Fresh or Foul?
Air Fresheners in Public
UPdate Fall 2002
Finding a public washroom is a difficult
task if you are sensitive to scents and chemicals. Most washrooms
are equipped with the "dreaded air freshener." Are restaurants required
by law to have air fresheners in their washrooms? UPdate asked someone
who knows, NS Department of Agriculture Health Inspector Calvin Latham.
"There is no regulation requiring air fresheners," stated Latham.
purely the choice of the restaurant.
Air fresheners don't do anything for health. All we require is mechanical
ventilation. We don't even recommend anti-bacterial soap in washrooms,
just good hand washing." UPdate asked if this was a recent change.
"I've been doing this job for 22 years," Latham responded. "I would never
look for an air freshener, it wouldn't even occur to me."
Air fresheners work either by using
a nerve-deadening agent which interferes with the ability to smell, or
by covering up one smell with another. The most common ingredients in air
fresheners are ethanol, formaldehyde, fragrances, naphthalene, phenol and
-Formaldehyde is considered
among the top 10% of hazardous chemicals for human health. It is a recognized
carcinogen, neurotoxicant, immunotoxicant and suspected of harming many
other body systems.
-Naphthalene is a suspected carcinogen
and may cause blood, kidney, liver and developmental damage.
-Xylene may cause liver and kidney damage,
as well as damage to a developing fetus. Repeated exposures can lead to
-Phenol is another suspected developmental,
kidney, respiratory, neurological and skin and sensory organ toxicant.
-Naphthalene, xylene and phenol are
all categorized as more hazardous than most chemicals.
So the next time a restaurant manager
says they are required to have air fresheners in their washroom, you can
tell them that if they choose to remove them, many people with scent and
chemical sensitivities will breathe a sigh of relief, everyone will be
healthier, and no government department will say a word.