Chemical Fragrance Sensitivity

Students and Employees with Sensitivities to Chemicals/Fragrances: A Challenge in the Classroom and Workplace

According to reports from campuses across the nation and from informational sessions at recent conferences, disability support service providers and institutional administrators have seen an increase in requests for accommodations from students and employees with a diagnosis of Multiple Chemical Sensitivity/Environmental Illness, or MCS/EI.

While this is not a problem that affects many individuals at SCC, several employees and students at the College have brought concerns of this nature to my attention. We are hopeful that knowing more about these types of chemical sensitivities will enable us to respond appropriately should students or employees bring these concerns to our attention.


  • Multiple Chemical Sensitivity/Environmental Illness

This condition involves a hypersensitivity to common chemical and environmental stimuli. Even low levels of the stimuli may trigger reactions in people reporting these conditions. A wide range of symptoms has been reported.

  • Triggers

Triggers are products or stimuli that induce symptoms in people reporting MCS/EI. Common triggers include (but are not limited to) cologne, perfume, scented body sprays, scented hair spray/gel/mousse and other leave-in hair products, lotions, scented powder, after shave, richly-scented deodorant/antiperspirant, air fresheners (solid or spray), bathroom deodorizers, potpourri, and many products currently used for cleaning floors, carpets, and other surfaces.


Some individuals in your classrooms or work areas may have strong reactions to scents and fragrances. Should a student or employee express concerns of this nature, please take them seriously and work with them toward a reasonable resolution. Most often, these situations can be resolved simply by letting others know of the sensitivity. Once others are aware of the sensitivities they will voluntarily respond to reasonable requests to minimize or eliminate the use of substances that trigger the reaction.

Technical Assistance/Support

Should you or supervisors in your division need assistance in addressing these types of concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the Access/Equity/Diversity Office to explore possible solutions. Understanding the dynamics of fragrance sensitivities, however, is usually sufficient to address those isolated incidences involving students and employees at SCC who experience negative reactions to strong scents and fragrances.