I was visiting my husband — fresh out of the intensive care unit with a particularly bad case of pneumonia — when a large group of visitors wearing scented products packed into the cramped, four-bed hospital room, ignoring the hospital’s scent-free policy.
Distressed, I approached the staff. I was told my husband was well enough to get out of bed so we should go somewhere else to visit.
I also learned that the hospital has no intention of enforcing the policy, preferring the educational approach. Yet are they educating the public?
Sure, they slap up some signs right next to the scented hand sanitizer stations. This is supposed to motivate the public to comply with the policy?
Why not motivate the public by telling them the truth?
Scented products contain cancer-causing chemicals. Scent chemicals can induce vomiting in those undergoing chemotherapy. Scented products contain respiratory irritants.
Asthma is not only aggravated by scent exposure, it can be caused by it.
Scent chemicals contain reproductive and developmental toxins. Hormone disruptors are used to fix scent in scented products. Prenatal exposure to them is linked to attention and behavioural disorders in children.
These hormone disruptors are particularly harmful to children of all ages. The nerve toxins in scented products trigger migraine headaches and harm those with nervous system disorders.
Scent chemicals are a toxic brew of petrochemicals, volatile organic compounds, common allergens and sensitizers. The daily application of scented products to the body can cause acute and chronic disease.
About one-third of community members have adverse health reactions to scent. Some community members cannot visit their loved ones or access the hospital’s services because the scent policy is not respected.
Scent chemicals have no place in a hospital yet far too many visitors saunter into hospital rooms wearing scented products. But then, why would the public take the hospital’s scent-free policy seriously when the hospital itself doesn’t seem to take its policy seriously?
The hospital’s use of scented products (i.e. scented cleaners, air fresheners, hand soaps and hand sanitizers) is both irresponsible and in direct conflict with its scent-free policy.
Isn’t it time for St. Joseph’s General Hospital to get serious about its scent-free policy: to protect those in its care, to provide a healing environment to the best of its ability and to provide access to the hospital and its services for everyone in the community?
Also, do the cosmetic preferences of some visitors truly outweigh the hospital’s stated values and responsibilities, and the needs of its patients?
The costs to society of ignoring the threats that scented products pose to our health are tremendous. Many diseases now spring from chemical rather than biological origin and most of these are caused — not by chance exposures — but by more constant exposures at home and work.
If you’d like to learn about how to protect your health from scent chemicals, the non-profit websites, the Guide to Less Toxic Products (www.lesstoxicguide.ca/) and the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database (www.ewg.org/skindeep/) are good resources.
If you visit the hospital, please respect the scent-free policy.