Progress is being made!
Even if you can’t actually get a fragrance-free flight, you can now get to the plane along a fragrance-free route if you are in Vancouver, BC!
Maybe it needs some work to make the English language portion clear?
Right now, it could be taken to mean that they have a free route to fragrance!
So, once they get the English fixed for those who don’t understand French (where it’s clear they mean without perfume, but then again, how many people actually read their box or bottle of laundry detergent to see that there’s parfum in there? and in their deodorant? and in their shampoo?) we can (maybe) get to the plane without being assaulted by fragrance chemicals (but, oh, it’s only “free” from the duty free shops with fragrance). Still, I guess it IS progress… kind of… Right?
Assuming we can actually get there without a life threatening (or merely disabling) reaction, what happens once we are in the actual plane?
So far, the best some airlines will do is offer a seat change. As we all know, smoking sections didn’t prevent second hand smoke from reaching non-smoking sections, and fragrance chemicals are the same. They are volatile and they travel throughout any space they are used in (including from the air “fresheners” found in airplane washrooms). Not only that, but fragrance chemicals stick to seats (often due to the inclusion of phthalates, a harmful class of endocrine disrupting chemicals used to make a fragrance last longer and be more absorbent), making third hand fragrance contamination a serious issue for many of us.
If you were allergic or “sensitive” to peanuts, and sat in a seat that had peanut dust rubbed into it, how well would you fare?
Here’s the article that brought Vancouver Airport’s fragrance free route around the fragrance filled duty free shops sign to my attention. It mentions some of the issues:
This quote from Dr. Karin Pacheco in the article is priceless:
“For some, fragrances may trigger “protective throat closure, burning eyes and nose, or headaches,”
“protective throat closure“
The article has some numerical omissions in the statistics. It is written that:
5 percent found scented products on others irritating
19 percent reported adverse health effects from air fresheners
9 percent reported irritation from scented laundry products that were vented outside
But the study abstract, where “Respondents were asked if they find being next to someone wearing a scented product irritating or appealing; if they have headaches, breathing difficulties, or other problems when exposed to air fresheners or deodorizers; and if they are irritated by the scent from laundry products, fabric softeners, or dryer sheets that are vented outside.” actually states:
30.5% of the general population reported scented products on others irritating,
19% reported adverse health effects from air fresheners, and
10.9% reported irritation by scented laundry products vented outside.
It seems like someone accidentally edited out some numbers, hopefully they will be corrected soon, as there’s a significant difference between 5 and 30%.
At least some people are starting to pay attention. It took decades and many lost lives before smoking was banned from (most) indoor spaces, hopefully we don’t have to wait decades (and so many more lives lost) for toxic fragrance chemicals to go the way of the dodo.
Ultimately, we need fragrance-free flights (and supply chains). But that still won’t make flying safe for all of us. There is also the matter of engine fuel being sucked in from the vents (aerotoxic syndrome), and pesticides are another problematic issue on some flights.
More needs to be done to make sure our air does not contain health harming substances. No-one should be forced to breathe in toxic chemicals, especially in closed environments.
Offering less fragrance to someone with disabling MCS/ES is like offering someone a broken wrist instead of a broken arm and/or broken leg, or a concussion instead of a brain tumour, but yeah, at least there’s a choice and more awareness now (jaded and cynical, who me?)
The Canadian Human Rights Code and the Ontario Human Rights Code both recognize environmental sensitivities as a disability that needs to be accommodated.
Ontario Human Rights Code: Section 2.3 on Non-evident disabilities:
“Similarly, environmental sensitivities can flare up from one day to the next, resulting in significant impairment to a person’s health and capacity to function, while at other times, this disability may be entirely non-evident”
The Canadian Human Rights Commission ‘Policy’ on Environmental Sensitivities and 2 papers can be found on the CHRC website here.
In closing, thanks to whoever it was who got the sign(s) installed at the Vancouver Airport, and to those who are pushing to have all the toxic fragrance emitting devices removed from public spaces (and elsewhere). Thanks to everyone who has the energy and money to hire lawyers to make access possible for those of us who are disabled by toxic chemicals. Some day it might actually be safe for people with more than mild MCS/ES to go out in public and even fly again! Here’s hoping it happens soon!