Hospitals must ban the use of perfumes, colognes and other artificial scents because they can aggravate patients' asthma, two doctors argue in an opinion piece in this months's Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).
They cite research that shows 27 percent of asthmatics report their condition is aggravated by artificial scents, and that 30 percent of the overall population has some sensitivity to "store-bought smells." These smells include bleach, cleaning fluids and second-hand smoke. Hospitals "must take the lead, particularly in spaces where susceptible patients wait," Ken Flegel, M.D., and James Martin, M.D., write.
An announcement describing the piece notes that other workplaces routinely ban perfumes, yet the handful of hospitals in Canada that address the issue only encourage a scent-free work environment. These insights cast doubt on hospital practices such as herbal aromatherapy in a staff "relaxation room" along with amenities such as a trickling fountain and large photos of beaches.
Although their opinion piece didn't address the cleaning supplies hospitals themselves use, experts also have noted that the toxins in common cleaners, disinfectants and sanitizers can trigger asthma and be hazardous to pregnant women. Some experts recommend that hospitals buy environmentally friendly cleaning products with "Green Seal" certification as part of an overall greening of healthcare facilities.