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Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Work Is A Four Letter Word

Articles appeared in the media about an employee who was dismissed for failing to wear make up as instructed by her employers. So I decided to join in the debate as follows:

Further to the media comment on the case of Ms. Melanie Stark and her dismissal from Harrods said to be because of her reluctance to wear cosmetics as required by the Harrod’s Dress Code.

I note that for males, cosmetics are not required but that apparently anti-perspirants and deodorants are stipulated.

There are added issues here which are not covered in the media.

The first is that increasing numbers of people at the present time are becoming adversely affected by these products. The degree and nature of reaction can vary and often it is very difficult to pinpoint the agent or agents in the products that are causal to the reactions.

Nevertheless, there is now an increasing literature on the subject and in many parts of the world the reality of multiple chemical sensitivity or other significant medical problems that can develop is widely recognised, although not in the UK.

Who might contract these problems is also a question. However, it seems very likely that someone who already has some form of compromise to the immune system or has suffered a severe viral or chest problem can be vulnerable.

If a person either already has a continuing issue or could be at risk then avoidance of products or substances is a logical and sensible course of action to take. If a person is already having more substantial reactions then avoidance might become critical.

There are other issues of long term health notably where sprays may be involved. One is that little is known of the long term effect on the vital organs but there is now increasing evidence that heavy use of the relevant chemical agents is a common factor in endocrine and other impairments of the reproductive systems.

To put it crudely, heavy use of some male deodorants might have significant effects on the lungs and reproductive systems of males.

The advent of fine particle (nano) technology has increased the impact and effect of very many products. I note that the HSE now has advice and warnings about work places in which nano particles may be present. One key disease is Pulmonary Fibrosis, which is both debilitating and incurable.

The extreme end of toxic/allergic reaction is anaphylaxis, the highly dangerous and potentially terminal immune system shock which can lead to a collapse of the brain and breathing function within a few minutes.

You will appreciate that these factors are very different from the wearing of a uniform, or clean tidy dress, or combed hair etc.

It is my view that an employer who insists on high levels of chemical usage by all staff as a necessary condition of employment is both discriminatory against those with any skin, breathing, or allergy issues and possibly in some circumstances depending on the pollution levels within the store an active danger to long term health.

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