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University of Minnesota Guideline on Chemical Sensitivity

Responsible offices:

Disability Services, Environmental Health and Safety


Recognizing that chemical sensitivity is an issue that is not well understood, the University of Minnesota will evaluate each reported incidence of chemical sensitivity on an individual basis. Supervisors of reporting employees should seek evaluation help promptly from Disability Services and the Department of Environmental Health and Safety.

Reason for Guideline:

A statement providing guidance on chemical sensitivity to supervisors and managers will:

  1. Reduce managerial uncertainty in dealing with this issue
  2. Facilitate a consistent response to affected individuals
  3. Result in quicker, more satisfactory resolution of problems

Who Should Know About This Guideline?

President Director/Department Head/Chair
Provost/ChancellorPrincipal Investigator
Vice President/Vice ChancellorFaculty
DeanAll Employees, All Students

Related Documents:

Disability Resource Center

180 McNamara Alumni Center
200 Oak St.SE
Minneapolis, MN 55455

U Students 612-626-1333
U Employees 612-624-3316

Environmental Health and Safety

Neil Carlson, Industrial Hygienist
W-159 Boynton Health Service

Workers' Compensation

Reporting Workers Compensation Related Injuries

Occupational Health and Safety Comntittee

Occupational Health and Safety

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Chemical Sensitivity:

A physiological or neurobehavioral response that occurs in an individual following exposure to a chemical at levels that would not affect the vast majority of people. Multiple Chemical This is one of many names (including environmental Sensitivity illness, chemical AIDS, etc.) that have been given to a poorly defined condition, or set of conditions, that are broadly characterized by multi-system symptoms, often without observable physical findings or laboratory abnormalities, believed to be associated with repeated if exposure to specific biological, chemical, or physical agents. The scientific basis for managing people with this syndrome has yet to be established by investigative activities that withstand critical peer review. Scientific and clincial evidence for a particular pathophysiologic mechanism is lacking for these disorders.

Indoor Air Quality/Indoor Environmental Quality:

Indoor air quality is a general term describing the condition of air inside buildings. Such air quality is influenced by the temperature and humidity of the air, and the level of carbon dioxide that is produced by occupants. Air quality may be influenced adversely by the presence of toxic air contaminants (particles, gases, vapors, and fumes) in concentrations sufficient to cause health problems, and by agents that have specific odors that can be offensive or irritating.

While air quality is often the major concern for a comfortable indoor environment, that environment may also be influenced adversely by heating or cooling problems, as well as issues of noise, lighting, and other factors.

Sick Building Syndrome:

This syndrome is diagnosed when many building occupants complain of nonspecific problems such as headache, fatigue, dry skin, and eye, nose and throat irritation that they relate to being in the building. These symptoms typically disappear after leaving the building.

Building Related Illness:

This condition is diagnosed when a physical response can be directly associated with a specific contaminant. For example, the onset of eye irritation may correlate with installation of new, odorous carpeting in a building.

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Disability Services

  1. Serve staff, students, faculty and visitors with disabilities
  2. Certify eligibility for services
  3. Evaluate and determine reasonable accommodations
  4. Develop plans for the provision of accommodations
  5. Provide training regarding hidden disabilities including CS

Environmental Health and Safety

  1. Evaluate indoor environment for possible air quality concerns, including environmental testing where appropriate
  2. Recommend cleaning and maintenance protocol to assure indoor air quality
  3. Work with Facilities Management and Purchasing to reduce use of vapor producing materials
  4. Train Facilities Management Zones on maintenance procedures
  5. Recommend product substitutions to reduce vapor production
  6. Follow up on complaints

Occupational Health and Safety Committee

  1. Periodically review Chemical Sensitivity Guidelines and prepare modifications
  2. Receive reports of activities involving chemical sensitivity from Disability Services and Environmental Health and Safety

Workers' Compensation

  1. Receive Incident Reports regarding workplace exposures
  2. Evaluate work-related nature of report

Department Heads/Supervisors

  1. Listen to employee concerns
  2. Request assistance from Disability Services and Environmental Health and Safety
  3. Participate in evaluation of work site
  4. Facilitate recommended accommodation if necessary


  1. Listen to student concerns
  2. Contact Disability Services for assistance in determining appropriate response


  1. Employees: Report concerns to supervisor, or to Disability Services and Environmental Health and Safety
  2. Students: Report concerns to instructor, or to Disability Services


In support of this guideline, the following procedures are included:

Name Number
Locating AssisstanceCS.1
Filing an Incident reportCS.2
Practices to be ConsideredCS.4
Guideline MaintentanceCS.5

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Guideline on Chemical Sensitivity

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PROCEDURE CS.2 Responsible Offices Disability Services Environmental Health and Safety

Filing an Incident Report

The Incident Report is a Workers' Compensation form and is to be used only by University employees in relation to work-related injuries or illnesses.

  1. Obtain Incident Report form from supervisor or Workers' Compensation. Fill in required information and return to supervisor for signature.
  2. Supervisor forwards signed Incident Report form to Workers' Compensation Office, Suite 122, 1313 5th St. SE, or faxes it to 627-1855.

Guideline on Chemical Sensitivity

PROCEDURE CS.3 Responsible Offices Disability Services Environmental Health and Safety


In some instances, evaluation of chemical sensitivity concerns could result in a determination that certain reasonable actions may be appropriate. The following is a list of examples of procedures that may be considered, and the parties who usually participate in their development and implementation.

Procedures Participants
Relocation of EmployeeSupervisor, Disability Services, Human Resources
Rescheduling of ClassroomInstructor, Disability Services, Classroom Scheduling
Facility ModificationSupervisor, Disability Services, Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Management
Change in MaintenanceProcedure Supervisor, Disability Services, Environmental Health and Safety, Facilities Management
Change in Work AssignmentSupervisor, Disability Services, Human Resources
Change in Work Place PracticesSupervisor, Disability Services, Human Resources
Change in Student HousingHousing Director, Resident Advisor, Disability Services

Guideline on Chemical Sensitivity

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PROCEDURE CS.4 Responsible Offices Disability Services Environmental Health and Safety

Practices to be Considered

  1. Choose a meeting place with good ventilation, remote from construction activities.
  2. Use low odor cleaning products.
  3. Use low odor pens, markers, other products.
  4. Encourage consideration of colleagues with known sensitivities.
  5. Provide notification of painting, remodeling, cleaning, pesticide spraying.
  6. Educate students, staff, faculty and the public.
  7. Increase ventilation system maintenance.
  8. Specify low volatile organic chemical (VOC) materials for construction and remodeling.
  9. Remove air fresheners and keep toilet rooms unscented.
  10. When necessary, establish departmental or office-based Guideline relevant to local needs, after consulting with DEHS, Disability Services or the General Counsel's Office.

Guideline on Chemical Sensitivity

PROCEDURE CS.5 Responsible Offices Disability Services Environmental Health and Safety

Guideline Maintenance

  1. The Committee on Occupational Health and Safety is responsible for annual review and update of this guideline.
  2. Disability Services and Environmental Health and Safety should prepare annual reports on chemical sensitivity issues and outcomes.

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