A group of doctors from Quebec have taken up what may initially seem like a strange cause: banning perfume and cologne from hospitals. Why? Because artificial scents have the power to harm patients, particularly those with asthma.

Drs. Ken Flegel and James Martin published their argument in the Canadian Medical Association Journal. They pointed to research saying that

  1. A. 27% of asthmatics say artificial scents worsen their condition, and

  2. B. 30% of the population is sensitive to artificial scents in some form.

According to the doctors, “While artificial scents are designed to make us more attractive, they may result in unintended harm to those who are vulnerable… There is emerging evidence that asthma in some cases is primarily aggravated by artificial scents. This is particularly concerning in hospitals, where vulnerable patients with asthma or other upper airway or skin sensitivities are concentrated.”

Such a policy would not be without precedent. Several workplaces already encourage scent free environments, and some employees have even successfully sued their employers to get a scent free company policy.

In the opinion of Drs. Flegel and Martin this should be the rule, and not the exception, in all hospitals. “Hospital environments free from artificial scents should become a uniform policy, promoting the safety of patients, staff and visitors alike. As education and promotion programs have some effect on this practice, these programs too ought to be part of our accreditation standards.”