Are your scented candles and air fresheners making you sick?
Home fragrances can aggravate allergies and asthma. Sneezing, wheezing and runny noses are just a few of the symptoms that can occur from scented candles and using air fresheners in the home that emit VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, according to allergy and immunology experts.
VOC’s are a respiratory irritant that could also affect friends and guests visiting your home. To breathe easier and keep your home free from pollution, top allergists recommend eliminating fragrances from the home.
“This is a much bigger problem than people realize,” said Stanley Fineman, MD, president-elect of the American College for Asthma, Allergy and Immunology.
“About 20 percent of the population and 34 percent of people with asthma report health problems from air fresheners. We know air freshener fragrances can trigger allergy symptoms, aggravate existing allergies and worsen asthma.”
He says the problem is expected to get worse as the result of manufacturers marketing of the products who make claims that fragrances provide aromatherapy to boost mood and promote health. Fineman says there’s no science behind the claims.
Some of the harmful compounds found in scented candles, sprays and plug-in air fresheners include formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, esters and alcohols.
Despite claims that the products eliminate odors, allergists say they only mask odors.
According to Fineman, a study of plug-in deodorizers that included more than 20 different VOCs found that more than one third were classified as toxic or hazardous.
Even candles and air fresheners labeled “green” are not recommended. Instead, Fineman says open the windows to let Mother Nature keep your home smelling fresh.
“Products marketed as ‘all-natural’ or even those that are unscented can emit hazardous chemicals” said Dr. Fineman. “The safest option is to avoid exposure to pollutants that air fresheners emit.”
But it’s not just consumers who need to be aware of the health risks associated with indoor fragrances. Fineman also suggests physicians stay alert to scented products that patients are using.
For children, VOC’s from scented candles and plug-in fragrances can trigger asthma. High levels of exposure to compounds in the products can even lead to memory problems.
The findings, presented at the ACAAI annual meeting, is a message to consumers to get rid of home fragrances that include scented candles, sprays and plug-in air fresheners. Getting rid of indoor pollutant can ensure better respiratory health for children and adults.
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