Can your air freshener be destroying your health?
(NaturalHealth365) There’s no denying the appeal of scent. Whether it’s the rejuvenating odor of lemon or the calming scent of jasmine, certain fragrances have the ability to evoke energy, ease anxiety and uplift mood. But, when it comes to the ‘value’ of a typical air freshener product, researchers have learned that a pleasant fragrance can mask a cloud of toxic chemicals.
Renowned researcher and scientist Dr. Anne Steinemann has studied the damaging effects of most commonly used air freshener products on human health and the environment – and the impact is so serious and widespread that she refers to it as an “epidemic.”
Warning about your air freshener: Don’t be deceived by the ‘fresh’ smell
Air fresheners and deodorants – variously marketed as sprays, gels, disks, plug-ins, candles and oils – are virtually everywhere.
Due to the commercial practice of “scent branding,” custom-designed signature fragrances may be wafted into the air of stores, offices, schools, hospitals, hotels, independent living centers and even churches.
Chemical scents also permeate cleaning products and personal care items – including laundry detergents, fabric softeners, shampoos, conditioners, hairsprays, moisturizers, cosmetics, sunscreens and soaps (and this is only a partial list!)
We have even taken our national scent obsession “on the road,” relentlessly scenting the air of airports, airplanes, rail stations, trains, buses and cruise ships. Not surprisingly, a recent study showed that 99 percent of Americans are exposed to chemical fragrances – on a daily basis.
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But, what are the health effects of this national cloud of scent?
Air fresheners are a “toxic cocktail” consisting of hundreds of chemicals
The truth is: commercial air freshener formulations may include literally hundreds of toxic chemicals – which include respiratory irritants, endocrine disruptors, neurotoxins and carcinogens.
Shockingly, there is no law compelling manufacturers of air fresheners and deodorizers to list each and every product ingredient on a label or website – even if these compounds are hazardous pollutants and known carcinogens (for which the EPA says no safe level exists).
So (no surprise here) these compounds tend to remain unidentified – although manufacturers may choose to describe select ingredients in the most innocent-sounding terms possible.
What is labeled as a “biodegradable softening agent” or a “perfume” is more than likely a collection of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), featuring such compounds as ethanol, benzyl acetate, chloromethane and acetaldehyde – all classified under federal law as toxic or hazardous.
Almost a third of the population suffers adverse effects from air fresheners
Dr. Steinemann, an internationally recognized expert on environmental pollutants, conducted a population survey examining the effects of scented products on the health of 1,136 adult participants.
The study, which was published in the scientific journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, exposed a litany of harmful side effects, impacting a substantial percent of the study group. Almost a third of the participants – a whopping 30 percent – reported breathing difficulties and headaches after exposure to air fresheners and fragrances.
Dr. Steinemann found that respiratory problems were the most common adverse effect – followed by congestion and migraines.
Other adverse effects included rashes, muscle cramps, diarrhea, nausea and rapid or irregular heartbeat – even from low-level exposures.
Immune system problems – such as swollen lymph glands, fever and fatigue – have also been reported from exposure to air freshener, along with even more serious conditions such as anaphylaxis, loss of consciousness and seizures.
Dr. Steinemann notes that air fresheners have also been linked to autoimmune disorders, weakened immune systems and adult and childhood cancers. Significantly, the study revealed that many of those experiencing adverse effects had not used the product first-hand.
Almost a quarter of all Americans have adverse effects from somebody else’s perfume or cologne – while one in five people suffer adverse effects simply from being in a room previously cleaned with scented cleaners.
We’ve all heard of “second-hand smoke” – maybe it’s time to raise awareness of the dangers of “second-hand scents.”
But surely products labeled as “green” are safe, right?
Although it’s tempting to think otherwise, it turns out that fragrances and deodorizers labeled as “green,” “natural” and even “100 percent organic” are no safer than their conventional counterparts. In fact, studies have shown that they cause the same level of toxic emissions, and are likely to contain the same “witches’ brew” of carcinogenic pollutants.
As used on air freshening products, these marketing terms are meaningless – not only undefined but unregulated. (By creating a false sense of safety, they are actually worse than meaningless!)
The wisest alternative is to use the non-toxic and inexpensive cleansing and freshening agents that you can find in your own kitchen: baking soda, white vinegar and lemon juice. Unscented castile soap and hydrogen peroxide also get the thumbs-up as safer alternative cleaners.
Here’s a health tip: Some natural health experts recommend a mixture of baking soda, water and vanilla extract for a light, pleasing room spray. You can also create an inviting fragrance by simmering water, orange peels and cinnamon on a stovetop.
And you can craft your own personal care products – such as shampoos and moisturizers – using tried-and-true natural ingredients such as rosemary, avocado, olive oil and lemon juice.
Of course, improving room ventilation and identifying and removing the sources of odors could be the most effective solution of all. And, finally, don’t forget about the ability of houseplants – particularly palms, orchids and lilies – to purify and sweeten the air naturally.
In the end, chemical air fresheners do nothing to clean or purify the air – only release pollutants that temporarily mask odors, and cause grave harm to many.
We hope you agree with us: It’s time to truly clear the air – especially our indoor air space.
Sources for this article include: