Scent is so tied to our memories. Elementary school and tempura paint. Mr. Sketch markers. Cafeteria bleach. Elmer’s glue. The super-cool student teacher’s perfume.
Oh blissful ignorance.
“I did then what I knew how to do. Now that I know better, I do better.”
― Maya Angelou
After learning that “fragrance” on a product label is a place where harmful chemicals can lurk – including hormone disruptors, carcinogens, and allergens - I began replacing our bathroom and cleaning products with fragrance-free options. As I cleaned up our act at home, I thought about my kids spending seven hours at school, plus a couple more in their afterschool program, each day. What did their daily exposure to harmful chemicals look like?
Interestingly, schools and offices are adopting fragrance free policies to help combat poor air quality and provide relief for people with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS). MCS can include allergic and asthmatic reactions to the chemicals used in a variety of scented materials including chemical products. Less severe reactions include headaches, nausea and difficulty with concentration. Sometimes it is the sensitivities, sometimes it is the products themselves.
This is an easy place to make a big impact.
Where can one parent positively influence 400 children and dozens of staff? At the start of each school year, parents at my children’s elementary school are asked to bring in hand sanitizer and anti-bacterial surface wipes. We don’t use either of those products at home but at school my kids are using them every day, 180 days a year.
- Look for better-for-you surface wipes like the ones made by Greenshield Organic, Whole Foods and CleanWell, or a better-for-you surface spray and paper towels.
- And for hand sanitizer, avoid any product with triclosan on the label (another topic, but just as fascinating.) Babyganics, CleanWell and the Honest Company make triclosan free versions.
Plain soap and water is best but if I had to get 22 kids to wash their hands twice a day in a classroom without a sink, I might resort to hand sanitizer too. Or use my tears.
The Savvy Path takes on one topic a month. This is one in a series focused on fragrance. Would you like to learn more?