Fragrance Free School Policies

As most of my readers know, I completed my Diploma of Professional Writing and Editing at Victoria University (VU) in 2014. (I’m going back in 2017 to begin the swiss-army-knife of all degrees, An Arts Degree!) There is no Fragrance Free Policy in place at this time as far as I know. However, I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before there is one protecting those of us who suffer respiratory issues with chemical irritants from fragrance, aerosols and solvents.

But for now, VU does a great job at including those of us who have allergies and sensitivities.

I’ve heard feedback from other students at VU who have said how pleasant it is to be able to learn in an environment where there is clean air; and I’ve heard from students and staff who have milder allergies to perfumes (and skin conditions that get inflamed from aerosol solvents in the air) but have not wanted to speak up, and these kind people have thanked me for doing so, which is so lovely to hear! (Whew! I was starting to feel like a troublemaker there, just for a second.) Trust me, if I didn’t suffer the symptoms that I do, I wouldn’t bother registering with Victoria University Disability Services (VUDS) and working out an ‘Access Plan [yes, I promised I would post information this, and I will as soon as I can]’ so that I can go to classes, sit tests and access my work and materials the same as other students: if I didn’t have this medical condition, I’d just go to class like everyone else. 


Below is a list of Schools, Colleges, and Universities that do have them in place. These are all in the US and Canada, which is where some staff at VU sourced information helping me get through classes. Hopefully, my learning place of choice, my beloved Victoria University in Australia, will be on this list one day. Until then, I’ll just be grateful for the accomodations they do make for students such as myself; and, totally!, be grateful for the ‘No ‘Smoking on Campus’ policies that are being implemented in all Australian Universities. 

The following list is from Dr Anne Steinemann. You can find out about other institutions who also have fragrance free polices in place here.

Schools, Colleges, and Universities
Portland State University, Portland, OR 

Minnesota Schools H.F. No. 2148, as introduced – 85th Legislative Session (2007-2008) Fragrance Free Schools Pilot, Minnesota House of Representatives 

North Seattle Community College, Seattle, WA 

Bastr University, Kenmore, WA 

Challenge Charter School, Glendale, AZ 

Arthouse Preschool, Waunakee, WI 

Cecil College, North East, MD

The Evergreen State College, Olympia, WA

McMaster University, Hamilton, ON, Canada 

Mount Saint Vincent University, Halifax, NS, Canada

New Brunswick Board of Education, School District 8, Saint John, NB, Canada

University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada


Dr Anne Seinemann’s Resources

Going to School with MCS in Australia: Imagine How This Feels

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Now, Imagine How This Feels…

(This is a repost from 3 December 2013)

Imagine that it’s Tuesday, the one day a week where I am lucky enough to attend an Advanced Nonfiction class at Victoria University (VU), and I’m psyched! I don’t have to worry about air-borne fragrances or solvent-based particles from spray deodorants or solvent-fragrance based hairsprays contaminating the classroom air. I don’t have to worry about having to leave the class due to symptoms bought on by breathing in fragrances that other students may have used. I don’t have to worry about the molecules of these toxins sticking to my hair and clothes, making me sicker later on. And I don’t have to worry about sitting in class while wearing my mask and not even knowing if there are solvent or fragrance chemicals emitting from other students into the air of the room (My sense of smell is virtually blindfolded by the 3M mask that I sometimes have to wear to protect my health… If it wasn’t impeding on the ability of my olfactory sense, then sure, I’d be able to breathe it in and smell it, thus warning myself, but not before getting chronically ill. Sometimes for days.).

(Just so we are clear, you know it’s breathing in these chemicals that cause symptoms, not the actual ‘smell’, yes? Of course you do! Silly me for even asking that. Next time, I’ll ask it rhetorically.)

Imagine being chemically sensitive to solvents, fragrance chemicals and the petrochemicals used as ingredients during the manufacture of designer fragrances, the el-cheapo imitations, and in popular deodorants (like Lynx, and Mum), and  getting to go into class each week, safe in the knowledge that (retrospectively) 94% of the time)) people will have made the effort to go free of these products? (Sure the air may smell of scents, due to shampoos, conditioners and roll-on deodorants; and it may even be floating with notes of patchouli and jasmine from products containing essential oils because in our requests to get people to go fragrance free it has been explicitly expressed that it’s preferable for them to use products that contain natural ingredients. I know this is not an ideal situation for some chemically sensitive people but for me, it totally was! An essential oil could never impact on my health in the same way as a spray on fragrance does.)

Imagine that there is a notice in the Student Handbook explaining that some students are sensitive to chemicals and that there are some classes where people will be reminded to be ‘mindful’ of certain chemical-based products.

Imagine the teacher sending out an email the day before to remind the rest of the class to consider my need to breathe air unhindered? Sure, I could wear my mask for the whole class but as many chemically sensitive and immune compromised people know, there are a few problems with this: firstly, the lack of oxygen is not conducive to learning, thinking or contributing to discussion; secondly, there is the limited ability to show facial expressions, therefore, causing a hindrance in communication (not for everyone, a few people, mostly teachers, see past the mask and talk to me as if I am the same as everyone else); thirdly, and most importantly, it can be dangerous in that if there is a lot of fragrance in the room, it then gets on my hair, skin and clothes, and sometimes into the tear ducts of my eyes, but additional to that, if I sit in the room for the whole class, then leave and remove my mask, I become chronically ill due to solvents, petrochemicals and fragrance chemicals being all over me and in my airways. And lastly, what some of you may not know, and I’ve only just recently found this out from the Disability Discrimination Legal Service (DDLS) myself, is that wearing the mask is actually a forced impediment! I have a right to go to class and not wear a mask, just like everyone else. That’s on top of the law that states that it’s Indirect Discrimination to not be able to access the class (or any other area where people have equal access) due to air-borne fragrances.

Imagine the cleaning staff changing to using fragrance free products in the buildings that I use. (Perfume-free Library room and building 10.) And that they are doing this with the intention to change to using fragrance free products in the rest of the university when the other products run out. (Their theory behind this: the chance of fragrance free products impacting on other students health is almost none, the chance of fragrance chemicals impacting on more students health is higher.

Imagine they do the same with the hand soap in the toilets. (You see even if a student comes to school fragrance free, they won’t stay that way if they wash their hands in the bathroom unless the soap they use is fragrance free.)

(Note: Staff at VU have worked every corner of the boxing ring to accommodate and include me in the classes and lectures; and I’ve never had to use the ‘discrimination’ card to force them to fit me in. (I do know that they’ve injected the word ‘discrimination’ right into the main vein of bureaucracy via communications between various departments. All in the name of making shit happen! It’s like they know that I belong there. I really feel like that! Okay, there was this one teacher… but I’m not going to go there, today. This post is about being thankful!)

Imagine how I felt as I went to class, attending to my studies just like everyone else? At times I felt a tad guilty about the trouble people were going too. But do you know what I found? That speaking out about fragrance chemicals and their effects, gives others permission to do the same. No one wants to be a troublemaker. No one wants to complain—or seem to be complaining—about what products people use. No one wants to be seen to be different (for the wrong reasons).

Towards the middle of the last semester, a text went out asking people to be mindful about all staff and students who suffer health problems from these products. And it said that all classes are fragrance free!

I’ve already expressed how much I feel like I belong in this particular learning institution. So much, that I feel as if my experience and my illness have taught others; but more even more so, it’s taught me that that anxiety I feel in the pit of my stomach right before I speak up about the ‘fragrance issue’, that anxiety is a tool. A tool that I can tap into to help facilitate a positive outcome—for me, and/or for others. It could also be a tool that I use to run, hide, squirrel myself into isolation. But no, I use this ‘anxiety’ to spur me on…

Imagine going to class each week and finding that that anxiety has faded into the background. Sometimes mildly humming  back there, ready to remind me to remind people of the boundaries. Imagine it just hangs out on the peripheral of my attention, letting me focus on my studies, 100 percent.

Imagine going to class each week and finding—knowing that there is an air-purifier in the room that a teacher or security staff member has kindly, turned on an hour previously. Imagine that Victoria University Disability Services (VUDS) decide to put the air-purifier onto a timer, just to make sure it goes on at the right time.

Blue Air Purifier Supplied by Victoria University Disability Services (VUDS) for students who are sensitive and allergic to chemical irritants that are in fragrances and spray on deodorants

Blue Air Purifier Supplied by VUDS

Now, imagine they put a sign on the classroom door, reminding others that the room is fragrance free and that toxic chemicals contained in personal care products can and do cause and exacerbate symptoms in people who have asthma, chemical sensitivities and those who have immune disorders, and to please refrain from wearing them? Imagine they source that sign themselves, via the Allergy, Environmental Sensitivity and Support Research Association (AESSRA) website, printing and laminating it, placing it up around the building: in the main office and the two low-toxic classrooms.

The sign on this Victoria University Classroom door says: "Thank you for not wearing fragrance." And and other sign on the door says: "Please keep door closed at all times. (Noteworthy: people need two signs to be able to notice that there is a sign on the door!)

The Classroom Door with Signs Attached Alerting People to the Fragrance Irritants and Student Health.

Imagine that the Professional Writing and Editing Coordinator, along with my help, drafts up a bullet point list of reasons why students could refrain from wearing certain products; what happens to me if I breathe them in (in the short term) and what happens to me if I breathe them in (over the long term); what they could use instead; and of what benefit it would be to them and others if they could do that.

Imagine how validating that would feel…

Imagine VUDs loans out an iPad to me so that I can minimise my exposure to breathing in petrochemicals from the inks in books and on pages. Imagine the possibilities for utilising this as a learning tool? I can take photos of the notes on the board. And I can use it to photograph documents like class room handouts. This way I don’t have to air them later; or curse when the wind blows them away or they get rained on while out airing. OMG, and the books! And the newspapers I can read on it!!!

Imagine one of my amazing teachers goes to the trouble of putting printed material behind plastic for me?

I know, it’s probably a dream, yes?

No, it’s reality.

(And can I just point out that lately my health has been impacted less by printed ink? It’s been a few months since I opened the mail, breathing in ink fumes that are so toxic to my system that just the exposure to the petrochemicals wipes me out for the rest of the day. I still air my mail. Still take precautions. But I’m not suffering such intense symptoms with printed material. (Glossy magazines. Not so lucky. Massive headaches. Small steps, small steps… I’ll get out of here!)

Now, imagine that it’s the end of the last Semester and that I’m two subjects away from owning my Diploma in Professional Writing and Editing. Owning. My. Diploma. Me? Imagine the buzz radiating within. How awesome would that be?

Access to Goods and Services with MCS in Australia

Winter time, heating is on and I’m doing fine. I can even pop into the office where staff are fragrance-free

Now imagine that the weekly email that goes out to the students before classes no longer asks people to remember to accommodate me, Michellina van Loder. No, it asks that students please refrain from wearing chemicals so VU can accommodate all the students who suffer with this problem…

Imagine that all the anxiety and fear that’s been eating away at me as I collaborate with people to get my needs met, imagine it’s all been worth it. Imagine that it gave others permission to speak up. Others who suffer asthma, headaches, allergies and many conditions that flare when the person is forced to breathe in fragrance chemicals for hours on end.

Imagine this, my reality…

You see for me, this is a really lucky thing, for I don’t have a great support network of friends and family who will go fragrance free for me. Some will go without it for a visit or two. But these people are never really fragrance free because using fragrance is a daily thing for them. The scent is on every piece of clothing or furniture they own, so although it may give me only a slight headache being with them for a few hours, it’s not a pleasant experience. I guess theirs an element of respect, disrespect rather, that I try not to take personally. But alas… It’s in their cars. It’s everywhere, so even when they try their version of going fragrance, aftershave, perfume, scented-face cream, hair-gel free (they don’t use XYZ for a day), it’s still a problem.

I’m grateful for the few who don’t wear it, won’t wear it throughout their day to day lives.

So this sense of belonging I feel when it comes to attending classes and being a part of VU, it’s an important and valid part of my identity: a student, a writer, a poet, a professional blogger. It’s all wrapped up, right there!

Fragrance is the opposite of a social lubricant; it’s an emollient that rusts away, seizing up all working parts until things are just fucked. And each time you have a discussion with someone who doesn’t want to go without wearing fragrance, the talking—however gentle the persuasion is—causes friction over time. And that there, the resistance, is the rusty beginning of a solid relationship turning into a wasteland of broken hearts and hurt feelings.

But it’s really great that I have this, and I’m so grateful to the staff and students at VU who are up to speed on this issue. Now, we just need the rest of  Australia to catch up!



AESSRA’s ‘Thank You for Not Wearing Fragrance Sign that I used for my classes at Victoria University

Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

How to Get a Shop Assistant’s Assistance Without Going Into the Shop

Sometimes, there are essential items just waiting for us, sitting on shelves inside buildings that are impossible to access. This is most commonly true when it comes to accessing Australian pharmacies that dispense medications and medical items, and sell personal care products: it’s the fragrances that are the problem. (Ironic isn’t it? Going to get medical items causes you to get sick?!)

I know, getting sick while trying to cash a prescription prescribed to you so that you don’t get sick, or that is to help you with pain, is just plain butt-naked, cruel irony.

Most ‘designer’ fragrances are kept guarded behind an impenetrable wall of glass, locked up like the Mona Lisa at the Louvre Museum (but without the alarms)! Yes, their prices are high but it’s the status of wearing them that is valuable–to some. Designer or fake, it makes no difference because they all contain solvents and petrochemicals and whatever else is hidden behind that controversial and contentious term, ‘fragrance’.

However, due to lack of monetary value, the fake Dior, Armani and Brittany Spears bottles line the shelves; testers positioned prominently and imminently, just daring shoppers to seize a free spritz (or drench) of ‘pretend status value’. Or for the really time–and money–poor, perhaps, they can don a few short bursts of each, in the hope of skipping their next shower. Because, *hey*, no-one will be able to smell yesterday’s and today’s BO, nor will they smell the le-undouched-smelly arse odour. Or will they? (I mean, if a person’s immune system is fully misfiring and they have a heightened sense of smell, well, they are going to be able to smell EVERYTHING!)

Consequences abound for canaries, and the immune compromised: these free testers make it inhumanely difficult to access the services we so direly need such as trisalts, pain medication, sinus medication, various steroidal medications, eczema creams, eye drops and whatever else it is our doctors, specialists or natural therapists prescribe. Another consequence is that we sometimes have to go without. And, then there is the amount of time spent trying to find the right pharmacy who have ‘non fragranced’ staff available to make up our prescription without getting fragrance on it (or in as in the case of compounding medicines (those that are made to a physicians specifications, or rather, recipe)), or getting fragrance in it: light years beyond cruel irony.

Try finding a pharmacy that does not sell fragrances? Try finding one that doesn’t have testers out on display? It’s a fucking minefield of women, men and free range children, spraying testers out onto their necks and into the air beyond. While the unsuspecting trample past through chemical molecules floating through the air.

A man who suffered with chemical sensitivities had to walk this exact fragranced conundrum. Admirably, he took his problem to the Australian Human Rights Commission:

“A man who has adverse reactions to perfumes complained that he was unable to access his local pharmacy because of fragrances, in particular near the checkout area. The matter was settled when the pharmacy chain agreed to develop a system of zones in its premises including fragrance free aisles, and a home delivery service.”

If you cannot access a pharmacy because of fragrances, here are some other things you can do:
  • If you need items that are nonprescription, then phone from home and ask if they can post your items out. However, depending on your postcode, you will be waiting 2-5 days, possibly more.


  • Stand outside, call the phone number on the outside of the shop, then ask the assistant to come outside to fill your scripts… For newly chemically sensitive people, often, this is the first thing they try, only to end up standing there, feeling like a mongoose wearing a mink coat mask in summer, because the whole caper is a symptom-inducing-futile experience. Earnestly, even though they are avoiding the fragrance chemicals inside the shop, the chemicals– from the traffic fumes and fragrance wearing passersbys–outside the shop can bring on debilitating symptoms. Ergo, for people moderately or severely sensitive, an experience like this can severely impact on their health, taking them days, or even weeks to recover.



  • Stay at home, phone in and ask if they can “please take your order over the phone”. This can work for non-prescription items like Trisalts but for scripts, you will need to have visited there at least once so that they can access your information and know that you are who you say you are. You could post the prescription in, or if it’s possible you could have your doctor fax it in, then he/she could post the original in later: this option usually takes prearrangement and a pharmacy and health professional willing to do this (trust is huge factor).


  • If you have a car, drive to the pharmacy, phone them and ask the assistant to come out to your car. Forget about this if your script is for any kind of pain relieving medication; we no longer live in that kind of world: they may peg you for a junkie who wants to rob them.



  • Wait until someone you know (who doesn’t use fragrance) can go in as your ‘agent’ and pick up your items



  • Any of the above may work for items like make-up bags, heating pads or fragrance free personal care items. (Hint: if buying something like these, it may be best to ask for something that has been kept out back, or at least, is still wrapped in its plastic. Yes, fragrances, by their very nature, are shared, but not only that, the molecules land on everything that’s in their vicinity. If your purchase has been in the shop for a while, you could be airing it out for twice that amount of time, or end up giving it away to charity because the fragrance chemicals may never air out.)



  • You can call and ask if they have the particular item(s) you need.



  • Next, ask if it’s stored near the fragrance testers. (Explain that breathing in, or/and touching fragrance causes you to have health problems. Then ask “could they please do you a favour?” But first, you need to find out if they are wearing any fragrance or any aerosol types of products, if so, then ask if you could ‘please’ have another assistant who is not wearing these. (If they have no-one available, thank them kindly, hang up and find another pharmacy. (*Don’t feel like an nincompoop. Hey, you just planted a tiny seed of awareness in someone’s head.*)))



  • If they do have the item that you need, ask them to sniff it and see if it’s got any fragrance on it. It’s a dumb thing to ask, seriously, everyone’s perception is different, and if fragrance is not acting as an irritant to the person’s immune system, then it may or may not be noticeable, and if it is, it will be “only a tiny bit; and actually, it’s a *nice smelling one. Not one of those cheap yucky ones!” Once you’ve found the item you need, ask them to take a photo of it (or a selection of photos of different colours and/or styles), and text it to your phone. After, you’ve decided, ask the shop assistant to wrap it in a plastic, or preferably, put it into a paper bag, ready for you or your carer to pick up later. At this point, you may have to pay, by credit or direct debit card, over the phone.



Photos of Personal Care Product Travel Bags, Texted to Me By a Shop Assistant

Photos of Personal Care Product Travel Bags, Texted to Me By a Shop Assistant

The Big One with the Handle is the One I Chose

The Big One with the Handle is the One that I Chose

These are just some ways that you can get your items from shops. Of course, the easiest way is to order online. But staff still need to be made aware of the fragrance issue. You, like me, can slowly chip away, creating awareness, or you can do what this man did:

“A man who stated that he has sensitivities to a range of chemicals complained that a retail shop was inaccessible to him because of strong fragrances worn by checkout staff. The matter was settled without admission of liability when the store agreed to request staff to avoid strong fragrances, and to raise with its departments issues of use of the least toxic paints, glues and building materials available, non-allergenic carpeting, and warnings when toxic materials were present.”


Australian Human Rights Commission 


Michellina Van Loder is a Professional Writer, Journalist and Blogger. This is where she shares her tales about trail blazing her way out of the Labyrinth of Chemical Sensitivities and Mould. This is also where you will find the latest Research on related topics.

Information, products and views presented by guest bloggers @The Labyrinth are not necessarily the same as those held by this blog's author, Michellina van Loder. Reviews are my own personal opinions (unless stated otherwise); and satire is used throughout personal posts. Any health topics discussed are not to be taken as medical advice. Seek out medical attention if needed and do your own research; however, you're welcome to use mine as a start.
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