AAOHN: Synthetic Fragrances Pose Health Risk to 20 Percent of Workers

The American Association of Occupational Health Nurses Inc. has partnered with the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, Decatur Memorial Hospital in Illinois, the Massachusetts Nurses Association, the Alabama State Nurses Association, and the University of Maryland School of Nursing, Environmental Health Education Center to offer a webcast titled Reducing Workplace Exposure to Synthetic Fragrance on Wednesday, Oct. 15, from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EST. Supported in part by a grant from the Nurses Work Group of Health Care Without Harm (HCWH), the webcast will identify the pertinent chemistry and common adverse reactions to perfumes and other fragranced products; discuss the concept of individual sensitivity as it relates to occupational and environmental health and worker safety; and list the key components of a policy that addresses a fragrance-free work environment.

"Our partners for this webcast join us in supporting and promoting the importance of a fragrance-free workplace as just one of many health and safety programs that can benefit workers and ultimately have a positive impact on productivity and a company’s bottom line,” said AAOHN President Richard Kowalski.

Presenters for the event say synthetic fragrances can pose a serious health hazard, with chemical compounds in the fragrances potentially causing physical irritation and discomfort, sometimes leading to serious health effects and/or workers’ ability to perform. "Asthma and migraine headaches can both be associated with exposure to fragrances and are both leading causes of lost work time,” said webcast co-presenter Evie Bain, RN, COHN-S, FAAOHN. "Understanding the components of a fragrance-free workplace policy is imperative to protecting our health and the air we breathe at work."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 22.2 million Americans were diagnosed with asthma in 2005, and each year an average of 504,000 Americans are hospitalized for asthma-related symptoms.

"Asthma is a serious health effect that can be caused by exposure to synthetic fragrances," Bain said. "The Institute of Medicine placed fragrance in the same category as secondhand smoke in triggering asthma in adults and school age children."

The webcast is free for AAOHN members and $25 for partner affiliates. The registration fee for non-member, non-partner affiliates is $75 if done online and $85 via fax. The deadline to register is Monday, Oct. 13. The webcast offers 1.5 continuing nursing education contact hours, which are included in the registration. For more information, visit www.aaohn.org or call (770) 455-7757.

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