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Runny Nose? It Could Be Your Air Freshener

scented candles

Those sprays, plug-ins and scented candles we use to make our homes smell good are causing a growing number of breathing problems, say allergy experts.

That's the conclusion of a new study presented last week at the annual scientific meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology in Boston.

"This is a much bigger problem than people realize," said allergist Stanley Fineman, the group's president-elect.

 "About 20 percent of the population and 34 percent 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."

In an interview with NPR, he said patients complain about congestion, sniffles or a runny nose. Headaches or sinus pressure are other typical symptoms.

Home fragrance products may smell "fresh," but Fineman warns that they contain chemicals that cover up, but

small plug-in

don't eliminate, odors in the home. These chemicals, which  can include formaldehyde, petroleum distillates and alcohol, can irritate the nose, eyes and respiratory tract.

Even so-called unscented products can emit chemicals, he said.

Allergists (and their patients) may complain about these products, but they're not going away any time soon. The home fragrance industry expects to reach $8.3 billion in global sales by 2015.

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