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Thursday, May 13, 2021

Scent-free zones planned for Viking Union

Illustration by Shannon DeLurio

For those who suffer from allergies or asthma, even the slightest fragrance wafting through the air can cause a serious reaction, including severe migraines, nausea and asthma attacks.

As a result, the Associated Students Management Council voted in favor of putting up scent-free zone signs. Signs will go up in the Viking Union as a pilot project.

Groups from Western have proposed creating scent-free zones through the entirety of the campus to accommodate those who are sensitive to certain aromas.

Those supporting scent free zones include the Disability Outreach Center coordinator, Students with Disabilities Advocacy Council and the vice provost for Equal Opportunity and Employment Diversity.

“[Banning all scents] is not what we’re trying to do here, we’re just trying to make Western more accessible,” Courtney Manz, AS Disability Outreach Center coordinator, said.

Manz has asthma and has experienced the effects of strong fragrance in the classroom setting. There were days where she couldn’t stay in class because of irritants in the air.

“We don’t want people to leave campus because they’re feeling sick or miss educational time,” Manz said. “We’re here to learn and we’re here to support each other and create a supportive environment.”

Scent-free zones are areas free of any fragrance or irritants in the air from perfume, scented lotions, body sprays, cologne and other scented products.

A sign for a scent-free zone in Miller Hall. Woodring’s special education department has led in implementing the zones. // Photo by Rachel Postlewait

Around 30 percent of the American public found heavy fragrances cause some kind of irritation, according to a 2009 study by the University of West Georgia.

Mary Moeller, AS vice president for business and operations, said the signs will help inform students that scent sensitivity is an important safety issue. She hopes the scent-free zone policy will spread to the rest of the university.

Moeller said students should try to limit the amount of scents they wear on a daily basis.

Sue Sullivan, director of Western’s environmental health and safety office, said posting signs is a great first step to bringing awareness about scent sensitivity to Western without overwhelming people with information.

Wayne Rocque, AS vice president for student life, encourages students to contact the AS for help with a disability or to make recommendations for campus initiatives if students feel that there is a need that isn’t being met.

“The AS is trying to be as proactive as we can with these issues, but also sometimes we don’t know what issues may be out there,” Rocque said.

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