The story of the Sambhavna Clinic, a non-profit holistic health clinic in Bhopal, India, built to treat those injured by the Union Carbide toxic gas release in 1984. enlarge video
HCWH's co-founder Gary Cohen is a recipient of the prestigious Skoll Award. This video, chronicling the evolution of HCWH's work, premiered at the 2009 Skoll World Forum. enlarge video
To many people, the word "fragrance" means something that smells nice, such as perfume. We don't often stop to think that scents are chemicals. Fragrance chemicals are organic compounds that volatilize, or vaporize into the air — that's why we can smell them. They are added to products to give them a scent or to mask the odor of other ingredients. The volatile organic chemicals (VOCs) emitted by fragrance products can contribute to poor indoor air quality (IAQ) and are associated with a variety of adverse health effects.
Exposure to fragrance chemicals can cause headaches; eye, nose, and throat irritation; nausea; forgetfulness; loss of coordination, and other respiratory and/or neurotoxic symptoms. Many fragrance ingredients are respiratory irritants and sensitizers, which can trigger asthma attacks and aggravate sinus conditions.
Fragrance chemicals are the number one cause of allergic reactions to cosmetics — not only to the primary users, but also to those who breathe in the chemicals as secondhand users. Phthalates in fragrances are known to disrupt hormones and are linked in animal studies to malformations of the penis, as well as adverse effects on the developing testes.
Fragrances in Health Care
In health care facilities, fragrance can come from a number of sources:
- scented cleaning products
- fragrance-emitting devices and sprays
- workers, patients, and visitors who are wearing perfume, cologne or aftershave
- scented cosmetics, skin lotions or hair products
- clothes that have been laundered with scented detergents, fabric softeners or dryer sheets.
Indoor air quality can be greatly improved in health care facilities by adopting a hospital-wide fragrance-free policy that includes a fragrance-free policy for employees, maintenance products and non-employee hospital occupants.
Hospitals can also choose personal care products and cleaners that are free of chemical fragrances. For information about choosing safer personal care products, see www.CosmeticDatabase.org (advanced search option enables you to search for products without fragrance).
For more information about safer cleaning products, see the Women's Voices for the Earth Safe Cleaning Products Initiative
- Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website
- Common Substances in Hospitals May Cause Asthma: HCWH report (pdf) Read the press release
Database with information about choosing safer personal care products; advanced search option allows search for products without fragrance
- EWG Survey links chemical exposures on the job to diseases in nurses
Environmental Working Group website
- Fragranced Products Information Network website
- Fragrance-Free Policies
FAQ and sample policies
- Not Too Pretty: Fragrance, Phthalates and the FDA (pdf)
- Pretty Nasty: Phthalates in European Cosmetic Products (pdf)
- Safe Cleaning Products Initiative
information about safer cleaning products from Women's Voices for the Earth