(Taken from here.)
Maybe it’s just because I’m going slowly deaf in my left ear, but noise pollution doesn’t bother me too much, even though it’s well nigh ubiquitous. Perhaps that’s why–it’s literally white noise, even the worst of it. Smell pollution, on the other hand, bothers me mentally and physically, and often strikes me as a kind of insidious ambush.
Smell pollution for me often has to do with human-made products. Like, we’ll be walking around Lake Ella and two women will pass us, and in their wake one of them will be leaving the most ridiculously odious perfumy smell, making my eyes water and my throat tighten. And I’ll think, I don’t know what odor that was disguising, but I’d prefer to take my chances with the alternative regardless.
Most perfumes in close proximity, even subtle ones, more or less poison me–altering mood or literally giving me a headache, even if the natural equivalent of the scent wouldn’t hurt me at all. Hairspray is an absolute killer, even in moderation. Sometimes at parties, I have to avoid certain people because I just have no interest in experiencing a half hour of watering eyes. It might not even be perfume–it might be the smell coming off of a plastic handbag.
Plastic shower curtains have a similar effect. Common household detergents. Some dryer sheets. I hate it because it feels like I’m being attacked by the humdrum of every-day life. Our normal routines shouldn’t seem like they’re poisoning us. I can be going along quite happy, and some smell will mess up my day–sometimes I’ll be so wrapped up in something else that I won’t even notice the danger until it’s too late.
People without this sensitivity often dismiss it as an overreaction. I used to share an office with a woman who started using hand cream. Within a day, it was obvious to me that her hand cream–just being in the same space–was making my throat seize up, my eyes water, and my face feel puffy. I asked her politely if she’d mind not using the cream at work. She did, but then secretly began reintroducing its use, thinking, I suppose, that I was mistaken, or that by slowly increasing the dosage she could acclimate me to it. Instead, it just made my life miserable for a few days until I figured out what the heck was going on.
Smell pollution is pretty unavoidable–it’s there every time you pump gas or roll your window down while driving–but so much of it is synthetic that I can’t help but think we live in a self-made poisonous world, which some of us are just oblivious to. At the same time that I resent being exposed to such noxious odors, I am glad to have the sensitivity, in that at least it gives me the option of not exposing myself to poison most of the time. And, unlike certain types of noise pollution, smell pollution isn’t constant. But even five or six times a week is too much.