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This article, by Marlene Natelborg from Fuller Ave. CRC in Grand Rapids, first appeared in her church's newsletter and is repeated here by permission. 

It may be you, your wife, your husband, daughter or son with chemical sensitivities. Chemical sensitivities often come later in life but can also come to children. It is the chemicals that produce the fragrances that cause headaches, stuffed head, short of breath, whole body feeling sick which may cause a person to spend her/his Sunday in bed.

These fragrances can come from soaps, shampoos, laundry soap, hair spray, perfumes, men’s cologne, antiperspirant, conditioners, gel, fabric softener, dryer sheets, lotions, body wash, candles, dry cleaning, mothballs, and etc. Many of these items come unscented and can usually be found in major grocery stores. For instance, Aqua Net is usually non-offensive; Tide and All have unscented laundry soap. Fragranced products can be absorbed through the skin, which can be harmful to the person using the product.

In an article entitled, "Chemical Sensitivities and other not Readily Apparent Disabilities", the writer (unknown) states that nearly all scented products currently on the market are made largely or entirely of synthetic chemicals, usually derived from petroleum or coal tar. It also states, “Onset of chemical sensitivities often is delayed until later in life, although a person can acquire this disability at any time, since a person’s natural detoxification mechanisms can break down from an overload of toxic chemicals, We all are barraged with such chemicals.”

Mark Stephenson, director of the Christian Reformed Disability Department, states, “Fragranced products can enter the body through the respiratory track, which can be harmful not only to the person using the product, the fetus, but also to others for hours after use.” Please be cognizant of this information when wearing scented products.

Our church's Disability and Worship Committees are concerned about many of our members who are sensitive to fragrances. This year will be an education year about alternate uses for fragranced items so we can learn and grow more sensitive to those whom we encounter.

The last 3 benches on the north side of the main auditorium will be labeled with noticeable Fragrance Free signs. Please respect this area.

We are one family under the authority and love of Christ. Let us consider our brothers and sisters who are sensitive to fragrances. Thank You!


Maybe we should conduct all public worship on line. Each worshipper could select his own genra of music while accessing PayPal during the offering. Even better, select one's preferred music when becoming a member and the appropriate music style will automatically start when logging in.

Mark Stephenson on December 11, 2013

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Bill, the main idea is to recognize that people are different, so to be loving we need to practice the teaching of Jesus: "Do to others as you would have them do to you."

Our church has chosen to be entirely fragrance free for a few years now. It has been a mixed bag in terms of "success". On the one hand, people who suffer significant scent allergies and/or scent related migraines are very thankful and feel heard and loved in a way that they never had before. On the other hand, we've had the following issues:

1) Some people ignore the "fragrance free" request, in spite of our best efforts.

2) Guests don't know the policy before they show up, and either feel bad about having a scent, or will leave as soon as they see the sign, even!

3) We've tried having only a section of the church fragrance free, but that's like having a section of the church "air free"-- scents travel on the air; you can't limit them by having a fragrance free section, any more than you could limit smoke by having a non-smoking restaurant section, without walled off sections and completely separate air circulation systems.

In the end we maintain the policy out of love and compassion for those who really suffer, but we still wrestle with how to do it in a way that doesn't turn others away or make them feel bad.

As for Bill's comments: I'm really bummed out about them, Bill. You're comments display a fairly high level of ignorance and lack of compassion for anyone. It's unfortunate, in my opinion, that you saw fit to publish them here.

Thanks Mark, for posting this!  Timely for our congregation as we are looking to designate our church scent free.  In many ways this is a pastoral care issue in that we need to be compassionate towards those who are allergic to scents as much as we need to help others be less judgemental and more accepting of those who live with allerigies towards scents, etc. 


If there is a special area for infants it could be utilized by people who are annoyed by candle odors.

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