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Friday, 9 April 2010

A Ray Of Hope In A Darkening World

From thecanaryreport dot org, I believe this attracted some critical reports in some of the press. Inevitably from journalists whose track record does not include any serious or active research of the subjects they comment on. However, for some of us it represents a ray of light in a polluted world.


US Centers For Disease Control And Prevention Issues Indoor Air Quality Policy For All CDC Offices Nationwide
Posted on Apr 07, 2010 by Susie Collins

This is arguably the strongest and most important chemical-free and fragrance-free policy in existence for the workplace.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, a federal agency under the Department of Health and Human Services, recently issued a policy on indoor air quality that will affect all CDC offices (owned, leased and rented) and more than 15,000 employees nationwide. Among a host of indoor air quality standards, the policy includes specific guidelines restricting the use of fragrance in cleaning and personal care products.

Housekeeping Guidelines

CDC will ensure that products used in the workplace, such as soaps, cleaning products, paints, etc. are safe and odor-free or emit low levels of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) to the fullest extent feasible.

Only green cleaning products shall be specified and used within CDC facilities and leased spaces unless otherwise approved by the Office of Health and Safety.

Non-Permissible Products

Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC. This includes the use of:
• Incense, candles, or reed diffusers• Fragrance-emitting devices of any kind• Wall-mounted devices, similar to fragrance-emitting devices, that operate automatically or by pushing a button to dispense deodorizers or disinfectants• Potpourri• Plug-in or spray air fresheners• Urinal or toilet blocks• Other fragranced deodorizer/re-odorizer products

Personal care products (e.g. colognes, perfumes, essential oils, scented skin and hair products) should not be applied at or near actual workstations, restrooms, or anywhere in CDC owned or leased buildings.

In addition, CDC encourages employees to be as fragrance-free as possible when they arrive in the workplace. Fragrance is not appropriate for a professional work environment, and the use of some products with fragrance may be detrimental to the health of workers with chemical sensitivities, allergies, asthma, and chronic headaches/migraines.

Employees should avoid using scented detergents and fabric softeners on clothes worn to the office. Many fragrance-free personal care and laundry products are easily available and provide safer alternatives.

Further, the policy extends to enforcement. Within the document itself is clearly stated the process by which an employee may file a report about air quality problems through a questionnaire, and further still, who is responsible for overseeing the investigation:

Building occupants who experience irritation or symptoms that may be related to the quality of indoor air should notify their supervisors, and the OHS or local Safety Officer to initiate a complaint. BFO must also be contacted upon initiation of a complaint, to identify and/or review any potential structural, maintenance, or heating, ventilating or air conditioning (HVAC) issues.

Building occupants must also complete the Indoor Air Quality Questionnaire (see Attachment B) in order to properly document the complaint. Each IEQ complaint poses a unique set of circumstances that will determine the investigative procedures used to resolve each IEQ concerns.

Office of Health and Safety/Designated Safety Officer Administers the Indoor Environmental Quality Program and serves as the primary coordinator and investigator for reported incidents involving IEQ hazards or conditions; educates CDC supervisors and workers; develops report findings and recommendations for corrective action; and reviews and updates to meet future needs and regulatory changes.

You’ll also be happy to see that there is a section on pest control. Although it’s not perfect, it’s far safer than the hazards many workers endure with ubiquitous application of hazardous pesticides, usually performed without notice: “Pest management, for both buildings and lawn care, will emphasize non-chemical management strategies whenever practical, and the least-toxic chemical controls when pesticides are needed. Integrated Pest Management practices must be utilized.”

Coming from the CDC, this is arguably the most important chemical- and fragrance-free policy in existence for the workplace. In the words of former CDC director Dr. Julie Gerberding, the agency is charged with confronting “the challenges of 21st-century health threats.” It looks like the current CDC administration believes this responsibility covers not only the general public, but CDC’s own employees and workplaces as well.

Creating nontoxic work environments is not just good for employees’ health, it’s good for the bottom line, too. Workers who are not being slowly poisoned by toxic chemicals on the job can think clearer, work more efficiently and be more productive.

Employees who suffer chemical sensitivity, asthma and other respiratory ailments will take less sick days. People who are prone to developing health problems triggered by toxic chemicals will be safer; in fact, everyone who works in CDC buildings will now be safer.

For those of you with Multiple Chemical Sensitivity who are currently battling it out with your employer over hazardous chemicals in your work environment, in addition to discussing your rights to safer accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act, you might want to print out this new CDC policy and give copies to your boss, your CEO, and your human resources director.

Explain to them that the experts at CDC understand that indoor air quality is greatly compromised by a host of toxic chemicals, including those from cleaning products used by maintenance personnel and personal care products used by employees. Tell them that this recent CDC policy is indicative of the way trends are going, and any company getting on board now will be spared future costs caused by condoning an unsafe environment for employees.

This policy is incredibly good news– use the clout and expertise of this CDC policy to strengthen your arguments for a chemical and fragrance-free work environment.


When I try to explain to people that having a plug-in air freshener is roughly the equivalent of running a moped engine permanently in the room they often are unable to take in that not only are the emissions both chemical but they are very similar.

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