Why Restoration Healthcare is Now a Fragrance-Free Office
Starting immediately, we’re declaring all our spaces — from our waiting and consultation rooms, to the lounge where we offer IV therapies — “fragrance free,” and perhaps not for the reasons you suspect.
Most of us have been nasally assaulted by people wearing too much perfume or aftershave products. And if you’ve ever received such a sensory smacking by a passerby wearing a quart of faux French perfume, you might recall what usually occurs next.
Such encounters often prompt a sneeze or two, or maybe a short-lived bout with dizziness or discomfort. But for other second-hand sufferers, the event is more impactful, with effects that can include a whopping headache or extreme nausea. Whatever the resultant symptom, none are pleasant — which, of course, was the thought of the offending person who slapped on the fragrance in the first place.
Why the new policy?
What we’re doing is responding to requests from our staff and patients alike that scented products not be brought into our offices. We ask that those visiting us refrain from wearing any hairsprays, perfumes, colognes, aftershave products, and overly scented deodorants or shampoos.
And while our new fragrance-free policy focuses primarily on artificial fragrances, we’re also suggesting visitors refrain from wearing clothing that has been washed in strongly scented detergents or fragrant fabric softeners or those small scented dryer sheets used in clothes dryers.
A medical necessity
There’s a medical condition called multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS) that is closely associated with fragrances. Several surveys have confirmed that contact with people wearing these artificial scents can prompt immediate dizziness, sneezing, sore throats and breathing complications.
WebMD describes some of the more serious symptoms of MCS to include congestion, chest pain, changes in heart rhythm, skin rash, diarrhea, bloating, memory issues and mood changes. In addition to fragrances, the medical website includes other MCS suspects such as tobacco smoke, car exhaust, insecticides and chlorine.
Obviously, there is a huge cosmetic market for customers who enjoy and want to use these fragrances, but surveys exploring the prevalence of fragrance sensitivity in the American population show that nearly a third of respondents (30.5 percent) term scented products as irritating. Higher percentages were recorded among those who suffer asthma and chemical sensitivities.
The cause of fragrance reactions
What prompts these adverse reactions to an overdose of aftershave, for example? For one thing, fragrances such as perfume and cologne are artificial and synthetic. According to John P. Thomas, writing in the Health Impact News, most fragrances are created in a laboratory using petroleum products, coal tar, solvents, alcohol and other man-made mixtures.
This chemical compound is combined in an effort to make your bottle of fragrance smell like it came directly from the essential oil of a fragrant flower or plant, rather than a test tube full of what Dr. Anne C. Steinemann describes as up to 95 percent toxic synthetic ingredients.
Dr. Steinemann is an internationally recognized expert on pollutant exposures and associated health effects. She is the former program manager at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, U.C. San Diego, and was a professor of civil and environmental engineering and a professor of public affairs at the University of Washington.
She claims that about 95 million Americans experience health issues as the result of chemicals that other people put on their skin, hair and clothing. And of those, nearly 13 percent claim extreme sensitivity to low levels of common chemicals.
The elderly and cancer patients are particularly at risk
In her research, Steinemann says the elderly, those recovering from cancer, children and babies are the most vulnerable to these fragrances. The irony is that those who don’t particularly want to smell a fragrance are forced to participate based solely on the preferences of another person whom they most likely don’t even know.
To the argument that fragrances are just that — pleasant odors that can’t hurt you, research shows that any molecular substance in the air can enter the nose, with some bypassing the body’s receptor sites and making their way to the brain. What that means is that the moment you smell a fragrance, no matter the chemical makeup, it is already being absorbed by the body.
According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), manufacturers of artificial fragrances have a selection of more than 5,000 ingredients from which to choose, with only a third of those having ever been tested and evaluated. The EWG also claims 16 percent of the fragrances reviewed by the group contain carcinogens.
So there you have it. If you think we’re making too big a deal over this, we prefer to err on the side of your health. Meanwhile, we appreciate your understanding and cooperation with our new policy.