1 / 10 9 Home Products With Hidden Asthma Triggers
Many everyday products in your home contain chemicals that could spell trouble if you or another family member has asthma. On the list of asthma flare triggers are items you might not suspect, from antibacterial soap to air fresheners. Often, the hidden culprits are chemicals called volatile organic compounds (VOCs), explained Stanley Fineman, MD, of Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic in Marietta, Ga., and a past president of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Exposure to VOCs can cause asthma to flare, Dr. Fineman said. Check out these products that contain chemicals harmful to asthma sufferers.
2 / 10 Sunscreen
Put sunscreen on the list of products that contain chemicals that may trigger asthma flares. Specifically avoid those with benzophenone, octocrylene, and PABA (para-aminobenzoic acid), all of which can irritate your skin, especially if you’re sensitive. The problem with sunscreen may be more allergy than asthma, but some allergies can cause coughing, and episodes of coughing can lead to worsening asthma symptoms. “It also could be the smell of the sunscreen that bothers some people with asthma,” Fineman said.
3 / 10 Water Bottles
If your family is still using older plastic water bottles made with the chemical bisphenol A (BPA), throw them away and go BPA-free. A study in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology in March 2013, which looked at BPA exposure in children from the womb until their seventh birthday, found that 90 percent of the kids showed evidence of BPA each time they were tested. The study also found that kids exposed to BPA after birth were more likely to develop asthma. Fineman said the evidence that BPA could be an asthma flare trigger isn’t overwhelming by any means, but it can’t hurt to play it safe. Look for BPA-free plastic bottles or opt for stainless.
4 / 10 Antibacterial Soap
Antibacterial soap may be among the many products that contain chemicals that could trigger asthma. That’s because antibacterial soap contains triclosan, which is a synthetic pesticide. In the environment, triclosan breaks down to extremely toxic chemicals — a form of dioxin and carcinogenic chloroform — and harsh chemicals can be asthma flare triggers. There’s also some evidence that triclosan could be contributing to super germs that are resistant to antibiotics. And, one theory holds that overkilling good bacteria can increase your chances of developing asthma. The good news is that washing with ordinary soap is just as effective — just foam up for about 20 seconds each time.
5 / 10 Vinyl
Vinyl, too, is among products that contain chemicals that might lead to asthma flares. According to a study published in Environmental Health Perspectives in 2012, common household asthma culprits include vinyl shower curtains and vinyl flooring. The researchers identified the chemical DEHP, a phthalate used as a plasticizer in vinyl items, as the asthma flare trigger. A 10-year study done in Norway and published in the same journal in 2013 also found an association between phthalates and asthma in children.
6 / 10 Air Fresheners
The very air fresheners designed to improve the scent of your home could be among products that contain chemicals that spell trouble for asthma. The problem is that many fragrances contain volatile organic compounds, and VOCs have been reported to worsen symptoms in up to 34 percent of those with asthma and allergies, Fineman said. He told colleagues at a 2011 meeting of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology that some air fresheners contain more than 20 different VOCs. Even air fresheners labeled organic or green can contain the offending chemicals, he said.
7 / 10 Fireplaces
Sitting by a burning fire on a cold winter’s day might sound warm and cozy, but it’s not the best idea if you have asthma. Burning wood releases tars, gases, soot, fine particles, and VOCs that can trigger asthma flares. Even smoke from your neighbor’s chimney could bother you. Their smoke can enter your house through tiny cracks in your doors and windows and through vents, and the soot can settle in your basement. It’s best to avoid burning fires whenever possible. “We see it, too, from camp fires,” Fineman added.
8 / 10 Pesticides
Research published in Current Opinion in Allergy and Clinical Immunology in 2011 concluded that pesticides are capable of triggering asthma attacks. Pesticides can irritate the airways and cause chronic inflammation that leads to damage, wrote the researchers. And it doesn’t take much; even trivial amounts of pesticides can be asthma flare triggers in adults and children who are susceptible. Avoid using pesticides indoors or out, and stay away from public areas where pesticides are sprayed.
9 / 10 Cigarette Smoke
Cigarettes are high on the list of products that contain chemicals that can be dangerous for people with asthma. In addition, secondhand smoke can be as much of a culprit. “We see people whose asthma is triggered by secondhand smoke all the time,” Fineman said. Children with asthma are particularly vulnerable to secondhand smoke. If you or someone in your house has asthma, don’t smoke in your home or in your car. Don’t allow anyone else to, either.
10 / 10 Incense
You may not have done it since the 1960s, but burning incense indoors can trigger an asthma flare. Researchers from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looked at two types of incense that are widely used in the United Arab Emirates, oudh and bahkoor. They reported in the August 2013 issue of the journal Science of the Total Environment that both types of incense emit pollutants, including carbon monoxide, formaldehyde, and nitrogen oxides, that seem to be lung irritants and could be asthma flare triggers — provoking as strong a reaction as cigarette smoke. If you burn incense and have asthma, be sure to crack open a window or leave the door ajar.