About 25 million Americans have asthma, a condition that makes it difficult to breathe and causes chest pain. Chemicals found in household products can trigger attacks. Here are a few to look out for.
1. Wood Smoke
Cozying up by the fire sounds relaxing, but it can induce an asthma attack. The smoke contains carbon monoxide, volatile organic compounds and nitrogen oxides. It also has hazardous air pollutants, like benzene and formaldehyde. These particles are dangerous because they are tiny and can get deep into your lungs, leading to coughing and wheezing. Take precautions by opening your windows, adding a grate and building a smaller fire.
Another cause of wood smoke is stoves and heaters. Consider switching to natural gas appliances and fully vent your space. You could also try solar stoves, which run on renewable energy and are better for the environment.
2. Scented Perfume
Perfume can make you smell and feel good. It’s fun to pick out a specific scent, such as something flowery. However, it can be a trigger for those with asthma. The particles can inflame and narrow their lungs, causing irritation. Also, strong odors have been linked to asthma attacks.
Consider laying off the perfume if someone in your family has asthma. Instead, look for alternatives, like body lotions and deodorants.
3. Fresh Paint
Painting your space is a fun way to add personality. However, the strong fumes and odor can irritate skin, eyes and lungs. This is because they contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which trigger asthma symptoms. Some can cause serious medical issues, like heart disease.
VOCs, such as formaldehyde, benzene and methylene chloride, are the most dangerous. They can cause flu-like symptoms and eye and throat irritation. Look for paints with low VOCs, such as ones by Benjamin Moore or Sherwin Williams.
4. Aerosol Sprays
Aerosols include things like hair spray, cleaners and room deodorizers. They release several chemicals, such as leukotrienes and histamines, that produce excess mucus and cause inflammation in the lungs.
People with asthma are more vulnerable to this immune response. Instead of using aerosol sprays, mix cornstarch and water for deodorizing clothes. It will help everyone breathe easier and are better for the environment.
5. Household Cleaners
Many people use chemical cleaners to remove tough stains, but they can irritate family members with asthma. One way these ingredients impact people is by causing a hypersensitive immune response. They can also directly irritate the lungs.
Examples of these compounds in your cleaning products include the following:
- Bleaches: These strong oxidizers have intense deodorizing and disinfectant properties.
- Quaternary ammonium compounds: They reduce the surface tension of water and are used as preservatives in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products.
- Aldehyde disinfectants: They are used as industrial and medical disinfectants or as preservatives in cosmetics.
Keep your family safe by using fewer cleaning products and relying more on soap and water. Also, clean in well-ventilated areas and don’t mix cleaning products.
You use these to clean your laundry or dishes, but they contain a skin irritant known as formaldehyde. It can trigger asthma through coughing, wheezing or a burning sensation in the throat. Some detergents also contain high levels of fragrances with strong odors. If you’re looking for an alternative, consider these products instead:
- Baking soda
- Oxygen bleach
- Bar soap
7. Air Fresheners
Air fresheners make your home feel cleaner and provide a welcoming space for guests. However, they can contain VOCs that cause asthma flareups. Plus, high exposure can lead to respiratory tract irritation, headaches or dizziness. Avoid air freshers with these VOCs — formaldehyde, petroleum distillates and limonene.
There are alternative ways to keep your space smelling fresh. Try things like essential oils, houseplants or potpourri.
Keep Your Family Healthy
Many household products, such as cleaners, contain pollutants that lead to asthma attacks. That’s why it’s essential to look for more natural products and avoid anything that can serve as a trigger. Thankfully, several alternatives are better for your health and the environment.
Jane is an environmental writer and the founder and editor-in-chief of Environment.co where she covers sustainability and eco-friendly living.