Bring your guns, but leave your perfume at home

After paying out thousands of dollars in compensation to allergic workers, US authorities are banning artificial scents

New York

In some parts of the US no one will blink if you take a handgun to the office or even a civic building like a library, but increasingly you had better beware of darkening their doors with Hermes, Chanel or even Old Spice about your person.

As studies show an ever greater number of Americans suffer adverse medical reactions, sometimes severe, upon involuntary exposure to artificially scented substances, bans are being imposed across the country on the wearing of smelly aromas, whether pricey perfumes or bottom-shelf colognes.

Freedom of expression is a fiercely guarded right in the US, but it is slowly being trumped by something more modern than the Constitution – allergies. As many as 50 million Americans suffer from some form of allergic condition that can be triggered by things ranging from foods – gluten, peanuts, dairy and chocolates are popular culprits – to animals and chemical substances, including perfume.

"It's got no formal action behind it but it is working," says City manager Tim Young, referring to the sign that has been hanging near the front entrance of City Hall in Tuttle, Oklahoma, for the past four years. It merely says, "Allergy Alert! No Fragrances Please!" Anyone who spritzed before leaving home is asked to wait in the public area and meet the official they wanted to see there.

The policy was adopted for a simple reason. "We had a former employee who had some extreme medical issues with this," Mr Young said. "She kept working as long as she could, but when other people came in with certain fragrances, she would turn red and swell up and we had to take her to the hospital."

Though hard to enforce – no one has deployed any pong-patrols yet, nor is it easy to determine how much fragrance is too much – edicts elsewhere in the country are stricter. On a federal level, the US Census Bureau enacted a ban on scent-wearing for employees in all of its offices in 2009 and the US Health and Human Services Department followed with a similar policy a year later.

The city fathers in Portland, Oregon, a place with a history of progressive social initiatives, instituted a fragrance ban for all city employees last year. It also told custodians of public buildings to use scent-free cleaning products.

The science of perfume allergies is not simple. The most vulnerable are sufferers of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS), who can react to an array of substances that go into perfumes but also into paints and cleaning fluids. By some estimates just over one in 10 Americans has MCS. But experts say asthma patients are also at risk because perfumes can set off their symptoms.

"The chemicals in some of these products can trigger nasal congestion, sneezing and the runny nose," said Stanley Fineman of the Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic. "With the asthmatics, there's really good data showing their lung function changes when they're exposed to these compounds."

National attention to the problem can be traced back to 2006, when a Detroit public worker, Susan McBride, sued the city, saying that perfume worn by co-workers had prevented her from doing her job because of allergies. The city paid $100,000 in compensation and issued a city ordinance against scented bath products for public employees. For two years now, public servants in Motown have been told not to wear perfumes, colognes, body lotion, scented deodorant or use scented candles.

VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Strange 'quack' noises could be undersea chatter of Minke whales
science
Voices
voices Furore is yet another example of shameful Westminster evasion, says Nigel Farage
News
weird news... and film it, obviously
News
peopleThis time as he’s awarded the Freedom of Stirling and handed an honorary degree
Arts & Entertainment
tv
Sport
sport
News
Matthew Mcnulty and Jessica Brown Findlay in 'Jamaica Inn'
mediaHundreds complain over dialogue levels in period drama
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
News
peopleJay Z and Beyoncé to buy £5.5m London townhouse
Voices
voicesMoyes' tragedy is one the Deputy PM understands all too well, says Matthew Norman
Arts & Entertainment
Rocker of ages: Chuck Berry
musicWhy do musicians play into old age?
News
Jilly's jewels: gardener Alan Titchmarsh
peopleCountry Life magazine's list of 'gallant' public figures throws light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Sport
John Terry goes down injured in the 70th minute
sportAtletico Madrid 0 Chelsea 0: Blues can finish the job at Stamford Bridge, but injuries to Terry and Cech are a concern for Mourinho
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Cover Supervisor Needed Nottingham/Derbyshire

£3360 - £16800 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Cover Supervisor requ...

English Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: Urgently Required. En...

Supply teachers needed in Cambridgeshire

£21000 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad are looking ...

Geography Teacher

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

Day In a Page

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home

It's not always fun in the sun: Moving abroad does not guarantee happiness

Brits who migrate to Costa del Sol more unhappy than those who stay at home
Migrants in Britain a decade on: They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire

Migrants in Britain a decade on

They came, they worked, they stayed in Lincolnshire
Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

Chris Addison on swapping politics for pillow talk

The 'Thick of It' favourite thinks the romcom is an 'awful genre'. So why is he happy with a starring role in Sky Living's new Lake District-set series 'Trying Again'?
Why musicians play into their old age

Why musicians play into their old age

Nick Hasted looks at how they are driven by a burning desire to keep on entertaining fans despite risking ridicule
How can you tell a gentleman?

How can you tell a gentleman?

A list of public figures with gallant attributes by Country Life magazine throws a fascinating light on what it means to be a gentleman in the modern world
Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

Pet a porter: posh pet pampering

The duo behind Asos and Achica have launched a new venture offering haute couture to help make furry companions fashionable
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

The mutiny that sent a ripple of fear through the Empire
Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Hot stuff: 10 best kettles

Celebrate St George’s Day with a nice cup of tea. Now you just need to get the water boiled
Sam Wallace: Why Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term

Sam Wallace

Why Ryan Giggs is perfect fit as Manchester United boss... in the longer term
Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Renaud Lavillenie: The sky's the limit for this pole vaulter's ambitions

Having smashed Sergei Bubka's 21-year-old record, the French phenomenon tells Simon Turnbull he can go higher
Through the screen: British Pathé opens its archives

Through the screen

British Pathé opens its archives
The man behind the papier mâché mask

Frank Sidebottom

The man behind the papier mâché mask
Chris Marker: Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Mystic film-maker with a Midas touch

Chris Marker retrospective is a revelation
Boston runs again: Thousands take to the streets for marathon as city honours dead and injured of last year's bombing

Boston runs again

Thousands of runners take to the streets as city honours dead of last year
40 years of fostering and still holding the babies (and with no plans to retire)

40 years of fostering and holding the babies

In their seventies and still working as specialist foster parents