Remember that old slogan, "Having a smoking section in a restaurant is like having a peeing section in a swimming pool?" While funny, it was very true. Except for the last two or three years of my military career when indoor smoking began to be prohibited, I had no choice but to work alongside people puffing on their precious cigarettes all day long. While stationed in Heidelberg, Germany, I was cooped up with a cigar smoker for eight hours a day over a three-year time span. It’s a miracle I never got lung cancer!
Things are a lot easier with today's "no smoking” policies, but now society has a new and growing problem: Perfumes, colognes, and fragranced hygiene and cleaning products. These products include man-made scents which are toxic to thousands of people. Ironically, these scents have a worse effect on me than cigarettes. The chemicals and compounds which comprise these fragrances can put me in the hospital because they literally take my breath away.
This new scourge in society is that fragrances are in EVERYTHING! You can’t escape them. People shower with scented soaps and shampoos; and, afterwards, they use scented deodorants, lotions and hairspray – and to top it all off, they then spritz on their favorite perfume. Even trash bags are scented! People are completely oblivious to the fact that every single, scented product they use can make sensitive people deathly ill. (And every year the number of "sensitive people" keeps getting larger....)
Most don't know these fragrances are man-made and toxic to human beings! And, unlike with natural allergens (such as pollens, dust mite excretions and pet dander), there is no antidote to perfume allergies. You cannot simply “take shots” to desensitize yourself. All you can do is to remove yourself from the offending person or product. (To find out more, please check out this link at WebMD.)
In my case, I immediately suffer swollen sinuses, headaches, sore throat and sore, “fluttering” lungs (which my allergist dubbed “perfume-induced asthma” resulting from “multiple chemical sensitivities” (MCS) which is also known as “idiopathic environmental intolerance.” One whiff of someone’s scented hairspray or favorite perfume is as toxic for me as inhaling Clorox bleach. As a result, I use only fragrance-free products in my house – which is the ONLY place I am truly safe from today’s toxic-scent-laden environment.
What I’m trying to illustrate here is that, basically, we've replaced the smoking scourge with a chemical scourge which is just as bad or worse for the millions of MCS sufferers (most of whom suffer in silence). I “suffered in silence” again recently, while sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room when someone guy’s cologne walked in ahead of him and crawled up my nose like burning cinders, which gave me an instant, violent headache.
As always, I didn't say anything because I know from experience that commenting only provokes hard feelings and/or the "deer in the headlights look - so, as usual, I immediately left and waited for my appointment standing outside the waiting room.
I’m thinking that, perhaps it’s time the “silent sufferers” band together and demand that public places offer closed rooms for people with MCS, because – as with the smoking scourge – it’s going to take decades of begging and pleading and protests and outrage directed against the perfume and fragrance industries to induce any changes.
In the meantime, I guess, people like me will just have to continue suffering and doing our best to get away from the clueless hordes who don’t realize they are walking, talking, toxic chemical dumps who literally make people sick with their favorite scents by their mere presence. They just don't get it. I know that from experience.