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PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:30 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:16 pm
Posts: 9
Location: St. John's, NL, Canada
Hi,
Out of desperation I began surfing the net today in hopes of finding help. Both myself and my mother have chemical sensitivities and both work in the health care system. Even though our workplaces are supposedly scent free, that does not stop patients , visitors and staff from wearing scents on their person and/or their clothing.

Management provides no support nor does the union. I am called in and chastized for my "sick time abuse" and it is very degrading. The hospital uses many scented products itself and my co-workers know that I have no backing and wear what they want. When I am overcome with scents and open a window for fresh air, they just as quickly close it and smile . . . they know there is nothing I can do.

I've been to occupational health, management, the union, quality initiatives and employee wellness repeatedly but to no avail.. I am treated as a "problem".

If you identify with any of this . . I'd love to hear from you.

Thanks,
Shy BJ


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 4:14 pm 
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Joined: Wed Aug 10, 2005 11:21 am
Posts: 687
Location: Cobourg, ON
I heard on CBC radio a while ago that the Kingston General Hospital was trying to be scent free and was taking a very proactive approach. It sounds like there is a great deal of awareness and support at this hospital. I am sorry to hear about your situation. It must be very difficult. At the school where I work, the intermediate wing sometimes smells heavily of perfume and cologne. I don't know how the teachers stand it or asthmatic children. It would give me a headache everyday.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2006 9:13 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
Posts: 1454
Location: Canada
Just to add to katec's comment---there are more places that are becoming aware of chemical sensitivities. Patrons of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra are asked not to wear perfumes to their concerts.

There is a sign up in my doctor's office at Women's College hospital asking patients not to wear scented products. I asked the receptionist about this once---she said that they do send patients home if they come in wearing perfume or cologne. They do not ask their patients to avoid scented deodorants, handcreams, etc.---but the staff at Women's College Hospital are asked to choose their personal care products from a list of allowed products.

The Canadian Mennonite University has gone completely scent-free (I posted about this in another section of the site): http://www.cmu.ca/studentlife_10.html
They have a useful list of scent-free products + I thought they did a good job with the Q&A section of getting other students to support their policy.

Are you so sensitive that you react to all scented products (deodorant, etc) or is the issue more perfume? It would take a concerted effort to get everyone to switch to scent-free products like CMU, but I really don't see why people wouldn't simply stop wearing perfume!


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PostPosted: Wed Apr 05, 2006 7:20 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:16 pm
Posts: 9
Location: St. John's, NL, Canada
I am sensitive to just about everything. However, it usually takes a trigger such as perfume, aftershave or fabric softener/detergents to make me unable to handle most deoderants and soaps. Once I've been exposed to something strong, I cannot tolerate much after.


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PostPosted: Thu Apr 06, 2006 11:03 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
Posts: 1454
Location: Canada
That must be very difficult.

Some thoughts on your original post: getting chastised for "abuse" of sick days is discrimination pure and simple. In another thread, you mentioned that you have the full support of your doctor. I don't know that much about legal issues, but it seems to me that if you have a disability that your union/supervisor/employer shouldn't be able to discriminate against you. Really, you could start a lawsuit. You might want to keep a paper trail---make records of these meetings with the union. Perhaps bring a friend along to the meetings so you have a witness. But then again, lawsuits can be expensive and time consuming!


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2006 10:56 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:16 pm
Posts: 9
Location: St. John's, NL, Canada
I wish it were that simple. I know personally of two other women. One was forced into retirement. They left her off work so they could "clean" the place up so that she could work in a scent free environment. In the meantime she had no sick time left, employment insurance had been used up and all her annual leave gone. Workers compensation took 11 months to turn down her case and she was forced to pay back monies given to her from workers while she was off. For 11 months she had 0 income and the only way to create one was to retire. Long story short, she retired owing the hospital approximately $6000 which was deducted from severance pay and pension. Can you beleive that? The other lady has been off now for 18 months and is running out of sick time. She was wearing a mask at work for awhile until it became ineffective. She was told by the Occupational Health doctor to go into Sobey's and walk up an down the detergent aisle 10 times. Do this everyday until she can tolerate it! She is in her 40's and not close to retirement yet. I am off sick now for the 3rd day in a row and I have no sick time left. Tuesday at work was horrible for perfumes and aftershaves. My co-workers became very upset because I had the windows open and it was cold. The person who kicked up the most fuss was actually a union shop stewart. I don't have a prayer! Both ladies I have spoken about had sought legal council and were told that they are definately being discriminated against but the amount of money required to pursue the case against such a large corporation would leave them financially devasted.


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2006 6:23 pm 
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Joined: Tue Mar 22, 2005 6:53 pm
Posts: 1454
Location: Canada
That's a really tough situation----I guess sometimes the wealthy are the only ones who have a shot at getting justice. Wouldn't it be great, though, if the media picked up on stories like this?


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PostPosted: Fri Apr 07, 2006 8:20 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:16 pm
Posts: 9
Location: St. John's, NL, Canada
When I am ready or "forced" to resign, that's the first place I'll be going. Unless I have the nerve to approach it before then. I am bound legally, obviously, not to speak with the media. However, when I get to the point where I have nothing to lose or I'm backed into a corner, there will be nothing holding me back.

For now I have to find another source of income. I make really good money in my position, not the kind of money that I'm going to find anywhere else for sure, it will certainly be hard to give that up! Not to mention . . . I LOVE MY JOB ! The entire situation really sucks . . . :(


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 Post subject: re: chemically sensitive
PostPosted: Fri May 26, 2006 6:07 pm 
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Joined: Tue May 16, 2006 10:35 am
Posts: 6
I think the most frustrating thing about being chemically sensitive (and I've got a mild case, thank goodness) is how little understanding you get from other people. Somehow, when people can see you wheezing and scratching your eyes from a cat allergy, it's more accepted. When you start to feel sick to your stomach, headachy,and dizzy from someone's perfume, people get irritated at the mere thought that their chemicals might be causing you problems.


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 Post subject: Isn't that the truth!
PostPosted: Sat May 27, 2006 6:48 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:16 pm
Posts: 9
Location: St. John's, NL, Canada
I certainly don't wish that my reactions were worst than they already are, however, sometimes it would be easier if I were unable to breathe because then It would be believed . . . that is a horrible thing to say, but it is true.


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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 9:24 am 
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2006 8:22 pm
Posts: 154
Location: Georgia
Sorry to hear about your job not being "on board," especially since it's health-care! I have a few chemical *aversions* to certain fragrances, which I believe must be an extension of my allergies (some are inhalant). Others are actually pleasant, like the old-days. Oddly enough, I work around several organic chemicals, such as formalin, which don't bother me at all.
How do you react? What are your symptoms?
Daisy


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 Post subject: Symptoms
PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 9:56 am 
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:16 pm
Posts: 9
Location: St. John's, NL, Canada
I have a wide variety of symptoms which, I think, depends on the particular chemical in the irritant I am exposed to. Fabric softeners and bounce sheets actually burn my skin when I am around it. My face and ears will turn blood red and burn. Some aftershaves and perfumes do this as well. Again, it depends on the chemical composition. Some symptoms I experience include dizziness, headaches, irritability, agitation, anxiousness, tingling lips, numbness in the hands, sore throat, sticky/red eyes, confusion, sores in the nose, cold shivers and temperature decrease. My voice becomes raspy and if I get enough symptoms all at once . . . I will cry for no apparent reason and my voice will be so raspy that people would be unable to understand what I am saying. No wonder people think I'm crazy! ha!ha!


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PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 4:03 pm 
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Joined: Fri Jan 06, 2006 8:22 pm
Posts: 154
Location: Georgia
What type of work do you do? Is your work area small, like an office or a cubicle? Could you take an air cleaner to work? The carbon-based cleaners are great for fragrances.

Daisy


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 Post subject: facility
PostPosted: Mon May 29, 2006 5:41 pm 
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Joined: Mon Apr 03, 2006 3:16 pm
Posts: 9
Location: St. John's, NL, Canada
I work in a Hospital and my job requires that I work everywhere. I am not designated to one particular area. I am afraid of saying exactly what I do for a living for my own protection, it may sound silly but I have reason to worry. The procedures that I perform requires that I go to the Patient, wherever that may be.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 19, 2006 1:25 pm 
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Joined: Thu Mar 03, 2005 9:10 pm
Posts: 121
Location: Charlottesville, VA
I had to stop working because of MCS. I'm in the US, not Canada, but my workplace decided that a fragrance-free workplace would exceed reasonable accomodation. I got too sick to concentrate, developed occupational asthma, and started misplacing things (big problem when you handle budget and registrar stuff).

ygg

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~*~*~ That which does not kill me only gives me hives. ~*~*~


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