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Vent: Public restroom accessibility— chemicals/fragrance products


Pen
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The thread about the person who was able to get a non-binary bathroom led me to reflect on my struggles over many years with public bathrooms that are not accessible to me without suffering long periods of severe flare ups of my chronic illness afterwards due to fragranced and chemical problems used in them. 

I have avoided many places due to such inaccessibility  .  It is very isolating and stressful, not to mention physically painful when I unavailable do end up with such exposures  .  

I feel sad. 

This is just a vent. 

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I think the difficulty with this is how do you enforce this in anything like an effective way, when so many disparate people are using the facility?

It's usual here now that all "public' places like hospitals and schools, or the place you go to renew a licence, are scent free. So are a lot of private workplaces.  Realistically though, they don't generally refuse to let people from outside to come in, they don't tell them they can not use the toilets etc.  It's also tricky in that it is not always easy for people to find totally scent free products they find otherwise effective.  Actually, I have noticed lately that a lot of places are now calling themselves "low scent" environments, and I suspect it is to account for this.  And, not to be crass, but I think there are certain people who wear scents because they are trying to cover bad smells on their body, and the social stigma on that is great enough it is really difficult to get them to stop.

I'm not sure what a good solution even could be, that could be widely instituted, apart from smelliness becoming fashionable - actually I think that might be a great idea.  Is there anywhere people know where there are functioning reliable scent-free approaches?

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My sister has this problem and she usually tries to arrange her life to avoid public restrooms.  Needless to say, this leads to a variety of issues.  True story - once she was so upset at having to use a public restroom, she crashed her car.

My kid used to come home from preschool with a rash on her hands because of the harsh soap she was required to use.

It would be nice to see a gradual move toward milder products where possible.

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I think the difficulty with this is how do you enforce this in anything like an effective way, when so many disparate people are using the facility?

 

Even though it's tough to make everybody dial down their use of perfume (and aftershave and so on - listen, you're not supposed to bathe in the stuff!), we can probably still push places to use unscented cleaners. That's got to help some people even if it's not enough for everybody.

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16 hours ago, Pen said:

The thread about the person who was able to get a non-binary bathroom led me to reflect on my struggles over many years with public bathrooms that are not accessible to me without suffering long periods of severe flare ups of my chronic illness afterwards due to fragranced and chemical problems used in them. 

I have avoided many places due to such inaccessibility  .  It is very isolating and stressful, not to mention physically painful when I unavailable do end up with such exposures  .  

I feel sad. 

This is just a vent. 

 

I agree with you, Pen! I get migraines, and sometimes the air fresheners in public rest rooms are so heavily fragranced, they can trigger a multi-day headache. I usually just turn around and walk right out when the odor is super-strong, but sometimes if I’m on a long road trip, I can’t always wait until we get to the next exit to look for another rest room.

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There are some perfumes and aftershaves I just can't be round without my eyes streaming and gasping for breath.  I would rather have cigarette smoke.  Actually I find cigarette smoke less offensive than vaping.  

 

Oh and a vent because I need to.  Landlords when you say smoking outside is fine but not inside it means at times my kids can't play in their own garden and my washing smells.  Either day no smokers or tell them they can smoke inside.

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22 hours ago, Bluegoat said:

I think the difficulty with this is how do you enforce this in anything like an effective way, when so many disparate people are using the facility?

It's usual here now that all "public' places like hospitals and schools, or the place you go to renew a licence, are scent free. So are a lot of private workplaces.  Realistically though, they don't generally refuse to let people from outside to come in, they don't tell them they can not use the toilets etc.  It's also tricky in that it is not always easy for people to find totally scent free products they find otherwise effective.  Actually, I have noticed lately that a lot of places are now calling themselves "low scent" environments, and I suspect it is to account for this.  And, not to be crass, but I think there are certain people who wear scents because they are trying to cover bad smells on their body, and the social stigma on that is great enough it is really difficult to get them to stop.

I'm not sure what a good solution even could be, that could be widely instituted, apart from smelliness becoming fashionable - actually I think that might be a great idea.  Is there anywhere people know where there are functioning reliable scent-free approaches?

 

I don’t know how it works because I’ve never been there, but some Canadian city has, I was told, had a scent free policy for many years. Possibly Halifax, but I don’t recall for sure. 

Anyway the person who told me said it was very good because the policy has been in place long enough that a generation grew up with out using a ton of fragranced products. So people are not immersed in it and become unaware (unable to smell it anymore) due to the immersion such that they keep using more and more. 

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I'm sorry, Pen. The really chemical smells of that stuff can trigger a migraine for me. I'm lucky that a quick pop into the bathroom isn't really long enough to do anything to me.

I agree with what Tanaqui said - raising awareness about this as an issue is important and should help lead to change.

I've also heard about places that have scent free policies - more and more workplaces do now. I don't like the idea of regulating people's individual perfume use or decision to use products with scent in their homes, but asking public places to do it as a law doesn't seem all that difficult or unenforceable to me. Unscented cleaners are widely available nowadays.

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39 minutes ago, Pen said:

 

I don’t know how it works because I’ve never been there, but some Canadian city has, I was told, had a scent free policy for many years. Possibly Halifax, but I don’t recall for sure. 

Anyway the person who told me said it was very good because the policy has been in place long enough that a generation grew up with out using a ton of fragranced products. So people are not immersed in it and become unaware (unable to smell it anymore) due to the immersion such that they keep using more and more. 

 

Ah, I live in Halifax, yes, that has been the policy for a long time.

I would say though that it isn't a perfect policy.  I would call it low-scent rather than no scent, if that makes sense.  People don't wear strong scents much, or use strong smells in bathroom soaps and such.  Cleaning products are low scent.  And they aren't usually very artificial sorts of scents.  But they do still use chemical bathroom cleaners, or soap dispensers do have some smell, and people use commercial shampoos in their hair and so on.  And people who are not workers may come into buildings with a strong scent.  

I think it probably does affect the overall level of scent, but maybe not enough for someone very sensitive and not or sure all the time.

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Ugh, you have my sympathy!  I also get migraines from many smells--most artificial fragrances, cigarette smoke, exhaust, coffee, etc.  Public restrooms can be a huge pain when they use scented products.  Many public restrooms seem to try to cover smells from not being cleaned frequently enough by layering on the fragrances, but then you just smell both scents together, which is uniquely unpleasant.  I keep my medication with me at all times, for when I can't avoid using the smelly bathroom or standing near someone wearing perfume in a line, etc. It was so much worse in middle and high school, when there was no alternative to going in to the girls' locker room for gym class or sitting near the kid who'd purchased coffee during the break.  I once had a teacher who brewed coffee during my class period every day, until my mom called the school to request I be changed to another class because I was getting daily migraines.  The school made him stop brewing coffee during class, instead, and I got to deal with an an angry teacher going through caffeine withdrawal with a grudge against me.

I appreciate when public places avoid artificial fragrances, but I wouldn't want it to be made a law.  I favor the free market approach; businesses that just keep their bathrooms clean without using much in the way of scented products get a lot more of my business than those that don't.  Little shops with air fresheners or incense or bookstores with an overpowering coffee smell also don't get my business.  If there are many folks like me that are bothered by scents, that will form it's own incentive, and if there aren't, well then it's already pretty much dealt with in my own life. 

I would, however, favor prohibiting them from schools, as they are government institutions and the kids don't have any option to avoid situations where fragrances can affect them there.

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