Barb Wilkie's EHN Website
Last updated 2008

EHN Board President Barb Wilkie was very ill from chemically-induced kidney disease for several years. She passed away May 31, 2011. EHN presents this site both as a tribute and as valuable information. Many links and references will be out of date but Barb's research holds up over time. We will be transferring the site page by page, with updated details, to EHN's main site. If you would like to reach an EHN staff person, please contact us directly.


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Brigham and Women's Hospital
Personnel Policy Manual

Fragrance-Controlled Workplace
Reprinted with permission of
Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston


It is the policy of Brigham and Women's Hospital to strive to be a fragrance-controlled institution. The hospital's philosophy supports a healthful environment for patients, employees, physicians, volunteers and visitors. The hospital recognizes that exposure to strong scents and fragrances in the environment can cause discomfort as well as directly impact the health of sensitive individuals. Therefore, for the comfort and health of all, use of scents and fragrant products, other than minimally scented personal care products, by BWH employees and staff, is discouraged, particularly in clinical areas.

APPLIES TO: All Employees


Fragrances: any product which produces a scent, strong enough to be perceived by others including but not limited to colognes, perfumes, after shave products, lotions, powders, deodorants, hair sprays and other hair products, and other personal products.


Fragrances and scented products that are perceived by others in addition to the user are not to be worn in the hospital, particularly in the clinical areas.

Air fresheners and room deodorizers which have been approved by the Product Committee may be used as directed. These products are intended to mask other objectionable odors for the purpose of improved environmental comfort.

Any employee with concerns about scents or other odors associated with products used while performing job duties should contact his/her department's Product Committee representative to determine if there is an appropriate product substitution available. Any employee with concerns about potential symptoms caused by exposure to fragrances should be referred to the Occupational Health Service for evaluation.


Department heads and managers/supervisors are responsible for encouraging staff to comply with this policy.

It is the responsibility of all employees for supporting this policy.


EHN thanks Brigham and Women's Hospital for granting permission to post their Frangrance-Controlled Workplace policy.

# # #

From the point of view of the already fragrance-sensitized individual, I must say that "fragrance controlled" does not do it for several reasons, but admittedly it is a major step forward in this day and age of industry power plays and no government regulation -- not even the FDA's required warning message on labels of fragrances released to market without substantiation of safety! The problems are multiple; a few are:


  • The scent users cannot smell the extent of their own fragrances and therefore tend to use more throughout the day . . . also, in doing that, they are doing what the industry recommends.


  • Modern petrochemical-derived fragrances are concocted to waft further and last longer on items scented, as well as in the ambient air.

  • A fragrance-controlled atmosphere doesn't account for the fact that IF multiple users -- plus products used in the facility -- volatilize petrochemical-derived fragrance, there is an accumulative effect. That defies a "fragrance-controlled" policy's intent for providing a healthier environment for everyone, including all workers, patients and visitors -- as well as aquatic and wildlife downstream.


  • Fragrance-controlled policies mock the wisdom of the doctors who "get it" for they are the ones who tell their patients: Avoid fragrances. One can buy and use one's own products that are free of petrochemical-derived fragrances, but we all are subjected to the chemicals used by others. We are secondhand users. We are ignored. Just check the increased rates of "unexplained" asthma for a starter. If we were listened to, I'd hazzard a guess that doctors would start telling their patients to not only avoid fragrances, but strive to get their workplace, school, healthcare facility, etc. to look for safer alternatives. And the doctors would carry that message forward too.


  • Fragrance-controlled policies may miss an opportunity to educate doctors, nurses, all other staff, patients and visitors about the possible long-term and systemic effects of perfume pollution. Healthcare facilities never miss an opportunity to educate about the harmful effects of tobacco smoke, well fragrances leave the user to adversely affect the health of others too, just as does tobacco smoke. But when you get tobacco smoke, you are also getting other flavors and fragrance industry products: FLAVORS. Again, petrochemically derived products.

    Remember according to the US Department of the Interior, if it is
    GREEN, it "must not contain petrochemical-derived fragrances." See DOI's
    "Traditional Versus 'Green' Cleaning Products"


But as I said, it is a start. And for that I congratulate the people at Brigham and Women's Hospital for instituting this policy. -- barb


Why does the FDA allow products to carry the misleading label "fragrance-free" and/or "unscented" while those products contain synthetic scent as a masking agent? They, and "slightly- scented products," cause adverse health reactions in the already chemically injured individual.

Synthetic scents are largely petrochemical products. It's the chemicals!

There is inadequate testing before marketing. The FDA does not test for safety, nor can it require safety testing by this self-regulated industry. The only real testing done has been for dermatological reactions, yet these products are made to be inhaled! Even the dermatologist have not paid close enough heed to those people who suffer adverse skin reactions at the secondary and tertiary levels of exposures (airborne contact dermatitis).

Synthetic scents contain known irritants and sensitizers, and also contain known or suspected carcinogens, neurotoxins and teratogens (adversely affecting embryonic and fetal development). Check out the analyses of six scents, available via EHN's FDA Petition, and also explore the website of Perfumers World (see below). -- barb

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uploaded: 02/22/02

The Environmental Health Network (EHN) [of California] is a 501 (c) (3) non profit agency and offers support and information for the chemically injured. Learn from the work of Julia Kendall, get The BEST of the Reactor, join EHN and receive The New Reactor. See what influence the Chemical Manufacturers have had against those of us with EI. The URL for EHN's home page is