Dangers and Natural Alternatives to Air Fresheners

Posted by Savneet Singh on Feb.12, 2009


© - Steve Cady

To watch television commercials for air fresheners, one could think them to be made from fresh cut flowers. We place them all around our homes. But these fresheners don’t freshen the air, but rather make our home’s air more polluted. Air fresheners used in a confined area, like homes, offices or cars create an intense amount of toxins in a small area.

Indoor air quality can be lower than the air quality outdoors.  The fine particulate matter from outdoor air pollution comes in through doors and windows. Dust mites, mold, pet dander and fur, tobacco smoke and fumes from combustion appliances like gas heaters and stoves contribute as well, as do building materials that out-gas, such as paints, varnishes, insulation, particle board, plywood, carpets and furniture.

With all that already in the air inside, why make indoor air more polluted with air fresheners? The air fresheners emit volatile organic compounds (VOCs), like most paints do. In the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS), the manufacturer admit that breathing high concentrations of vapor in excess of the permitted exposure level may cause following problems:

  • Headache

  • Nervousness

  • Dizziness

  • Tremors

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

Air fresheners in the form of solid sticks, oils and other plug-ins and sprays should NOT be used to cover up smells in your home, your school or your office as they have harmful effects on human body.

Evidence show that fragrances, including those from air fresheners and laundry detergents, have an “addictive” quality. This may be why some people love the scents  emitted from synthetic fragrance air fresheners.

Phthalates and Other Dangers

Plug-in, spray or stand-alone liquid and gel air fresheners are used in nearly 75% of U.S. households, and their market has doubled since 2003. Fresheners those labeled as “all-natural” or “unscented,” and found with a wide range of phthalate (pronounced THAL-ates) content. It is a group of chemicals that are used to dissolve and carry fragrances, soften plastics and also as sealants and adhesives . A study carried out by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) evaluated 14 air fresheners and found that 12 contained variable amounts of phthalates. Phthalates are commonly found in  products like cosmetics, paints, nail polish and children’s toys

Phthalates have long been at the center of a larger international controversy over their health effects. Studies involving rat and human subjects have suggested that high exposures to certain kinds of phthalates can cause cancer, developmental and sex-hormone abnormalities (including decreased testosterone and sperm levels and malformed sex organs) in infants, and can affect fertility.

In 2004, the European Union banned two types of phthalates in cosmetics and also bans the chemical in children’s toys. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has no regulations on the use of phthalates. Manufacturers do not require the labeling of phthalate content on products and do not consider the quantities to which people are exposed to be harmful.

In addition to phthalates other harmful substances in air fresheners include allergens, potential carcinogens such as acetaldehyde or styrene, dangerous substances such as toluene and chlorbenzene, glycol ethers and artificial musk. Other chemicals are generally found in air fresheners and their effects include:

  • Paradichchlorobenzene (a white, solid crystal) has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals.
  • Phenol (carbolic acid) is flammable, corrosive and very toxic.

  • Formaldehyde may cause cancer(EPA).

  • Benzene is a carcinogen for which the WHO recommends zero exposure.

There are several other components found in air fresheners or deodorizers those are well-known carcinogens, and others have a wide range of immediate and long-term toxic effects on vital organs. The cumulative effect their mix has on human health is largely unknown. But it is safe to say that these products represent a real risk to health not only of allergy sufferers, asthmatics, pregnant or nursing women and children, but also to anyone using them continuously.

Thus, it is better to stay away from these chemicals. The best way to protect yourself, especially children who may have asthma or other respiratory illnesses, is to reduce the use of products and materials that contain these compounds.

Natural Ways To Make Your Home Smell Better

  • Keep the house clean.

  • Open windows

  • Take out the trash every day.

  • Keep fresh coffee grounds on the counter

  • Grind up a slice of lemon in the garbage disposal.

  • Toss baking soda at the bottom of the trash can.

Get at the root of the odor and enjoy fresh air inside naturally!

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Posted under Green Clean Air, Green Cleaning, Home Environment.

Article By: Savneet Singh

Savneet Singh

Profile: Savneet Singh has been a writer and editor on the environment, science, education, and human and spirituality since 2003 for various books for children. Savneet holds a Masters degree in Environment and a Masters in Education and currently located in Santa Ana (near LA),California. Savneet enjoys reading and writing about the environment and life related things. Savneet has a strong inclination for spirituality and practices meditation & yoga everyday.


Latest posts by Savneet Singh

3 comments for this entry:
  1. Mom Time

    Come to think of it, my eldest daughter ALWAYS starts to get congested everytime my husband puts in an air freshener in the bedroom. I keep telling him about it but he just can’t seem to comprehend the connection. Thanks for sharing! Will definitely tweet about this.

  2. Scott

    We live in a world of ubiquitous deceit. Our collective manipulation of each other leads to untold misery, death, and more importantly the regression of our society as a whole.

    Never before has so much knowledge and information been available, and never before have so many billions of people been unable to process said information.

    We as a society have lost the ability to think for ourselves. Even when we think we are thinking independently, if we examine our thoughts a little closer, we will see we are simply lying to ourselves.

    The truth will frighten you. If you seek it. However, without it, you and your children are hopeless.

    During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.
    -George Orwell

  3. Maisie Yaklich

    This blog is nice, its probably something to do with my computer but for some reason i can’t access your article on chrome, this is why i used an alternate browser.

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