“Artificial scents have no place in our hospitals”

Canada’s top medical journal, the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ), says
Artificial scents have no place in our hospitals

Hospital NO Fragrance

“These patients may be involuntarily exposed to artificial scents from staff, other patients and visitors, resulting in worsening of their clinical condition. As patients,
family members and emergency physicians will attest, the attacks can be quite sudden and serious. There is little justification for continuing to tolerate artificial scents in our
hospitals.” …

“We have much to learn about the mechanisms underlying
scent sensitivity, but we know enough now to take precautionary measures in our hospitals. Many public places promote a scent-free environment. Some hospitals also do so. But it is not policy in all Canadian hospitals, and it is not required in hospital accreditation standards.

The high prevalence of asthma and its adverse effects on health and productivity argue strongly for greater consideration of the air we breathe in our health care centres.

Hospital environments free from artificial scents should become a uniform policy, promoting the safety of patients, staff and visitors alike.

As education and promotion programs have some effect on this practice, these programs too ought to be part of our accreditation standards.

Until this happens, individual hospitals must take the lead, particularly in spaces where susceptible patients wait.”

This is of extreme importance, as so many people are adversely affected by toxic chemicals, and I applaud CMAJ for taking steps to encourage the protection of all people and patients, especially in health care environments.

However, I also have to point out that the use of the word “artificial” can lead some people to believe that essential oils are ok. That could  be just as problematic:

Are Essential Oils Too Popular For Our Own Good?

 Clean air is healthy air. We need to stop filling our air with pollutants of all kinds, and use ventilation and filtration for what remains.

Health care environments need to be healthy to promote health!

ADDENDUM: Laundry products are some of the worst toxic fragrance chemical offenders and MUST be included in any lists of fragranced products to be avoided.

24 responses to ““Artificial scents have no place in our hospitals”

  1. I’m glad someone is finally taking some steps that make sense. I wish the US hospitals would follow suit. People don’t understand how quickly a “safe” environment can turn toxic. I was out to breakfast and having no reactions. Slowly people came in. The first ten people no problem. The eleventh was a woman wearing perfume. I got up and left.

    • Yes… and we can’t very well get up and leave in the middle of medical treatments, which means that most of us don’t have access to necessary treatments, even in emergencies!

      • So true. I think I’ve already commented how a while back we had to call the EMTs for my mom. One of them was wearing perfume and after a few minutes they were going to stop treating my mom because they noticed my distress. Not only did I react while they were there but my mom’s MCS safe house was now contaminated.

        • Contaminating safe space is such a problem :-(
          And not receiving care…

          I was made to sign a form saying I was refusing treatment/assistance once when in my foyer, when I had 4 firefighters saturated in flame retardants, 2 ambulance guys saturated in sanitizers, etc., and 2 cops drenched in dry cleaning fumes, plus all of them had fragranced personal care and hair products, and wireless electronics all over them…
          I couldn’t think, talk, stand, or get up my stairs, all because one of the cops didn’t listen when I said to allow the emerg assistance to come ONLY if they had tygon oxygen delivery systems they could give me oxygen with, that I couldn’t use the vinyl/PVC…
          They understood the latex gloves issue re allergies, but that was all they were equipped to deal with.
          They didn’t know if at the hospital there would be safe oxygen for me, and the ambulance was also full of sanitizers, etc, so it would have been a one way ride that could have killed me, with no ride back home if I managed to survive.
          One cop had understood, the other decided he knew better and called them all…
          This was after a 3 hour diesel exposure from a truck that had been left running outside and the wind was blowing it all in the old house I was living in… I called to beg them to get the truck turned off. Which to their credit, they did, after not being able to find the owner.
          They broke in and shut it down.
          I don’t know if I was capable of adding to the form I had to sign that I was refusing “inappropriate” care (that would be more harmful than beneficial)…
          I don’t remember how long it was or took for me to get back upstairs, or how long it took to get their fumes out of the house, as I was unable to open the doors and windows, being too sick, and it being too cold out too…
          It really drove home that I was on my own if anything were to happen.
          Nothing has changed as far as I know.

          • Here they have made the connection of the high numbers of fire fighters getting sick especially cancer from the toxic chemicals they are exposed to at fires. But few people have made the connection that toxic chemicals cling to their uniforms and bodies either from their job or personal care products can be making the people sick they are trying to help. How long did it take for us to accept the world is round? Some day people will get it.

            • As the voices of the poisoned grow louder and the injured and disabled choir gets bigger…

            • Hopefully we can find a peaceful resolution. History tells a painful tale of when a powerful rich few cause the long-term suffering and repression to the many. We need a Gandhi or Martin Luther King Jr. type leader for the chemically sensitive/injured to rally around.

            • “We live in interesting times” I have heard said… We humans have such vast potential to thrive cooperatively, yet we can be so self and other destructive… the destructive forces are making more noise these days… Who knows what will happen?

            • I think the destructive part is making more noise because it “knows” that its time is coming to an end and it is making a last ditch effort to get what it wants. Kind of like a child who asked for something and was turned down and ultimately throws a temper tantrum. If we don’t give into the temper tantrum — ultimately common sense will prevail.

            • They are throwing some very big, nasty, destructive tantrums now… And Mother Earth is getting very pissed off!

            • The crazy thing is that previous civilizations have done themselves in by using something toxic like lead or mercury because they didn’t know any better. There is so much stuff being marketed that is known to be toxic/poisonous and it is still being used.

            • Industry is allowed to be doing this without our consent. Most of the hazardous substances are not on labels, so people don’t know. When some people do learn better, then they are often attacked… “Manufacturing Doubt” is an old and so far effective strategy to extend the length of time the legal destruction of health and the environment we depend on for health has been allowed to continue. Too much destruction and too many people are sick now.

              I and others have written about how fragrance chemicals are being researched and used as drugs (as in scent marketing) without any FDA or other oversight. People have become addicted to the chemicals as well as the million dollar marketing.

              Plus, fragrances are being used to cover up the smell of all the other toxic products and materials these days. Brand new appliances etc can smell like burnt plastic straight out of the box. How many people return that stuff? Store staff suffer massive headaches when unpacking shipments. By the time people realize the headaches are a sign of being poisoned, it’s often too late, and chronic illness of one sort or another becomes a part of their lives.

              Prevention isn’t happening because the multi billion dollar pharmaceutical arm of the fossil fuel industry markets drugs for the symptoms (3/4 of the US population is on at least one drug now) and keeps the toxic, oil, gas, petrochemical based economy going.

              So many kids are sick now, from the pesticidal food, and from 24/7 immersion in toxic, fragranced, chemical stews…

              Meh… we have a big mess on our hands and it’s not going to be easy to clean it up. But, if we want our future generations to have a chance, we have to clean up!

            • Most creatures protect their young and their surroundings. So many humans do the complete opposite. I as a former teacher sat through meetings about how other countries are being so much more successful educating their kids. I wonder if anyone has done studies to compare the amount of toxic chemicals in US schools with the amount of toxic chemicals found in the high performing countries. It would shock me if their numbers weren’t significantly lower than the US.

            • The EU does have much stricter chemical regulations than we do here in North America.

              They also have history, they don’t bulldoze all the old buildings for big box malls. People feel connected to their history and place and each other, so they have more motivation to protect their environment and themselves.

              And create laws to reflect that.

              However, as the recent problems with legislating EDCs (endocrine disrupting chemicals) is concerned, the chemical industry is exerting huge interferences, hampering efforts to protect public health there too, as they do here.

  2. So many of us currently have NO access to health care because of all the toxic fragrances. Enforcement is also required (not just “encouragement”) so that the people who do have adverse effects from toxic chemicals (including those found in laundry products) are able to receive care. This policy also needs to extend to first responders and ambulances.

    I would also suggest that medical certifying associations and organizations make being non-toxic and fragrance-free (with personal care, laundry, and cleaning products) a requirement to maintain medical accreditation and licenses to practice (doctors, nurses, dentists, first responders, etc)

  3. Help…I have been dealing with Fragrance Sensitivities for so many years (in the 90’s when people just thought I was being a snot) to now…I work in a hospital and these doctors, nurses & NA’s are the worst offenders! Other employees and visitors are next in line…bathed in fragrances. I get the heavy sighs when a coworker walks by and I start coughing and wheezing…and everything my bosses do, just don’t seem to make it go away. I’m blessed with 3 bosses that do everything in their power to help keep this under control, but in my area alone, there are at least 6 people that refuse to follow the CORPORATE POLICY regarding fragrances. It’s even spelled out that it’s “not just perfumes and colognes”. Also, these fabric softeners that make your clothes stink for 2 months are the worst invention so far. Along with essential oils that people use as perfume. I’m at a loss. I need help. I’m actively looking for a job that I can either do in isolation or from home… any idea’s or suggestions? I need to leave this place. You all understand the daunting task of searching for employment. We can’t take any jobs that expose us to customers or other employees (I know). Traveling is out of the question. I was contemplating working midnights to avoid all people but that’s not something I handle well (I’ve tried in the past)…I feel like I’m the only one making all the sacrifices…and it’s something I just can’t control.

    • It’s up to management to make sure staff are following policy, so it sounds like they aren’t really doing everything in their power. They should be enforcing policy and taking the ‘stinkers’ aside, even sending them home without pay to shower and change if simply talking with them isn’t helping. Or having fragrance-free showers and hospital scrubs available at work.

      Subjecting people to toxic chemicals and VOCs from EOs in a health care setting is just not cool. There’s so much info now on the health harms fragranced products cause, they should be banned, just like smoking.

      I don’t know where you live, but in some places, filing a human rights complaint would be the way to go when corporate policy isn’t being followed and enforced. It wouldn’t be easy on you, but it’s something to consider. Policies need to be enforced, and sadly, if management doesn’t step up, sometimes it takes legal action to get enforcement.

  4. “34.7 % of the population reported one or more types of adverse health effects from exposure to one or more types of fragranced products.

    The most common types of adverse effects were as follows:

    18.6 % respiratory problems;
    16.2 % mucosal symptoms;
    15.7 % migraine headaches;
    10.6 % skin problems;
    8.0 % asthma attacks;
    7.2 % neurological problems;
    5.8 % cognitive problems;
    5.5 % gastrointestinal problems;
    4.4 % cardiovascular problems;
    4.0 % immune system problems;
    3.8 % musculoskeletal problems; and
    1.7 % other.”


    • “72.6 % were not aware that even so-called natural, green, and organic fragranced products typically emit hazardous air pollutants.”

      • National Prevalence and Effects of Multiple Chemical Sensitivities

        Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine: March 2018

        Objective: The aim of this study was to assess the prevalence of multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS), its co-occurrence with asthma and fragrance sensitivity, and effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products.

        Methods: A nationally representative cross-sectional population-based sample of adult Americans (n = 1137) was surveyed in June 2016.

        Results: Among the population, 12.8% report medically diagnosed MCS and 25.9% report chemical sensitivity. Of those with MCS, 86.2% experience health problems, such as migraine headaches, when exposed to fragranced consumer products; 71.0% are asthmatic; 70.3% cannot access places that use fragranced products such as air fresheners; and 60.7% lost workdays or a job in the past year due to fragranced products in the workplace.

        Conclusion: Prevalence of diagnosed MCS has increased over 300%, and self-reported chemical sensitivity over 200%, in the past decade. Reducing exposure to fragranced products could help reduce adverse health and societal effects.


  5. …”Finally, for public officials, the problem of “secondhand scents,” or indirect exposure to fragranced products, has parallels to secondhand tobacco smoke. Prevention from fragrance product exposure will enable individuals to work in their workplaces, attend school, and function in society without suffering involuntary harm.” …

    Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products (AU)


  6. Household products make surprisingly large contributions to air pollution
    Consumer products might be next target for air pollution cleanup

    …”Beyond their immediate effects, VOCs react with other molecules in the air, such as oxygen and nitrogen oxides, to generate ozone as well as fine particulate matter. (Those nitrogen oxides come, in large part, from vehicle exhaust.) High levels of fine particulate matter make it hard to breathe and contribute to chronic lung problems (SN: 9/30/17, p. 18). And while ozone high in the atmosphere helps shield Earth from the sun’s ultraviolet radiation, at ground level, it mixes with fine particulates to form breath-choking smog.”

    Everyday products like these emit a bouquet of volatile organic compounds that contribute to air pollution. A spritz of perfume or a spray of disinfectant has a small effect, but frequent use of these products by millions of people adds up to a big impact.

    Air fresheners
    Cleaning sprays
    Laundry detergent
    Disinfectant wipes
    Hand sanitizer


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