Sales of home air fresheners and scented candles are on the rise and so are respiratory problems in homes where these products are used, according to the findings of a new study presented at the [removed]American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology’s (ACAAI) annual meeting[/removed] in Boston.

“This is a much bigger problem than people realize,” said Stanley Fineman, MD, president-elect of the ACAAI. “About 20% of the population and 34% 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.”

The researchers warn that while home fragrance products may smell “fresh,” many contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that are merely “covering up”—not eliminating—odors in the home. VOCs commonly found in air fresheners include: formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, limonene, esters, and alcohols.

Studies have shown that even VOC exposure levels below currently accepted recommendations increase risk of asthma in children. High concentrations of VOCs can trigger eye and respiratory tract irritation, headaches, dizziness, and even memory impairment.

Despite research showing some air fresheners contain VOCs at toxic or hazardous levels based on federal guidelines, the home fragrance industry is expected to see continued growth, reaching $8.3 billion in global sales by 2015.

The researchers blame the increased growth on “a shift among home fragrance consumers that pleasant smelling homes are not just for the holidays.” Fineman adds, “We are seeing a trend by manufacturers to market these products as aromatherapy which implies health and mood-boosting benefits although there are no scientific studies to support these claims.”

Source: American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology