Massage therapists who use aromatherapy in sessions might want to crack a window or turn on a fan in order to maintain excellent air quality.

New research suggests some spas that utilize aromatherapy may have elevated levels of potentially harmful indoor air pollutants such as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and ultrafine particles.

The research ran in Environmental Engineering Science, a peer-reviewed journal published by Mary Ann Liebert Inc. Publishers.

Taiwanese researchers tested both fragrant and Chinese herbal essential oils for secondary organic aerosols formation in a controlled-environment study chamber under different test conditions, according to a press release from the publisher. They also performed air sampling and analysis in spas that offer massage therapy using essential oils.

The authors compared secondary organic aerosols levels associated for the various fragrant and herbal essential oils tested and present their results in the article, “Characteristics of Air Pollutants and Assessment of Potential Exposure in Spa Centers during Aromatherapy.” They conclude that the layout and ventilation within a particular spa may affect the level of indoor air pollutants produced during massage with aromatherapy.

“Fragrant essential oils, derived from plants, may release various VOCs into the air,” the press release noted. “VOC degradation caused by the reaction of these compounds with ozone present in the air can produce small, ultrafine byproducts called secondary organic aerosols, which may cause eye and airway irritation.”

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