US concern over fragrance use hits Europe

By Simon Pitman

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Personal care products Allergy Perfume

Hospital authorities in Gothenburg, Sweden, are mulling plans to
ban perfumes and heavily fragranced personal care products in a
move that mirrors similar moves by public authorities in the US.

A total of 49 municipalities in the Gothenburg region are said to be considering the introduction of a complete fragrance ban in all hospitals in the region, according to a report by online Swedish publication The Local.

If it gets the go-ahead the ban will affect some 50,000 staff at the hospitals, as well as all patients receiving treatment.

The main reason for the proposal is the fact that an estimated 6 per cent of the Swedish population is said to have a hypersensitivy to fragrances that can bring about mild to severe allergic reactions, known as multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS).

Questions over how to implement such a ban But already questions have arisen as to how the ban will be implemented and just how it can be ensured that all patients and staff are detered from using perfumed products in hospitals.

Only last week a lawmaker in Minnesota, US, announced a proposal to ensure that educational establishments in the state run campaigns highlighting the potential dangers associated with allergies to fragrances.

Although proposals to ban fragrances and perfumes in specific places are still relatively unheard of in Europe, in the US schools, universities, hospitals and other institutions have already implemented a number of bans.

Bans already in place in some US universities Similar bans have already been introduced in a handful of university campuses, including Cecil College in Maryland and Portland State University, where employees and students have been asked to respect and support a healthy indoor air environment.

Despite the fact that the number of individual institutions in the US going fragrance free, or interested in going fragrance free remains very small, there is increasing recognition of MCS and the general discomfort experienced by some on contact with strong scents.

MCS is described as the severe allergic-type reactions that some individuals suffer when in contact with a wide variety of chemical substances including many of those found in deodorants, fragrances, hair sprays and similar personal care products.

MCS leads to a variety of allergic reactions Reactions can include headaches, skin rashes, muscoskeletal pains, burning sensations and severe fatigue, with some individuals having trouble with coordination and lengthy concentration.

However, the mechanism behind MCS is not known, leading some experts, including much of the medical profession, to refer to it as a psychosomatic illness with little or no treatment available to sufferers.

In addition, MCS is not a classic allergy - the body is not acquiring a sensitivity to a specific excitant, instead similar symptoms are being reported as a result of exposure to many and varied excitants - meaning that a fragrance free policy may not be the most effective mode of action.

Related topics Formulation & Science

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