye irritant-type reactions in others. The Canadian Lung Association estimates that 15 to –20 per cent of Canadians suffer from some form of breathing problems, and 7 to 10 per cent of children suffer from asthma. Fragrance chemicals are well-documented respiratory irritants. They have been found to cause respiratory distress and trigger asthma attacks. According to Shim and Williams, 72 per cent of asthmatics have respiratory symptoms upon exposure to perfume (American Journal of Medicine, 1986). A study reported in the Annals of Allergy and Asthma Immunology (Nov., 1995) has shown that perfume strips in magazines caused exacerbation of symptoms in asthma patients. Another study reported in Allergy (June, 1996) showed that fragrance chemicals triggered asthma symptoms. Both the American Lung Association and the Canadian Lung Association cite perfume as an asthma trigger. The American Academy of Allergy and Immunology warns asthmatics to avoid exposures to perfumes (as well as to other strong odours, such as paints, thinners, ammonia, etc.) since these volatile compounds can trigger asthma attacks by stimulating already irritable airways.
Skin exposure to volatile fragrances is known to cause allergies and eczema. The skin reactions to fragrance chemicals can produce rashes, hives, dermatitis, or eczema. (The Copenhagen Allergy Study, 2001) (Schnuch, Uter, Geiger et al. Contact Dermatitis, 2002). Scented soaps and cleaning products used and provided in workplaces can result in unnecessary skin and eye irritation. The issue of sensitivity to perfumes in the workplace is complex. Ingredients of different fragrances vary, and allergic individuals may not be affected by all fragrances.
Ottawa Public Health agrees that there is a need to continue to raise awareness among City employees and the community that scented products can result in adverse health effects in certain segments of the population and affects the comfort of a larger proportion of the population. Several areas within the City of Ottawa already encourage people not to use scented products such as in the Ottawa Public Health Branch, and the Real Property Asset Management (RPAM) Branch has undertaken a scent-free cleaning products pilot project within select City buildings including City Hall.
Occupational health and safety organizations (such as Canada Safety Council, The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety) as well as many health-based advocacy groups (such as the Canadian and American Lung Associations, Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, U.S. National Institutes of Health: Heart, Lung and Blood Institute) already promote scent-free workplace for employees.
Given the foregoing, City staff support developing and implementing a public awareness campaign targeted to City staff, similar to the Halifax program cited in the EAC report, that would feature messaging including a request that employees be considerate of others who may have reactions or sensitivities to scented products and promoting the use of available unscented products as opposed to products that contain fragrances. Above and beyond the EAC recommendations, the City also supports development of a campaign, through Ottawa Public Health, to encourage private employers to adopt scent-free programs for their employees.
City staff do not support a mandatory scent-free policy or an awareness campaign aimed at the general public at this time.
The following sections outline the proposed contributions of specific City branches to a City of Ottawa scent free campaign.
Ottawa Public Health
Ottawa Public Health can participate in a program aimed at educating other employers/ workplaces on scent-free working environments through its Workplace Health outreach team that brings public education messages to 600 large and small businesses. Given the fact that resources already exist, the cost of promoting this initiative could be done within existing Ottawa Public Health resources.
Employee Services supports an awareness campaign to inform employees about the effect of scents in the workplace and supports accommodating employees who may suffer from scent sensitivities. Employee Services would propose to implement a campaign similar to the Halifax campaign, to display posters (see Halifax poster attached) on Health and Safety bulletin boards (approximately 200) located throughout the City. This initiative, based on the development and display of approximately 200 posters, could be undertaken within existing resources.
Managers will be expected to deal with scent issues by communicating and encouraging scent free workplaces and dealing with employees who do not comply as per advice from Labour Relations.
The Real Property and Asset Management Branch is presently undertaking a pilot project to test unscented cleaning products. The results of that pilot are expected later this spring and RPAM will be reporting back with recommendations once the review of the pilot is complete.
There are no financial implications associated with the staff supported initiatives set out in this report.
A public awareness program is not supported by staff at this time, and there is presently no budget to support such a campaign. A public awareness program involving the signage of City buildings and transit vehicles would require additional budget. A full year, full fleet campaign for OC Transpo buses, for example, would cost approximately $87,000 based on current display rates while the signage of 300 to 400 municipal buildings would require the posting of approximately 2,000 signs with production costs, not including installation costs, in the order of $10,000.
Document 1 A Scent Free Environment - EAC background report.
The Committee Coordinator will inform the Environmental Advisory Committee of the Health Recreation and Social Services Committee’s and Council’s decision on the recommendations.
A Scent-Free Environment
The purpose of this discussion paper is to explore options for the City of Ottawa to implement a scent-free environment in buildings.
Increasingly people are becoming sensitized to chemicals emanated from fragrance and perfumes, including so-called deodorants, aftershave-creams and cleaning products. For some people exposure to perfumes poses a serious health risk to some 1.8 million canadians1. In our society, people are reluctant to tell co-workers or colleagues that their perfumes are making them sick.
Fragrances are generally complex chemical mixtures which are volatile by nature to emit scents. Elements of those chemicals disperse in the air remain in the environment for a long period of time and often change as they come in contact with other substances. People can be adversely affected by exposure to scented products including cleaning and building materials.
It is difficult to identify all types of products that contain scents. Typically, perfumes are the most common form of fragrance used in products such as soaps, shampoos, deodorants, hairsprays, cosmetics, household and industrial cleaning products, washing soaps in public washrooms, and numerous body fragrance products like colognes, aftershaves and perfumes. Unscented products are available in stores for similar prices to scented products.
Everyone should have safe and healthy places in which to live and work. People have the right to breathe clean air and to be exposed to chemical fragrances causing unnecessary health problems. People should refrain from the use of scented products such as perfumes and aftershave while in buildings. While much progress has been made to improve air quality in buildings, it remains that with less fresh air circulation the impact of scents is increased. The use of scented products has an impact on indoor air quality.
Increasingly, people are more and more sensitive to chemicals in the environment. It is well documented that air pollution particularly diesel fumes cause sensitivity to allergens. The use of scented products is being restricted while health is at risk. Alerts to scented products are becoming more and more routine while people demand more re-assurance regarding product safety. As more information becomes available, numerous stakeholders such as consumer groups, politicians, enforcement agencies and investors are challenging the fragrance industry.
Health Canada, in December 2004, published the new cosmetics regulations strengthening the protection of the health and safety of the Canadian public with regard to the use of cosmetic products. Health labels on outside packaging will come into force on November 16, 2006, at which time the regulations will become law. These labels will contain a list of all ingredients used.
Note 1: A 1998/1999 National Population Health Survey identifies 2.5 million people with asthma (www.phac-aspc.gc.ca/ccdpc-cpcmc/crd-mrc/asthma). The Institute of Medicine in a 1986 survey found that perfumes and/or colognes triggered an attack in 72% of asthmatics
The US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported 21.9 million adults were ever diagnosed with asthma or 10.6% of the adult population (2002). CDC reported 9.1 million children who were ever diagnosed with asthma or 12.5% of all children (2003).
Fragrances are respiratory irritants. People with asthma are likely to have problems when exposed to fragrances. A report by the Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia mentioned that 72% of asthmatics develop respiratory symptoms when exposed to fragrances. Skim, MD. and Williams, MD. (1986) reported that 72% of asthmatics have respiratory symptoms upon exposure to perfume (“Affects of Odors in Asthma”, American Journal of Medicine, Vol. 80)
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in a 1998 report indicated that an estimated 5.72 million people in the U.S. have skin allergies to fragrance. Fragrance is the number one cause of allergies to cosmetics and laundry products. In Nova Scotia, the asthma rate in school children ranges between 11 and 20% (Citizens for a Safe learning Environment, 15 September 1998).
In 1989 the US National Institute of Occupational Safety & Health identified 884 of 2,983 fragrance chemicals as being toxic substances. The incidence of skin allergy to fragrance has increased with exposure. Skin allergy to fragrance is estimated at 1-2% of the population. There is a direct correlation between use of scented products and development of skin allergy to fragrance (Niels, Moller and Madsen, Danish Environment, Internet Edition 2, September 1996 “Perfume Causes Allergy”).
Municipalities and Organizations
The Halifax Regional Municipality has had a “No-Scent” encouragement program in effect for at least four years. It encourages people to consider that some others may suffer allergies or sensitivities to fragrance found in perfumes, creams, aftershave lotions, hair sprays and other personal grooming products. The policy simply requests people to be considerate of others who may have medical allergies or sensitivities to scented products. It encourages people to use the many scent-free or unscented products that are available on the market. It is not a by-law or any other form of legislation. It is not an enforceable issue, and there are no fines or penalties. The scent-free program is promoted in municipal corporate offices and the City’s public transportation system. The City did a tremendous job in communicating the scent-free program, since people think that there is a by-law versus a no-scent encouragement program.
The Province of Nova Scotia has a similar program as the Halifax Regional Municipality. It has a policy in provincial hospitals and the Halifax Regional School Board.
The University of Calgary has a scent-free initiative. It has an education program and provides some basic suggestions about how to deal with a problem arising from the use of scented products. It provides guidelines for students, staff and faculty members.
The University of Toronto has a scent-reduced university environment. The University has an awareness program and is asking for voluntary cooperation towards a scent-reduced environment.
Dalhousie University in April 2002 launched a pilot project for employees of the Killam Library to promote scent-free environment. Following the success of the pilot project, the scent-free program has been extended across the campus.
The School District 8 of Saint John in New Brunswick when it advertises for employment it indicates that it provides a smoke and scent free environment.
The City of Hamilton has published a guideline regarding scented products in the workplace.
The Kingston General Hospital has adopted a scent-free policy effective 01 July 2005. People are asked to refrain from wearing any scented products and/or bringing high-fragrance flowers into the facility.
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière, in Hull has adopted a scent-free policy. The building main tenants are Environment Canada and Indian and Northern Affairs.
Veterans Affairs Canada promotes scent free buildings to improve air quality in its facilities.
The Lung Association offers a model for developing a scent-free policy for the workplace. It offers a questionnaire to do employee survey (http://www.lung.ca/cando/scents.htlm).
Benefits of a Scent-Free Program
A scent-free program can contribute to the wellness of people, reducing sick time and providing a healthy work environment that is free of fragrance chemicals. Poor indoor air quality can affect productivity in an office environment. Such a program will help reduce illness and discomfort among sensitive people that are suffering from scent allergies or asthma.
A scent-free program should be supported by a good indoor quality program free of mould, particulate matter and with adequate ventilation. People need to feel a difference.
Possible Courses of Action
To aim to a scent free city the following steps need to be established:
Ø Step I – Public awareness program – Make the public aware and explain how to handle situations where a person if adversely affected by the scented products used by others. Scented products are not appealing to all individuals in their broader living environment. The chemicals present in perfume, be it expensive or inexpensive, may cause serious health problems for others. The awareness program should provide information about alternative unscented products that are available. The City should seek the participation of the private sector such as building owners and tenants to enhance the scent-free program. A scent –free program will work best when it is supported by an education program and community support. The program should include Community Centres and City’s Sport Centres. The City should have a scent-free policy for meeting, conferences and workshops in all corporate buildings and OC Transpo and Para Transpo buses. The program could simply request people to be considerate of others who may have reactions or sensitivities to scented products, and urge people to use the many unscented products that are available in stores. The City should develop an information brochure that is intended to increase awareness of Citizens about the potential impact of fragrance chemicals on the health and well-being of those people affected. To protect those people with fragrance sensitivities and others that may develop such a reaction to fragrance, the City should ask for voluntary cooperation towards a scent-free environment. This information should also be posted on the City website.
Ø Step II – Mandatory program in City’s corporate buildings –Make employees aware of the scent program. A phased approach will be easier to implement over time starting with an awareness program for a certain period of time (Step I) before going with a mandatory program. The public transit system, Community Centres and City’s Sport Centres should also be declared scent-free zone although it will be difficult to enforce it. OC and Para Transpo should institute a system to receive complaints by bus-route and location that would lead to local corrective action. OC and Para Transpo buses should have a scent-free sign pointing out the health consequences. When a person feels that being exposed to scented products would pose a health risk, the person should inform the driver or transit officials. Step II should go forward following a successful implementation of the Public Awareness program. It is suggested that a Committee should be created to oversee this project. Membership should include representatives of management, staff and unions.
Ø Step III – Mandatory program in city and public buildings – The City can have a program for its own buildings. To extend such a program throughout the City will require a by-law against fragrance just like smoking ban. A total ban is not very enforceable. The by-law by itself will not stop people from using scented products. The question is who is going to police the by-law. Strong reactions are expected from the fragrance industry and people that want to use scented products. The challenge is that scented products are not regulated. In addition, some people will wave the individual freedom banner. At this time, this approach is not recommended.
Step I is the first course of action to be followed by Step II. Its implementation will require the development of an education program to increase the awareness level of health risks when exposed to fragrance products. A policy statement should be prepared and distributed to City’s personnel, posted on the City’s website and posted at key locations in the City’s corporate buildings.
 Shim, MD. and Williams, MD. (1986). Affects of odors in asthma. American Journal of Medicine. Vol. 80.