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Dear Medical Provider,

     We would like to tell you about a growing problem for millions of Americans who report allergic, immunological, asthmatic and/or neurological reactions to chemicals and/or synthetic fragrances. Because of this, we would like to ask you to join our campaign for Cleaner Indoor Air, by adopting a simple policy that helps millions who experience various consequences when exposed to these substances. . For many people, breathing in fragrances from perfumes, colognes, fragranced personal care items, candles, air fresheners and/or cleaning supplies can just be a little annoying, “…but for a growing number of others, these smells, called ‘emissions of volatile organic compounds,’ can be a form of torment that throws their bodies into reactive overdrive. One whiff of a chemical cocktail…can result in a vast array of debilitating symptoms” (Ephraim).
     It has been reported that exposure to fragrances can exacerbate several health conditions (Pitts). “By design, fragrances are composed of materials that quickly get into the air. Once in the air, these materials pose serious health concerns for many with asthma, allergies, migraines, chronic lung disease, and other health conditions” (FPINVA).
     Surprisingly, this may include millions of people. For example, although not all with allergies report difficulties with perfumes and fragrances, “As many as 50 million people in the United States suffer from allergic disease” (AAAAI). In addition, “In 1998, it was estimated that 26.3 million Americans have been diagnosed with asthma in their lifetime” (ALA of Texas). Asthma is a serious respiratory disorder that can constrict and cause swelling of the airways. “The Institute of Medicine placed fragrance in the same category as second hand smoke in triggering asthma in adults and school age children” (FPINVA). What’s more, “Up to 72% of asthmatics report their asthma is triggered by fragrance. Asthmatics and others that are negatively impacted by fragrance often have difficulties working, obtaining medical care, and going about activities of daily living because of others’ use of scented products” (FPINVA).
     Furthermore, “Approximately 12.6% of the population suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity (MCS), a condition in which they experience reactions from exposure to low concentrations of common chemicals…” (Adams). MCS is “…marked by multiple symptoms in multiple organ systems (usually the neurological, immune, respiratory, skin, ‘GI,’ and/or musculoskeletal) that recur chronic-ally in response to multiple chemical exposures. MCS Symptoms commonly include difficulty breathing, sleeping and/or concentrating, memory loss, migraines, nausea, abdominal pain, chronic fatigue, aching joints and muscles, and irritated eyes, nose, ears, throat and/or skin. In addition, some with MCS show impaired balance and increased sensitivity not just to odors but also to loud noises, bright lights, touch, extremes of heat and cold, and electromagnetic fields” (MCRR). Overall, reactions to toxic substances can be quite serious for many, leaving them unable to go shopping, to a doctor’s office, to church or to work without risking an exposure. It is estimated that “…more than 5.2 million [with MCS] may lose jobs as a result” (Adams). Unfortunately, many become isolated from friends and family, disabled or homebound, because of their reactions to chemicals in our environment.
     Due to the millions of Americans who report mild to severe reactions perfumes, colognes and chemical fragrances, The CIA Campaign strives to educate medical facilities on creating a less threatening environment for this growing number of people. True, we may not be able to protect them from every possible harm, nor can we guarantee that our actions will provide a fool-proof environment. However, if we all do our part, we can make a huge difference by offering a more favorable haven.
     That is why we would like to ask you to join us in our pursuit to bring down some of the invisible barriers that can fortress medical facilities! In order to be a part of this campaign, please join us in these steps towards cleaner indoor air. Many medical facilities around the world have already put these policies into place and are enjoying the benefits of a more comfortable office for themselves and their patients.

  1) No Perfume Policy for Staff– Inform the staff that they are not to wear perfume, cologne and other perfumed products such as lotions and hair sprays, as well highly fragranced deodorants and personal care items.

  2) Policy (or Request) for Patients– Ask patients not to wear perfume during their visit. Simply notify them at the time of their appointment and/or in your new patient packet. Also provide flyers and/or pamphlets and post signs at the entrance of your office. You can choose to have an Enforced Policy in which patients wearing perfume to an appointment will be asked to reschedule and return with out. Or you can choose a Request Policy in which the patient arriving with perfume will be able to keep their appointment, but will be asked not to wear it next time. If possible, you can have them wait in another area. Surprisingly, many offices are using the Enforced Policy. They report that their patients are thrilled and their practices are thriving.

  3) Cleaning and Other Products– Exclude or limit the use of cleaning products, paints, stains, glues, pesticides, etc. that contain chemicals and/or synthetic fragrances. Instead, choose environmentally friendly, hypoallergenic products and no VOC products, as well as fragrance-free or natural soaps. Use air purifiers and exhaust fans that do not disperse chemical fragrances into the air in your    restrooms. Notify patients and post a sign on the door when you use paint, stains, pesticides, new carpet, etc.

Thank you for your time and concern,

The CIA Campaign

Be a CIA Supporter or Sponsor! Give $100.00 or more a year and we will place your name on our Supporters Page! Give$500.00 or more a year and we will add your logo, name and address of your facility and a link to your website on our Sponsors Page! Give $1,000.00 or more a year and we will add your information to both the CIA website, as well as to The Invisible Disabilities Advocate site. See website for details.

References: Adams, Brandon (September 2003). “More than 12% of the Populations Reports Extreme Sensitivity to Low Levels of Common Chemicals.” Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP).   American Academy of Allergy & Immunity (Spring 2002). “The Impact of Allergies.” Spring Allergies & Asthma Survival Guide.   American Lung Association of Texas (July 2005). “Asthma in Adults Fact Sheet.” Asthma & Allergy.   Ephraim, Rebecca (April 2002). “Smells Can Make You Sick.”   Fragranced Products Information Network. “Fragrances by Design.”   MCS Referral and Resources (2000). “Multiple Chemical Sensitivity Syndrome- Fact Sheet.”   Pitts, Connie (2003). Get a Whiff of This: Perfumes (fragrances) – The Invisible Chemical Poisons (Bloomington, IN:1stBooks).

Disclaimer: Although some parties in the medical community remain skeptical of the cause-and-effect relationship between scents and physical reactions, many have concluded otherwise. We regard the individuals who report symptoms related to these issues. However, we are not making any medical claims in our attempt give a voice to this group. Please seek the advice of a health professional.

© 2006 – 2010 Cleaner Indoor Air. A Campaign Launched by The Invisible Disabilities Advocate. All rights reserved.