Is Your Favorite Air Freshener Making You Sick?
We’re all trying to live greener lives these days, from reducing waste to spending less time behind the wheel. Ironically though, when it comes to our own homes, we may be "spraying caution to the wind" and hurting our indoor air quality – and our health – with air fresheners.
Wait, are air fresheners toxic?
Yep, those "Hawaiian breezes" and "crisp linens" in our favorite air fresheners sound innocent enough, but the truth is, they’re loaded with toxic chemicals we wouldn’t wish on anyone ... especially not our kids or our pets.
Fortunately, there’s no time like the present to start living a healthier lifestyle. Keep reading to uncover the hidden hazards of air fresheners and get some simple, non-toxic alternatives.
Why Isn’t It Common Knowledge That Air Fresheners Are Toxic?
For consumers, it’s easy(ish) to tell if a snack food is healthy. We look at the label to check out the sugar, sodium, and fat content, as well as the list of ingredients.
But it’s not so easy with air fresheners!
According to an article in Science Direct, fewer than 10% of air freshener ingredients are typically disclosed to the public.
The big reason for this is fragrance formulas are considered a trade secret. Companies don’t have to disclose their ingredients – they can just use the blanket term "fragrance" and we’re none-the-wiser as to what’s in it.
The truth is, a single fragrance can contain a mix of hundreds of chemicals. Even worse, many of those chemicals react with ozone in the air to form secondary pollutants.
As consumers, we’re left in a fog of fragrance, blindly trusting that the air fresheners lining store shelves are safe. And it IS big business ... the global market for air fresheners is over $10 billion!
Why Are Air Fresheners Toxic?
The list of concerning chemicals in air fresheners is a long one, with these topping the list:
- Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): In a volatile emissions study of 37 fragranced products, including air fresheners, the average product emitted 15 Volatile Organic Compounds (gases emitted into the air from certain solids or liquids). Around 25% of VOCs emitted were classified as potentially toxic or hazardous under federal U.S. law, and all air fresheners tested emitted one or more of those compounds.
- Phthalates: Concern over phthalates alone is enough to make us run far from air fresheners. Phthalates are a large class of chemicals commonly used in the plastics industry to make them soft. In fragrances, they’re used to "carry" the scent and make it last longer. According to the Environmental Working Group, approximately 75% of perfume products contain phthalates. Phthalates are linked to male fertility problems, asthma, lower IQ, altered reproductive development, obesity and breast cancer.
- Formaldehyde: This colorless gas is a great preservative, which is why it’s in so many household products, including air fresheners. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen that’s been linked to cancers of the nose and throat and can cause a host of respiratory ailments. Most air fresheners already contain formaldehyde and then even more is produced when certain chemicals react with ozone in the air.
- 1,4 Dichlorobenzene: Exposure to this organic compound primarily comes from breathing in contaminated air, courtesy of toxic air fresheners and other things like mothballs and toilet disinfecting blocks. A possible carcinogen, it’s associated with irritation of the nose and throat, as well as headaches and dizziness.
How Air Fresheners Affect Our Health
Over 20% of the U.S. population and 34% of asthma sufferers report adverse health effects from air fresheners, with common symptoms being:
- Asthma attacks
- Watery or itchy eyes
- Skin allergies
- Sneezing, runny nose or congestion
Of course, those are just noticeable symptoms. What could be happening inside our bodies is just as concerning, as many chemicals are carcinogens linked to cancer.
Kids and family members with asthma or COPD are at even greater risk to fragrance exposure, as they can’t process them in the same way.
Homes With Pets: Time to Hit "Paws" on Air Fresheners?
Four-legged family members don't do well with air fresheners, especially if you use plug-ins, which are closer to the floor and more at their level. Additionally, dogs and cats tend to lick anything and everything, so they can unwittingly consume droplets that have collected on their fur or the couch.
Plus, if a scent bothers humans in the home, just imagine what it does to pets with their more sensitive noses. (In fact, feline asthma is more common in homes where air freshener is used.)
Symptoms of air freshener poisoning in dogs and cats:
- Discharge from eyes/nose
- Lack of appetite
If you have pets in the home, often all it takes is more frequent cleaning to stop odors. Or, you can roll with an unscented pet deodorizer when there’s no time to wash the bedding or deep clean the litter box!
How to Get Your Home Fresh Without Toxic Air Fresheners
Fortunately, some of the easiest solutions are also the most effective.
You can also create a non-toxic air freshener for your home by making a simmer pot of whatever smells good to YOU ... orange peels, lemon peels, cinnamon sticks, vanilla, apples, or mint leaves. Or make combinations. This is an opportunity to get creative.
If you love the convenience of a spray, you can make your own with 2 cups of distilled water, 20 drops of lavender essential oil, and 2 T. baking soda. Mix it all up and pour into a spray bottle – done!
Don’t want to fuss with DIY? Try Oxyfresh All-Purpose Deodorizer.
Oxyfresh All-Purpose Deodorizer is designed to get your home smelling fresh without the worries of polluting your indoor air. It’s uniquely formulated without phthalates, parabens, acetone, formaldehyde or artificial fragrances.
Rather than MASK odors, the Oxygene® in our formula neutralizes odors completely, from stinky bathrooms to dirty laundry hampers and every gross smell in between. Oxygene® uses the natural and gentle process of oxidation to knock out stinky sulfur compounds on contact (with no byproducts produced), leaving you with a home that’s truly fresh and clean.
If you gotta have a little scent, though, we get it! That’s why we lightly kissed this formula with natural spearmint and peppermint essential oil ... no toxic fragrance mixes! One little spray packs a ton of deodorizing power with the peace of mind in doing the best for your family.
Ready to breathe easier? Now that you know why typical air fresheners are toxic, it’s time to kick them out of your home for good. It really is one of the best things you can do for your own health and the health of your kids and fur kids.
Want more great ways to ditch the toxins? Check out 5 House Cleaning Tips for a Greener Home.