Is your air freshener poisoning you?

Research found raised levels of limonene, which is used heavily in air fresheners and scented candles, to given a citrus smell. Photo / iStock
Research found raised levels of limonene, which is used heavily in air fresheners and scented candles, to given a citrus smell. Photo / iStock

Lives are being put at risk from air pollution inside homes caused by everything from fly sprays to air fresheners, health experts warn.

The danger of pollution in the street from car fumes is well understood, but many people are ignorant of the risks from air inside the home, according to a study.

The report, published by the UK's Royal College of Physicians (RCP) and the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH) this week, warns that at least 99,000 deaths a year across Europe can be linked to the effect of air pollution outside and inside the home.

It suggests that everyday kitchen products including fly sprays, air fresheners, deodorants, DIY and cleaning products contribute to poor indoor air quality.

This is because household sprays often use chemicals called Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), which start off as solids or liquids but evaporate into the air.

Recent research in York found raised levels of a VOC called limonene, which is used heavily in air fresheners and scented candles, to given a citrus smell.

It is dangerous to inhale on its own and can become formaldehyde when it mixes with other airborne elements.

This is a known cause of cancer in humans, and is most closely linked with cancers of the nose and throat. At the very least it can cause sore throats, coughs, stinging eyes and nosebleeds.

At the same time, certain furniture, fabric, furnishings, glue and insulation can emit formaldehyde vapour, causing irritation to the lungs.

Biological materials found in the home, such as house-dust mites, mould and flecks of skin and fur can also harm human health.

The report, called Every Breath We Take, warns that while young children and the elderly are particularly sensitive to air pollution, it can have an adverse impact on all age groups.

It states: "Examples include the adverse effects of air pollution on the development of the foetus, including lung and kidney development, and miscarriage; increases in heart attacks and strokes for those in later life; and the associated links to asthma, diabetes, dementia, obesity and cancer for the wider population."

Professor Stephen Holgate, chairman of the report's working party, said: "We now know that air pollution has a substantial impact on many chronic long term conditions, increasing strokes and heart attacks in susceptible individuals.

"We know that air pollution adversely effects the development of the foetus, including lung development.

And now there is compelling evidence that air pollution is associated with new onset asthma in children and adults.

"When our patients are exposed to such a clear and avoidable cause of death, illness and disability, it is our duty to speak out."

Dr Andrew Goddard, the Royal College of Physicians lead for the report, said: "Taking action to tackle air pollution in the UK will reduce the pain and suffering for many people with long term chronic health conditions, not to mention lessening the long-term demands on our NHS."

- Daily Mail

- Daily Mail

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