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ADVANCE Perspective: Respiratory Views

Scenting the way to reduce fragrance-induced asthma attacks

Published March 24, 2008 2:38 PM by test test
Minnesota just became the third state nationwide to consider a campaign for scent-free schools. Rep. Karen Clark proposed educating students about how their Burberry, Marc Jacobs and Axe contribute to classmates' health problems, including asthma.

(Clark, along with lawmakers in Rhode Island and Massachusetts, considered then dropped all-out fragrance bans.)

This bill (HF3944) would let public schools volunteer to deliver a bouquet of fact sheets, posters, and parent letters to the student body. After a one-year trial, the commissioner of health would report the campaign's progress in rural, urban and suburban schools.

Research has indicated that odors ranging from cigarette smoke to perfumes can trigger asthma attacks and a host of other medical problems. Yet many people have bristled at the idea of regulating smells.

"Are the Fragrance Sensitive being too Scents-itive?" asked an Atlantic Highlands Herald columnist. "Isn't this going a bit too far?" queried collaborative blog Hub Politics.

Too much perfume or cologne is far better than body odor, suggested a post on the student forum CollegeNET.

Others say the campaign simply will not work. "I can't imagine high school teens all awash in their ‘peer group thing' allowing themselves to be told what to smell like, especially by the state legislature," wrote Consent of the Governed blogger Judy Aron.

But a growing body of people has voiced support of the ban. "The fact that it's making some kids sick, I guess, is reason enough to forbid it in schools," wrote Sanford Herald editor Billy Liggett on his blog.

Is this a problem best addressed by laws and regulations?

The Nova Scotia port city of Halifax taken a different approach: effectively banning perfumes within city limits through the stringent bans in office buildings, schools, hospitals, and the symphony hall.

Both Mr. Manners and this online nurses' forum suggest that work-place professionals can first talk to the ‘fragrant' offender then visit Human Resources to resolve scent-induced respiratory problems. Would this work in schools?

At least one site, though, raises the realistic idea that it's either lawmakers or lawsuits.

What's the real solution?

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