Fragrance Free Policy, Nolose 2015

Nolose is committed Disability Justice, as articulated by queer and trans disabled people of color. (Please see the recent Sins Invalid statement on the definition of Disability Justice here: https://www.facebook.com/sinsinvalid/posts/10153165516638985 ). We would like to say a few words about collective access and collective liberation. To make the conference broadly accessible and welcoming to all of us, including and especially our disabled and sick community members, we rely on our whole community to enact collective access so that we may move into liberation together in all aspects of our work. We need all of us to make collective access happen; this is true for all kinds of intersectional, cross-disability access, and perhaps especially for access for people with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities/chemical injury. For people with MCS, one person using scented products is as much of a barrier as a physical brick wall. As fat people our culture says our bodies are not valuable, much less precious or loveable. While we’re at this venue we need all of us to value each other’s bodies and access needs by doing the following:

–Shower after using the pool, before going into enclosed workshop spaces–or, if that’s not possible, refrain from attending workshops in wet bathing suits to reduce the chlorine others are exposed to as much as possible.

–Smokers who are able to refrain from smoking, do so.

–Smokers who need to smoke, do so in designated smoking areas (NOT the common spaces, by the pool, off the hotel balconies, or in the rooms–the parking lot and outside the hotel altogether are the only places for smoking), wash hands with fragrance-free soap (provided in restrooms) after smoking, and understand that the smoke and chemicals clinging to your clothes after smoking is a barrier to participation for people with MCS and asthma–in workshop and community spaces you’ll need to stay in the smokers area, or change clothes.

–Refrain from wearing perfume, cologne, or essential oils.

–Do not use fragranced personal care or laundry products (including products labeled “unscented” with masking fragrances or “parfum” or parabens in the ingredients).

–Prepare for the conference by washing your clothes without dryer sheets and with fragrance free detergent and/or baking soda to reduce or eliminate fragrances that linger in clothes. If you need to use a laundromat, put your detergent directly in the machine so it won’t filter through other people’s scented detergent residue, and try smelling the dryers before you dry clothes; air dry clothes if you need to, and instead of dryer sheets try dryer balls or putting white vinegar on a rag in the dryer with your clothes to soften them.

–Bring and use personal care products that are free of essential oils and artificial fragrances; read the label and avoid using products with fragrance/parfum, parabens, or petroleum products. Look at http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/top-tips-for-safer-products/ and http://www.safecosmetics.org/get-the-facts/whats-in-my-products/ for a sense of what to look for on your products’ labels to determine if they are appropriate for Nolose or not.

–We have limited amounts of personal care products available in the hospitality lounges. There are more and more inexpensive personal hygiene items available that are tailored for people of color, and/or widely available; see the resources listed on the East Bay Meditation Center for links, ideas, and general guidelines: http://eastbaymeditation.org/accessibility/scentfree.html .

–If you are not accustomed to reducing your use of scented products it is important to think carefully about all the products you use in your day. You will need to eliminate your use of these products for several days before the conference, as fragranced products are designed to linger on your skin and in your hair and clothes for days. The offgassing is harmful to people with MCS. Eliminate your use of scented items like shampoo, soap, hair gel, hair spray, perfume/scented oils, skin lotion, shaving cream, makeup, etc. before the confernece, and while at the conference, bring your own unscented products or use fragrance-free alternatives provided.

–Even if you have prepared your clothes by washing and drying them, remember that clothing items like boas, hats, and scarves often have lingering traces of fragrance and can make people sick.

We cannot guarantee a ‘scent-free’ environment, as there will be non-Nolose guests and staff at the hotel who will continue to use scented products. The pool parties take place in pools that are heavily chlorinated, and while the conference staff agreed to use fragrance free cleaning products and we have volunteers checking in with them, we can’t guarantee that they will follow through with this agreement. Although we cannot guarantee a completely scent-free venue, we at NOLOSE remain committed to making the conference accessible to as many as possible and we rely on our whole community to make the Nolose conference as accessible as possible.

Many fragrance-free products can be bought in your local drugstore. For hard-to-find products (especially hair products), check out your local health food store or the NEEDS catalog: www.needs.com. If you are unable to find “fragrance-free” at a store, often the hypo-allergenic version of a product is scent-free. Simply read the ingredients on the label and see if the word “fragrance” appears. If not, you’re OK. Suggestions for fragrance-free products are at the end of this page.

Please also note that smoking is not allowed on hotel room balconies, or in the common area between hotel and banquet hall. Smoking is permitted only on the parking lot side of the hotel and on the street side of hotel, outside the main fence. We will have signs posted to designate smoking and non-smoking areas; please be mindful of this policy, and of your neighbors’ sensitivities.

What will it do for my health, and the health of others, to limit my use of scent?

Reducing your use of scent or going scent free is an important step toward access for people with disabilities. Plus, you may be surprised to find that you feel better as well!

People with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (also called Environmental Illness) experience serious and debilitating physical and neurological symptoms when exposed to the chemicals used in most scented products. Often, the damage caused by these chemicals causes an individual to react to other intensely volatile substances, such as essential oils, tobacco smoke, and “natural” fragrances. The process by which we “smell” something actually involves microscopic particles of that substance being absorbed through mucous membranes and entering the nervous system. The intense symptoms associated with chemical sensitivities have led most medical experts to theorize that the disorder is neurologically, not immunologically, based.

Because no government agency regulates the ingredients of household and personal care products, the last several decades have seen a huge increase in the number of harmful chemicals added to these products. Many of these chemicals are banned for use in industrial settings because of their known toxic effects. According to a 1986 U.S. House of Representative study: “Ninety-five percent of chemicals used in fragrances are synthetic compounds derived from petroleum. They include benzene derivatives, aldehydes, and many other known toxins and sensitizers—capable of causing cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders, and allergic reactions.”

Symptoms of chemical exposure include dizziness, nausea, slurred speech, drowsiness, irritation to mouth, throat, skin, eyes, and lungs, headache, seizures, fatigue, confusion, and liver and kidney damage. As you can imagine, these symptoms constitute serious barriers for people with chemical sensitivities in work, life, and of course, conference attendance. Promoting low-scent and scent-free environments is very much like adding ramps and curb-cuts in terms of the profound difference in accessibility it can produce. We appreciate all participants in the NOLOSE Conference cooperating with the Fragrance Free Policy to make this an accessible conference.

Product suggestions:

Note that this is an initial list. Check out Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha’s Fragrance Free Femme of Color Realness Draft 1.5 and the East Bay Meditation Center’s accessibility webpage for more product suggestions!

SOAP: Tom’s of Maine unscented, Kiss My Face Pure Olive Oil, Neutrogena unscented, Dr. Bronner’s Aloe Vera Baby Mild, Simple, Body Shop unscented shower gel, Trader Joe’s honey and oatmeal soaps, fragrance free soaps made of glycerin only sold by independent crafters on etsy or in local markets.

LAUNDRY DETERGENT: Arm & Hammer Free, Tide Free, Wisk Free, Planet, 7th Generation fragrance-free, Granny’s, any other fragrance-free brands. Washing with baking soda is great for eliminating odors.

DRYER SHEETS: DO NOT USE! Dryer sheets, even “fragrance free” ones, offgass for days and make people with MCS very ill. Soften your clothes with dryer balls (available at dollar stores and grocery stores, or from people who craft them out of felted wool) or by soaking a rag with white vinegar and throwing it in with the rest of your laundry.

HAIR PRODUCTS: Pure Essentials fragrance-free, Magick Botanicals fragrance-free, Simple, Granny’s.
Some people use baking soda to clean hair, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (with “the mother,” which has antibacterial properties) to condition. Super basic but super effective: pure shea butter, or coconut oil, olive, or neem oil work for folks. Fierce bodies (fiercebodies.com) is mixed and sold by a rad chronically ill queer and genderqueer Arab MCSer and makes superb scalp oil, pomade, hair mud, curl cream, and more. Beijaflores on etsy also has fragrance free hair lotions and curl products. Miss Jessie’s Curl, “sensitive sniffer” version, available at Target and a lot of Black hair product stores, and Oyin Handmade are other places to look for fragrance free hair products for Black folks’ hair.

SKIN LOTION: Eucerin, Simple, any other fragrance-free variety. Read the labels and check for parabens and petroleum products!

DEODORANT: Almay fragrance-free, Simple, Jason Natural unscented, Kiss My Face fragrance-free, any other fragrance-free variety. Trader Joe’s has an inexpensive fragrance free stick deodorant; some people also have luck with a mixture of baking soda and shea butter or coconut oil, mixed at home or by independent vendors. Oyin Handmade is another place to look. And there is the crystal, available as a solid crystal or as a roll-on or spray liquid.

HAIR GEL: Magick Botanicals, Alba Botanicals, or make your own with gelatin (really works!) or aloe.

HAIR SPRAY: Magick Botanicals, Almay

MAKEUP: Almay (in all drugstores), Clinique (in department store cosmetic sections and online), Physician’s Formula, many NARS products–always read the labels! A lot of drug store and some higher end products contain fragrance. Etsy is a good source for fragrance-free mineral-based products, which work for a lot of folks.

SHAVING CREAM: Ray Ban hypoallergenic, Kiss My Face fragrance-free, Simple

CHUB RUB TOOLS: Body Glide unscented, regular corn starch or unscented talcum powder (baby powder and Gold Bond both usually have scents)