Shul Sensitivities - How to be Scent-Free at Synagogue So Everyone Can Attend Services & Events

Please come scent-free to all of the Shul’s services and events. This will help create a safe and healthy environment for the members and guests, especially those with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), asthma that is triggered by fragrances and chemicals and related health conditions. What does it mean to come “scent-free”?  By “scent-free” we mean fragrance-free and non-toxic.

To help make the Shul safe, healthy and accessible to people with these health conditions, we respectfully request that we all do the following:

 Please only wear fragrance-free products to Shul.

It is especially important to avoid wearing strong fragrances.  Please also avoid wearing any scented products to Shul, if possible. 

• Please refrain from wearing clothes to Shul that were washed in scented detergents, fabric softeners or dryer sheets. 

Only use fragrance-free, environmentally-safe laundry products instead. Emissions from clothes washed with conventional fabric softeners or dryer sheets are particularly hazardous to many people with MCS, asthma, and related disabilities. Many fragrance-free, environmentally-safe laundry products are listed in the links below and are available locally. 
• Please avoid wearing clothes to Shul that were conventionally dry cleaned or dry cleaned using hydrocarbon solvents.  

These clothes emit indoor air pollutants that are especially toxic to many people with MCS and related disabilities.  The chemical emissions continue for quite some time.  Some dry cleaners that use hydrocarbon solvents claim to be “environmentally friendly” although none of them are.   If you must wear clothes that were dry cleaned, please air them out very well before wearing and avoid the scent-free section of our rooms.

• Please avoid wearing clothes that were stored with mothballs.

• Please avoid wearing brand new clothing, unless you have washed them first in fragrance-free laundry products.

Fabric finishes and leather tanning chemicals in new clothes or bags can be toxic to many people with MCS and related disabilities.

• Please try not to wear scented clothes (e.g., clothes that smell of perfume, other fragrances or smoke) to Shul.

If it isn’t feasible to wear completely scent-free clothing, please try to make sure that your clothes are as scent-free as possible and stay away from the scent-free section. Please see the references below for tips on how to get these scents and chemicals out of clothes.

• Please avoid wearing fresh hair color, perms, or curl relaxers of the conventional varieties to Shul. 

Please try to do chemical processing to hair at least two or three weeks before coming to Shul or use less toxic versions of these products. Even if you use these less toxic versions, please avoid the scent-free section until you are sure that your hair is no longer giving off any chemicals or fragrances.

A few more important notes about how to help make Shul safe, healthy, and accessible to our members:

• Some products that are as labeled as “unscented” actually include “masking fragrance” which can trigger asthma attacks, migraine headaches and serious health problems for some people. A small percentage of products that are labeled as “fragrance free” also include “masking fragrance.” So please check the products’ list of ingredients to make sure it doesn’t say “fragrance” or “masking fragrance. Products that are both natural and labeled as “fragrance free” are usually fine.

• Essential oils can also trigger these serious health problems for some people.  While avoiding artificial fragrances is particularly important, because they are especially toxic for many people, it’s also important to avoid wearing naturally-fragranced products at Shul, whenever possible.  Essential oils and other natural fragrances are in many personal care and laundry products, so please check the lists of ingredients.

• Second-hand fragrance can trigger these serious health problems for some people, even if the person wearing the fragrance is some distance away. (In this manner, second-hand fragrance is similar to second-hand smoke.)  While only strong fragrances will trigger asthma or migraines for some people, other people can develop serious health problems from even very low levels of fragrance chemicals, other chemicals and/or natural fragrances.  So if you can’t be completely scent-free, please keep a good amount of distance from the scent-free section.  Also, even if you plan to sit away from the scent-free section, please plan to be scent-free or as close to it as possible. According to Professor Pamela Reed Gibson, chemical sensitivity “afflicts between 4% and 33% of the U.S. population, depending upon the level of severity of the definition used.” So even if you are sitting far from the scent-free section, it is likely that you may be sitting near someone who is at least somewhat chemically sensitive.

Thank you for helping make Shul safe, healthy and accessible to as many of us as possible!