Australian Lefty on Politics, Governance, Science and Info Management

Let them sniff glue… or something like it, if it helps cashflow

Posted by Dave Bath on 2008-06-03

You’d think women would be up in arms about an occupational health issue that primarily has women as victims, wouldn’t you?  But I don’t hear a peep.

It’s even worse, as the typical woman at risk is of child-bearing age.

… and yes, there is an easy and relatively cheap fix.

We all know that volatile organics are bad (glue-sniffing is a good example).  This is why there are limits in laboratories: basically, if you can smell it strongly for any length of time you do the work in a fume cupboard.

Of course, the receptors in your nose tire out after half an hour for any particular smell, but that’s all the more reason to use fume cupboards.

So… how about a working environment where women are exposed to volatile organics, day in, day out… can you name it?

Perfume sales areas.  They cannot be good for you.  At least the rabbits who get perfumes tested on them aren’t dosed up day after day, year after year.  The women who work there are probably taking more volatile organics than the test subjects in laboratories.

I cannot see why we should be worried about what glue sniffing does to a brain in utero without being worried what constant exposure to so many volatile organics in a perfume shop will do to a brain in utero.

If we require fume cupboards in chemistry laboratories, for much lower levels, if we get pregnant women to leave the house for a couple of days when painting a couple of rooms, then there is no reason to say it’s ok for women to work near perfume counters – especially as they aren’t exactly getting hazard pay.

I’d love to see the levels of volatile organics in these places tested, without notice (so the shopowner can’t jam the doors open), and compared to permissible levels.

While the only complete solution involves stopping demand for perfumes, it wouldn’t be too hard to keep the perfumes up against a wall underneath an extractor fan (not as good as a proper fume cupboard, but it’s a start).

So, if I was a female ethical consumer, I’d only buy perfumes from shops that had appropriate ventilation and the least smell of volatile organics when I walked into the shop.


3 Responses to “Let them sniff glue… or something like it, if it helps cashflow”

  1. Seriously, I avoid those perfume counters at all costs. They make me feel physically ill (even when I’m not pregnant, as at the moment). I’m a very allergic person, and in the days where they used to corner you and spray perfume on your wrist, I sometimes came up in hives. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were bad for your health.

    So I refuse to buy from stinky perfume counters…

  2. Dave Bath said

    Hmmm. You raised an interesting issue. Some upmarket pharmacies have a lot of perfumes… yet people who have to swim through the stink to get to the prescriptions area are more likely to be vulnerable. I’d consider spraying you without asking a form of assault.

    And at least you aren’t supporting an industry that places low-paid and powerless shop assistants in areas that turn them into virtual glue sniffers.

  3. opit said

    Hospitals and Nursing Homes often post a request that scent not be worn by visitors.

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