Air Fresheners: Not Uplifting for Allergies

Want fresh air? Better just open a window. Some air fresheners are shown to cause eye and throat irritation, headaches and dizziness.

photo: iStockPhoto The fragrant scents of air fresheners might please your nose, but an increasing number of allergists are seeing patients with adverse reactions to these products, according to coverage of a recent meeting of the American College of Asthma, Allergy and Immunology.

The problem: irritating scents and volatile organic compounds found in products intended to mask funky odors. Depending on the compound, some of the chemicals involved are known carcinogens, which can damage the central nervous system and other organs. But other effects such as allergies are surfacing as well.

One researcher, Stanley Fineman, references a survey showing that 30 percent of Americans reported being physically irritated by fragranced products (perfumes and colognes, fresheners, cleaners, to name a few). One-fifth of respondents reported that air fresheners in particular bring on allergy-like symptoms, which may include eye and throat irritation, headaches, and dizziness.

Scented candles may be culprits, too, cites one USA Today article, which reported on findings from the same meeting.

Certain individuals with asthma are likely to be more affected, but a person's profession matters as well. For instance, one analysis supports the idea that people who frequently work with cleaning products have poorer health outcomes. Finding a causal link between products and illness remains tricky, but the authors suggest a trend exists and may be furthered by mixing cleaners and scented products.

So what can people do to spruce up their personal space?

Open a window, suggests Fineman in one press release. Though it might not be possible during certain times of the year, naturally ventilating a space is better than bringing even the "greenest" products into the home, according to Fineman.