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Avoid Fragrances; Make Universities Safe for Chemically Sensitive May is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Awareness Month

By Peter Ploegmann, NLU Library and Learning Support Specialist and ADA Specialist

One Sunday last August, my wife and I were looking for a new place to live. Scents from the other apartments and laundry facilities in the building where we lived were making my wife ill. As a result, she was no longer able to be in the building for extended periods of time.

At one open house, within about two minutes of entering, we had to leave due to the aroma of air freshener. Even this limited exposure caused my wife to have a severe reaction. She had to recuperate outside for a while before we could get in the car and leave. She remained symptomatic throughout the rest of the day and week.

According to, over 48 million Americans are affected by Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). People with this condition react adversely, including life-threatening reactions, when in the presence of chemicals found in body sprays, hand lotions, perfumes, laundry detergents, fabric softeners, candles, air fresheners, cleaning products, among others. People with MCS react quickly to chemicals in the environment, yet continued exposure to these chemicals is likely harmful to everyone.

May is MCS awareness month, and even with such a high number of people affected, little is known in the general public regarding the number of toxins present in many of the chemicals we are exposed to on a daily basis. Here are some facts regarding MCS, also termed Environmental Illness (EI), worth considering:

  • One in five people in the US experience adverse health effects from synthetic fragrance exposure.
  • The majority of chemicals in shampoos, detergents, and other consumer products have not been tested and proved to be safe.
  • Americans, on average, spend approximately 90 percent of their time indoors. The EPA has named indoor air quality as one of the top five environmental risks to public health.

In the physical spaces of our campuses at NLU, it is important to remember that students and faculty members share the same air space. Although MCS sufferers face the same danger as those with peanut allergies or Celiac’s disease, avoiding the triggers is far more difficult. The products used by every person near them could cause a serious reaction.

To create safer learning spaces for everyone, please consider not wearing fragrant products like cologne, perfume, fragrant lotions, essential oils or body sprays while at school. Let’s work toward making NLU a safe and accessible place for everyone.

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