Feature Article - May 2008
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All in the Family

Ensuring Locker Rooms & Restrooms Are Fit for Everyone

By Stacy St. Clair

Chemical Reaction

Many people can be overwhelmed by excessive use of perfumes, colognes or other fragrances. For some people, however, these smells also pose a serious health threat. Chemical exposure can trigger blinding migraines, respiratory problems and dizziness. Facilities with family locker rooms need to be even more vigilant about the presence of chemicals because children are most likely to be harmed by exposure. As with many illnesses, children seem to be more sensitive to non-specific chemical reactions than adults, according to a recent Ohio State University study. There are several reasons that children seem more susceptible to chemical sensitivity than adults. Children's bodies do not have as many detoxifying enzymes as adult bodies, and children breathe more air per pound of body weight than do adults.

Here are some actions the International Health, Racquet and Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) suggests for minimizing chemical exposure:

  • Purchase cleaning products marked "without perfume." Don't be fooled by products listed as "unscented," as they still may contain a masking fragrance.
  • Avoid fabric softener and dryer sheets when laundering towels.
  • Remove scented candles, potpourri and aerosol room fresheners from locker rooms.
  • Replace real flowers with silk arrangements.
  • If the layout permits, designate a "spray-free" zone in locker rooms.
  • Provide employees and patrons with advance notice of activities such as painting, wallpapering, carpet shampooing and extermination.
  • Post gently-worded signs, especially in vanity areas, and put notices in the club's newsletter and handbook asking everyone to keep in mind that some people are sensitive to chemicals and fragrances.
  • Consider implementing a fragrance policy, such as, "Patrons are requested to refrain from using perfume, cologne and other fragrances for the comfort of others."