Scented candles, air fresheners not good for allergies

If you suffer from allergies, itchy eyes, or a runny nose, scented candles and air fresheners may be to blame rather than dust and pollen.

Allergists at the annual meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) announced this week that people with allergies may be more sensitive to these scents than they realize.

Air fresheners and candles can "trigger allergy symptoms, aggravate existing allergies and worsen asthma," Stanley Fineman, M.D., president-elect of the ACAAI, said in a statement.

While they may smell "fresh," Fineman warned that many products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, esters and alcohols, which have been linked to increased risk of asthma in children. Plus VOCs can trigger eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, and even memory impairment according to the statement.

"All-natural" or unscented products can still emit hazardous chemicals, he added. "The safest option is to avoid exposure to pollutants that air fresheners emit." That means opening a window rather than using products labeled even "green" or "organic," he adds.

The worst offenders? A study of plug-in deodorizers found that they contained more than 20 different VOCs with more than one third of those classified as toxic or hazardous.

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