Perhaps if consumers were more aware of the real impacts these products have on indoor air quality and health, they would think twice. Here’s the unvarnished truth:
Air fresheners almost never “freshen” the air. They just mask odors, either with synthetic fragrance or by interfering with your ability to smell by coating your nasal passages with an oil film or releasing a nerve-deadening agent. In rare cases, they will actually break down the offensive odor.
What’s in them and what’s the risk?
Known toxic chemicals that can be found in air fresheners include camphor, phenol, ethanol, formaldehyde, and artificial fragrances (which contain their own mix of toxic chemicals). These chemicals can cause symptoms like headaches, rashes, dizziness, migraines, asthma attacks, mental confusion, coughing and more. Some of the substances in air fresheners are linked to cancer or hormone disruption.
A study published on July 10, 2010 in Environmental Health found that women who used more household cleaning products, including air fresheners and mold removers, had a 2x higher risk of breast cancer. Many aerosol air fresheners contain toxic phthalates, which have been linked to birth defects and reproductive harm. A Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study found the hormone-disrupting compounds in 12 out of 14 common air fresheners and none of these products listed phthalates on their labels.
Symptoms and sensitivities vary from person to person, but children are particularly susceptible.
What to do?
Healthy Child also recommends freshening indoor air naturally by doing things like:
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