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Many people don't realize they are losing their ability to smell because it's a gradual process.

Most patients who have a reduced ability to smell or detect odors seem to attach less importance to the sense of smell in their daily lives than people with a normal olfactory function, according to a report in the April 2011 issue of Archives of Otolaryngology – Head & Neck Surgery, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

“Disorders of the sense of smell are common,” the authors provide as background information in the article.

“In the general population, hyposmia [reduced ability to smell] varies from 13 percent to 18 percent and anosmia (total loss of olfactory function) from 4 percent to 6 percent. The main causes of olfactory disorders are viral infections, head trauma, sinonasal disease, and neurodegenerative diseases.”


Often associated with getting older

Most cases of reduced or loss of the sense of smell seem to be associated with aging, according to the authors. They suggest that many patients do not seek medical help for these disorders because they either do not notice the impairment because they do not use the sense or because it develops so gradually that they find ways to cope and adjust.

People with such disorders often complain about difficulties cooking, a lack of appetite and low interest in eating. However, reduced ability to detect odors also can pose an increased risk of hazardous events.

“Approximately 17 percent to 30 percent of patients with olfactory disorders report a decreased quality of life, including symptoms of depression.”

Ilona Croy, M.D., and colleagues from the University of Dresden Medical School, Dresden, Germany, evaluated data from 470 individuals (235 patients with a reduced or no sense of smell and 235 individuals with a normal sense of smell) to compare the importance of olfaction in daily life.

The study participants completed the Individual Importance of Olfaction Questionnaire (IO) and olfactory testing using the “Sniffin’ Sticks” test kit.


Study examined the importance of the sense of smell in everyday life

The questionnaire included items to reflect emotions, memories and evaluations that are triggered by the sense of smell; how much a person uses his or her sense of smell in daily life; and how many people use their sense of smell for decision making.

The “Sniffin’ Sticks” test kit consists of pen-like odor dispensers that were placed close to the participant’s nostrils for a few seconds to assess odor identification ability.

“The main result of the present study is that patients with olfactory disorders rate the importance attached to their olfactory sense to be lower in general and also in all the investigated sub-scales compared with healthy normosmic subjects,” the authors report.

“…Although they might not be aware, [they] seem to adjust to their olfactory constraints. Their sense of smell seems to be of less importance to them in daily life when it is reduced. So they report fewer olfactory-triggered emotions and memories, which seems reasonable because patients with olfactory disease experience fewer olfactory triggers. In accord, they also report to use their sense of smell less and to rely less on this sense in decision making.”

“In conclusion, most patients attach less importance to their current sense of smell in daily life than do normosmic individuals and adjust to their reduced olfactory function. This behavior might be an example of regaining psychological health despite acquired and long-lasting impairments,” the authors write.

Source: JAMA and Archives Journals


Bad odors and the smell of alcohol or stale tobacco can have a negative impact on the nightlife experience.

In an effort to protect people from the damaging effects of secondhand smoke, smoking has been banned from most bars, night clubs and other nightspots.

This is great news for the healthcare industry.

The flip side is that customers have become more aware of unpleasant smells, including body odors and the smell of old beer that used to be masked by cigarette smoke.

A new study suggests that night clubs might want to use fragrances to hide unwanted odors and enhance the nightlife experience.

According to Dr. Hendrik Schifferstein from Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, and his colleagues, carefully selected fragrances can enhance dancing activity, improve the overall perception of the evening, and improve how nightclub goers rate the music as well as their mood.

However, most fragrances will introduce potentially dangerous chemicals into the air, and prolonged exposure to certain chemicals has been linked to serious health effects such as cancer or respiratory problems, so there is a danger that worker health and safety complaints may resurface.

Don’t add too many untested chemicals and fragrances without first considering a cost-effective and safer alternative: Industrial-strength air filtration systems.

“I am writing to inform you of how satisfied I am with the air filter system that your company sold to Duffy’s Bar. The air quality has improved immensely and our clients have mentioned that there is a noticeable difference. Thank you, again.”
Brant Read, owner of Duffy’s Bar, Quebec

Provide cleaner, better air for customers and employees

Electrocorp has designed a number of portable, high-quality air purification systems for the hospitality industry as well as industrial-strength odor control systemsfor bars, restaurants and night clubs.

Remove odors quickly and effectively with Electrocorp's RSU Series (try one in the DJ booth)

Our units have been equipped with a deep-bed activated carbon filter to remove a wide range of airborne chemicals, gases, fumes and odors as well as HEPA filters to trap particles, dust and allergens.

We have specialized smoking units that can get rid of lingering odors like stale tobacco and our diverse product line includes portable, stand-alone units, HVAC compatible filtration systems and units that can be mounted on the ceiling.

Our most popular units for night clubs and bars include the Numerical Series (5000 and 6000 Series), the RSU Series and the 9000 Series.

Electrocorp’s air filtration systems make your customers’ experience more enjoyable. Contact one of our indoor air quality experts to find out more or try our online chat option.

Related articles

Worker health and safety is a serious issue

Is the deck stacked against workers in hazardous industries?

Quite so, according to senior reporter Jim Morris, who explained the dilemma in a lecture before he received the Upton Sinclair Memorial Award for Outstanding EHS Investigative Reporting.

“In my reporting over the years, I’ve sometimes detected an odd bias [in the media] against those who work in the oil and gas fields, refineries, commercial fishing, and similar dangerous occupations,” he said.

“It’s as if it is tragic but hardly shocking when workers in these industries die. ‘They knew what they were getting into, didn’t they?’ It’s a stunning bias and lack of compassion.”

Morris has written about the dangers of working in certain industries, including lung disease, cancer in the PVC industry, manganese risks from welding fumes and the marketing of the asbestos trade in the developing world.

His stories focused on individual experiences and put it into perspective with the help of statistics, documents, data and quotes.

Closing his lecture, titled “‘Why Should I Care?’ Humanizing Worker Safety in the Media,” Morris said industrial hygiene professionals have a role in media coverage that can positively influence worker safety and health.

“Journalists usually don’t know about the emerging threats,” he told the audience of about 250 attendees. “I and other journalists rely on information from people like you for the story. It can have a powerful impact.”

Source: OHS Online

Learn more about the dangers of welding fumes and benefits of welding fume extractors:

Find out more about working with dangerous chemicals and air filtration systems designed to target specific pollutants.

Read about asbestos exposure and recent lawsuits and verdicts.

Hair straightening products can release formaldehyde fumes.

Not too long ago, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) of the United States Department of Labor issued a health alert for hair smoothing products.

It warned that hair salon owners and workers could be exposed to formaldehyde from using Brazilian Blowout and other hair straightening treatments.

Many salon workers and stylists have reported difficulty breathing, headaches, stinging eyes and sore throats after working with these chemical hair smoothing products that involve flat-ironing the hair to make it smooth.

Calls for FDA to regulate hair products

Now, a Wall Street Journal article reports that members of congress are asking the Food and Drug Administration to issue a voluntary recall of two hair-straightening treatments sold in salons under the brand name Brazilian Blowout, citing concerns about unacceptably high levels of formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen.

They cited a 2010 study by the Oregon Occupational Safety and Health Division that found formaldehyde in the Brazilian Blowout Solution and Brazilian Blowout Acai Professional Smoothing Solution.

Products often mislabeled

The Oregon OSHA study measured samples of the two products and found they contained average formaldehyde levels of 8% for Brazilian Blowout Solution and 8.8% for Acai Professional Smoothing Solution, a product labeled “formaldehyde free.” Oregon OSHA’s threshold for disclosure of formaldehyde is 0.1%.

“These dangerous products are still available and used on a daily basis in salons across the United States,” the representatives wrote to the FDA. The lawmakers want the FDA to test chemical hair straighteners and recall those with high levels of formaldehyde, and they also want warning labels on the products.

The FDA is investigating and welcomes consumer input on their website.

Meanwhile, Mike Brady, chief executive of Brazilian Blowout, is quoted in the article as saying that the line is “a perfectly safe product that gives people the hair of a lifetime and generates money for the economy.” As for the letter to FDA, he says, “it’s not based on any fact. It’s just based on emotion.”

Salon workers to testify about their symptoms

At a Congressional staff briefing today, Wednesday, salon workers and technicians are scheduled to describe adverse health symptoms following their use of these hair smoothing products. The briefing is hosted by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus and advocacy groups Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and National Healthy Nail Salon Alliance.

Besides calls for more regulation, the company marketing Brazilian Blowout products also faces private-party legal complaints and a suit filed by the state of California. In April, the California attorney general filed a motion seeking a preliminary injunction to stop GIB LLC, the entity doing business as Brazilian Blowout, from selling the treatment line. The cases are being heard in Los Angeles County Superior Court.

In reaction to the controversy, the company has released Brazilian Blowout Zero, a treatment it says is free of formaldehyde and methylene glycol.

Source: Wall Street Journal

What we can do to help

Clean Breeze 3: Superior air cleaner for salons and spas

Electrocorp has designed powerful yet portable air filtration system with a source capture attachment for hair salons and spas.

Equipped with pre-filters, Super-HEPA and an activated carbon filter that offers more inches of filter depth and enhanced adsorption capacity, the Clean Breeze 3 removes more airborne chemicals, gases, odors and particles than ever before – right at the source.

Call one of our IAQ experts for more information: 1-866-667-0297.

Large office printers often emit VOCs.

The air quality in the workplace – be it an office with many printers, computers and other electronic equipment, a factory or any other enclosed space – plays a crucial role when it comes to workers’ productivity and absenteeism as well as morale.

EPA studies show that indoor air pollution levels can routinely be up to five times higher than those found outdoors as a result of contaminants from tracked-in soil, chemical-laden cleaning products, inefficient or unmaintained heating and cooling systems, and the like.

In the short-term, poor indoor air quality can cause sneezing, itchy eyes, scratchy throats, and fatigue. Over the long-term, however, medical authorities say it can contribute to asthma, lung disease, cancer, and even damage to the neurological system.

Here are simple steps to improve the air quality in the workplace:

  1. Be aware of the risks and different sources of indoor air pollutants. The more you know about the dangers of chemical exposure (even at low levels), particle inhalation and mold growth, the quicker you can act to avoid health problems later on.
  2. Have furnaces, heating and cooling equipment cleaned periodically to prevent gas build-up or discharge; regularly replace filters to help avoid harmful particles from circulating throughout the place of work.
  3. Use advanced filtration technologies such as activated carbon, HEPA and UV to remove and/or eliminate the widest range of indoor air pollutants (including chemicals, gases, particles, viruses, bacteria, allergens and mold spores). Opt for a free-standing, portable air purifier that can help improve indoor air quality at the fraction of the price it would take to fix up the ventilation system. The most effective air purifiers feature many pounds of activated carbon, advanced airflow design, the best particle filters and other options.
  4. Remove the source of pollutants (if possible). For example, make sure no harsh chemicals are used to clean the workplace. When renovating, low-VOC products should be used. Ventilation needs to be adequate and EPA also says that air cleaning can be a useful adjunct to source control and ventilation.
  5. Place “scraper” floor mats outside entranceways to remove soiling from shoes, and place walk-off carpeted mats just inside entrances to capture any residual particulates. All mats should be cleaned regularly to ensure their effectiveness.
  6. Mop floors after vacuuming to remove any contaminants left behind. Technologically advanced microfiber mops and dusting cloths, in particular, can capture more soiling than traditional cotton products…and without the use of potentially harmful cleaning solutions. An EPA study conducted for the healthcare industry found that microfiber cleaning can remove up to 98% of contaminants from surfaces using only water.
  7. Regularly use a vacuum with a HEPA filter to help eliminate common allergens like pollen, pet dander, and dust mites. Dander, for example, clings to clothing and can be easily spread.
  8. Use a dehumidifier and an air conditioner to keep indoor humidity in the 30-50% range — a level that helps keep mold, dust mites, and other allergens at bay.

Many office buildings suffer from poor indoor air quality that can affect workers negatively. EPA uses the term “sick building syndrome” (SBS) to describe situations in which building occupants experience acute health and comfort effects that appear to be linked to time spent in a building, but no specific illness or cause can be identified.

The complaints may be localized in a particular room or zone, or may be widespread throughout the building. In contrast, the term “building related illness” (BRI) is used when symptoms of diagnosable illness are identified and can be attributed directly to airborne building contaminants.

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May 2011
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