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What are the health risks of using sulfur dioxide as a preservative?

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One of the health risks of using sulfur dioxide as a preservative is that it may induce asthma symptoms in asthmatics, according to the National Center for Biotechnology Information. Individuals who suffer from sulfite sensitivity may experience several cardiovascular, dermatological, gastrointestinal and pulmonary reactions after consuming foods preserved using sulfur dioxide, reports the University of Florida IFAS Extension.

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Sulfite sensitivity is more common in asthmatic patients and is quite rare in nonasthmatics, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. Approximately one in nine asthmatics may experience worsening asthma symptoms after exposure to foods containing sulfur dioxide, reports the National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Effects of sulfur dioxide on asthma patients range from mild to potentially life threatening, according to Cleveland Clinic. Sulfur dioxide may cause anaphylaxis to people who have sulfite allergies. Studies show that severe asthmatics who depend on steroid-based drugs to control their asthma symptoms are at a higher risk of reacting to sulfur dioxide in foods, reports the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

Some patients begin to experience symptoms about 15 to 30 minutes after oral exposure to sulfur dioxide, according to the University of Florida IFAS Extension. The precise reason why some people react to sulfur dioxide in food is unknown. The only way to prevent these health risks in sulfite-sensitive individuals is complete avoidance of foods that contain sulfites.

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