Minn. Lawmaker Proposes Campaign on Fragrance-Free Schools

Those all-over body sprays that promise to turn teenage boys into babe magnets? Instead of attracting girls, they could be making them sick.

A Minnesota lawmaker proposed a bill Monday urging a fragrance-free educational campaign to discourage students from dousing themselves in scents that aggravate classmates with asthma and other health problems.

Odors that fill hallways come mostly from boys who douse themselves in body sprays like Axe, said Mikolai Altenberg, a senior at Minneapolis South High School. He said the smell is "indescribable" and unavoidable.

"You can smell it from 10 feet away," Altenberg said. "Mostly it's just guys who just think that putting Axe all over them is a substitute for showering."

Rep. Karen Clark, a Democrat, first proposed banning fragrances in Minneapolis schools, one of the state's largest school districts. The bill she introduced Monday scales that back to an awareness campaign in Minneapolis and in other districts that volunteer. The campaign could include letters to parents, fact sheets, signs in schools, e-mail and Web sites.

One in eight Minneapolis students has asthma, and school nurses have treated students for wheezing and headaches brought on by the fragrances wafting from classmates, said Mary Heiman, a nursing service manager who runs the district's asthma program.

An awareness campaign would mirror the approach of policies at the University of Minnesota's Disability Services office and in a recent version of the Minneapolis teachers contract.

If the awareness campaign works, it could be expanded, Clark said.

A trade group for toiletry makers, the Personal Care Products Council in Washington, said it doesn't oppose fragrance policies as long as they're voluntary.

"We really don't think it's a good idea to legislate personal hygiene," said John Hurson, the group's head of government affairs.

Rhode Island and Massachusetts are the only other states where lawmakers have proposed fragrance-free bills in the past two years, Hurson said.