Chemical Sensitivity & Scented Trains


September 2016 I moved into a student residence. That was when I first noticed a hypersensitivity to smells. I could smell what was cooking in the kitchen from two floors up at the opposite end of the hall. Sometimes it was temptingly pleasant, but the ready-made, frozen microwaveable dinners and prepackaged snacks smelled awful. The synthetic deodorants, perfumes, and air fresheners sprayed in the hall or shared toilet made me cringe. But worst of all was the stench of the industrial-grade cleaning products!

For some reason I was reluctant to admit that I also suffered from chemical sensitivity on top of everything else, so although I wouldn’t hesitate to say that the hand soap, surface cleaner, and mop detergent smelled horrible, it took me awhile to be sure it was having an effect on health. A couple times it hit me as I walked into the kitchen after someone had mopped. Even though I never touched the stuff myself, the smell lingered in the air for hours and despite walking in feeling fine, I’d soon be glued to my bed for the rest of the day. A couple other times I was still asleep when they’d mop the toilet and stairs down the hall. The smell wafted into my room and took me out like a ninja! But I know I’m actually quite lucky, because many of you have to deal with full-blown anaphylaxis in response to the smallest odour. I know a lot of you also wear carbon filter masks, which is something that’s crossed my mind, but I’m not quite there yet.

Still, I wanted to ask your help. A friend contacted me the other day, because she recently discovered the metros in her city have now begun using synthetic air fresheners. (article here)

Here’s what she had to say:

The thought of being trapped on a metro train going between stops, with the only option of breathing air that is increasingly causing an anaphylactic reaction, sounds like a death sentence. This ableist frivolity renders a whole mode of transportation inaccessible (or if I hadn’t read this, downright dangerous) to me. Or you. Or others.

I wrote to WMATA/metro that I care more about accessibility for all passengers than a weird take on mango scent floating around on the green line and I also enlisted the help of other local chapters of activists, but I hoped to get your help amplifying my concern over this issue.

If you or anyone you know suffers from chemical sensitivity then you know how serious it can be. Please take a minute to voice your concern (here) for the safety of my friend and all others in the District of Columbia who may also be vulnerable.


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