They may smell enticing and sweet, but those scented candles, air fresheners, plug-in deodorizers, wick diffusers and other fragrances for the home can literally be sickeningly sweet.
That’s what a newer study presented at the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) says. Their findings cited many popular scented products containing volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, with potentially dangerous chemicals such as alcohols, distillates, esters, formaldehyde, limonene and petroleum.
Dr. Stanley Fineman, ACAAI president-elect, who serves as an allergist with Emory University and the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic, cautions that children exposed to VOCs have an increased risk for developing asthma. Fineman adds that the chemicals in those VOCs “trigger allergy symptoms, aggravate existing allergies and worsen asthma. With the asthmatics, there’s really good data showing their lung function changes when they’re exposed to these compounds.”
As if that weren’t enough, Fineman notes that VOCs can cause respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, nasal congestion, eye irritation, sneezing or a runny nose. But that’s not all. Even scented products that are unscented or labeled “natural” can be a problem, since they can often contain chemicals.
This isn’t the first study to bring the sickeningly sweet danger to the fore, however. In 2009, a professor in environmental studies at the University of West Georgia, along with a colleague from the University of Washington, conducted a study with results indicating that one-third of people with asthma also have chemical hypersensitivity. Additionally, more than one-third of those had irritation from scented products.
Along those lines, approximately 20 percent of the general population and 34 percent of those with asthma have health problems as a result of use of air fresheners and other scented products.
So, how do you avoid VOCs and still have safe, pleasant fragrances?
The safest option is to avoid those scented products altogether, and just go ahead and open the windows whenever possible for fresh air. Or, if you want to opt for another healthier scent alternative, you can use appropriate essential oils and diffuse them throughout the room or house.
Whatever you do, though, you may just want to pass on the sickeningly sweet stuff.