October 1, 2012 by APRIL McCARTHY
Air Fresheners Are Toxic And What You Perceive As Pleasant Is Not Worth The Damage To Your Health
The use of chemical air fresheners either in our cars, home or exposure to them at the office, restaurants, health clubs or any other indoor location may be causing long-term health damage to our lungs which may not even be noticeable in the short-term. Headaches, earaches, depression, an irregular heart beat, and diarrhea are just a few of many health challenges that have been linked to regular use of synthetic air fresheners.
Indoor air quality
is a serious pollution threat and all artificially scented products and fragrances, regardless of the type are major contributors to the problem.
We spend 90 percent of our time indoors, but have you ever thought about the purity of the air that you are breathing as you sit inside?
Indoor air quality is considered to be the fourth greatest pollution threat to Americans by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Even if you can never see, and can’t always smell, the chemicals inside your home, they are there. It comes from cleaning products, drycleaning chemicals, plastic products like computer keyboards, furniture, paint, carpeting and more. However, air fresheners are one of the biggest sources of voluntary pollution we place on ourselves.
A report that was released in September of 2007 by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that 12 of 14 brands of common household air fresheners contained phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals that are used to prolong the length of time that scented products maintain their fragrance. Regular exposure to phthalates can increase your risk of experiencing endocrine, reproductive, and developmental problems. Amazingly, some of the brands that tested positive for phthalates did not include phthalates on their lists of ingredients; some of these brands were even labeled as being "all-natural" and "unscented." Other often contain napthelene and formaldehyde.
Most air fresheners mask odors with a synthetic fragrance or numb your sense of smell with chemical anesthetics. But, they do nothing to eliminate the source of the odor. Also, aerosol air fresheners spew out tiny droplets of chemicals that are easily inhaled into the lungs.
The National Resources Defense Council produced the following list that indicates the presence or absence of phthalates in common air fresheners:
Highest levels of phthalates:
- Walgreens Air Freshener Spray (removed from shelves)
- Walgreens Scented Bouquet Air Fresheners (removed from shelves)
- Walgreens Solid Air Fresheners (removed from shelves)
- Ozium Glycolized Air Sanitizer
Medium levels of phthalates:
- Air Wick Scented Oil
- Febreze NOTICEables Scented Oil
- Glade Air Infusions
- Glade PlugIn Scented Oil
- Oust Air Sanitizer Spray
Low levels or no phthalates detected:
- Citrus Magic
- Febreze Air Effects Air Refresher
- Lysol Brand II Disinfectant
- Oust Fan Liquid Refills
- Renuzit Subtle Effects
Please note that having no phthalates does not make synthetic air fresheners safe to use in your car or home. The vast majority of synthetic air fresheners emit significant amounts of terpene, a volatile organic compound that can react with naturally occurring ozone to create formaldehyde. Ozone, a form of oxygen, exists at some level both indoors and outdoors, so formaldehyde formation is practically inevitable wherever synthetic air fresheners are used. Indoor environments that tend to have elevated levels of ozone include those where photocopiers and ozone-generating air purifiers are used.
Why should you be concerned about exposure to formaldehyde? Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
A National Institutes of Health study that measured lung function and blood levels of 11 household chemicals in 953 U.S. adults found that all 11 chemicals are volatile organic compounds -- chemicals given off as gases from common household products.
Only one was linked to lung damage: 1,4-dichlorobenzene or 1,4-DCB. The 10% of people with the highest blood levels of 1,4-DCB did 4% worse in a test of lung function than the 10% of people with the lowest blood levels of the chemical, found Stephanie J. London, MD, and colleagues at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS).
"Even a small reduction in lung function may indicate some harm to the lungs," London said, in a news release.
A 2005 study found that the risk of asthma in children age 6 months to 3 years goes up as their home 1,4-DCB exposure increases.
"This research suggests that 1,4-DCB may exacerbate respiratory diseases," said NIEHS director David A. Schwartz, MD.
Given all of the above, it's not surprising that a study that was published in a 2007 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine indicates that regular use of sprays can increase your risk of developing asthma by 30 to 50 percent. This study was performed by the European Community Respiratory Health Survey, and collected data from 3,500 people in 10 European countries.
Clearly, your health is best served by minimizing exposure to synthetic air fresheners and other synthetic products that are designed to emit a prolonged artificial scent.
Here are some simple and natural ways of keeping your car and living space smelling fresh without using chemical-laden air fresheners:
- Open your windows - even just a crack during cold weather - for at least 30 minutes a day. Weather permitting, it's best to keep your windows open all the time, assuming that you don't live in a heavily polluted area.
- Sprinkle baking soda on carpets before you vacuum.
- Keep a box of baking soda open in the room.
- Keep natural (preferably organic) potpourri in a bowl out in the open, or put into little sachets to keep around the house.
- Maintain a friendly gathering of indoor plants in your living and work spaces.
- Take the garbage and compost out every day.
Choose natural deodorizers, such as zeolite or baking soda, which contain minerals that absorb odors. Plants are also helpful for purifying your indoor air. In the end, choosing natural forms to deodorize yourself and your environment with save both.
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.