Did you know that by using an air freshener in your living room, you are probably breathing in more toxic substances than you would in the middle of a traffic jam in Los Angeles?
Few people understand how bad air fresheners are for their health, and fewer seem to care.
Most people love their scent neutralisers: those air fresheners, plug-in room deodorizers, odour sanitisers, room sprays, and aromatherapy candles. Advertisements are geared to make us feel that we don’t have a clean home unless some type of freshener is hanging on various outlets.
But in spite of what manufacturers would have us believe, air fresheners do not “purify” the surrounding air, nor do they add natural fragrances. In fact, they coat the nasal passages with an oil film (such as methoxychlor – a pesticide that accumulates in fat cells) or by releasing a nerve deadening agent (www.consumerlawpage.com), to drown out whatever smells may be deemed offensive.
Various harmful substances in air fresheners include allergens, potential carcinogens such as acetaldehyde or styrene, dangerous substances such as toluene and chlorbenzene, glycol ethers, phthalates and artificial musk.
Paradichchlorobenzene (a white, solid crystal) has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory animals, and phenol (carbolic acid) is flammable, corrosive and very toxic. (Alive: Something in the Air, February 2004)
Even more dangerous, formaldehyde, (admitted by the EPA to be a cause of cancer), and benzene (a carcinogen for which the WHO recommends zero exposure), may hang around the air after the use of several types of incense or electric scenter. Not to mention all the other chemicals not mentioned here and about which we know nothing. (WECF, 2005)
Most of these chemicals have never been the subject of an in-depth toxicological study, and the effects on health and the environment have not been subjected to sufficient evaluation before the products were launched onto the market. When used in a confined area, like a homes, at work, or cars, they create an intense amount of toxins in a small area.
The following list of ingredients that may be found in air fresheners is taken from “Clinical Toxicology of Commercial Products”, by Gosselin, Smith and Hodge, 1984.
Spray Type Deodorizers:
“ ethyl or isopropyl alcohol
“ glycol ethers
“ surfactant (quaternary ammonium salts)
“ metazene (4.0%)
“ petroleum distillates (6.0%)
“ aluminum chlorhydrol
“ bromsalicylanilide 2,3,4,5-BIS(2-butylene) tetrahydrofural
“ cellosolve acetate
“ fatty esters
“ lauryl methacrylate
“ methylene chloride
“ pine oil (toxicity like turpentine)
“ piperonyl butoxide
“ synthetic surfactants
“ zinc phenolsulfonate
Wick Type Deodorizers:
“ formaldehyde (37%)
“ water-soluble perfume
“ essential oils
“ aromatic chemicals (xylene)
Several of these components 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.
According to a September 2007 report released by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), these noxious chemicals may even affect hormones and reproductive development.
“As part of its “Clearing the Air” study, NRDC researchers tested 14 brands of common household air fresheners and found that 12 contained chemicals known as phthalates, which are “hormone-disrupting” chemicals. Phthalates can affect normal hormonal processes-those that control brain, nervous and immune system development, reproduction, mental processing and metabolism-by blocking them altogether, throwing off the timing or “mimicking” natural hormones and interacting with cells themselves, with very unhealthy consequences. The State of California notes that five types of phthalates-including one commonly used in air freshener products-are “known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm.” (Kansas City Infozine, October 11, 2007)
Scented and aromatherapy candles are no better at clearing the air, and bear little or no relation to true aromatherapy. Such candles, are of questionable benefit regardless of the flowery implications of their names, and have negative effects on air quality and health.
“ are usually made of chemical (paraffin) waxes & toxic synthetic fragrance oils.
“ usually contain metal wicks made of lead or zinc. 100% is inhaled in the black soot which ends up in the bloodstream and can be particularly damaging to children.
“ create toxic byproducts. Burning scented oils, and even candles with pure essential oils, chemically converts the combustion into unhealthy byproducts.
Electric air fresheners also problematic
One of the most innovative, and popular formats of purifiers is the electric air freshener. These use heat generated by electricity to spread fragrance through the air. It consists of a tiny plastic tray containing a gel-like fragrance concentrate. The consumer simply peels a multilayer barrier film from the top of the tray, leaving a permanent membrane layer that allows the fragrance to diffuse into the air. The tray is inserted into a warmer unit, which then is plugged into an electrical outlet. As the warmer unit heats up, fragrance permeates at a controlled rate through the film membrane, dispersing into the air.
Air fresheners may damage your lungs
Another harmful ingredient is called 1, 4-dichlorobenzene, or 1,4-DCB, which could harm your lungs, according to a study by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences.
The study – published in Environmental Health Perspectives – analysed the effect of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) such as 1,4 DCB on the lung function of 953 adult men and women. Of the 11 chemicals studied, only 1,4 DCB was linked to a reduction in pulmonary function; a link found to be significant even when smoking was factored in. This could be serious for those with asthma or other lung problems. Reduced lung function is also a risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer. (WebMD July 27, 2006)
This chemical is usually found in space deodorizing products, such as room fresheners, urinal cakes and toilet bowl fresheners, and is used as an insecticide for moth control. It can also be found in things like tobacco smoke, paints, cleaning products and vehicle exhausts, and is detectable in 96 percent of population blood samples. (www.newstarget.com)
The American Lung Association (ALA) website at lungusa.org points out that commercially made room deodorizers are a contributing factor to the 56 percent increase in asthma cases since 1979. And the Canadian Lung Association (CLA) also lists air fresheners as a hazardous product.
In addition, the Carmel Fire Department in California issued the following warning:
Plug-in Air Fresheners or Room Deodorisers.
“These are fairly new on the market, but are quickly making an impact as a fire hazard. Plug-in air fresheners, due to a petroleum substance that is found in the unit have started several structure fires around the country. Hopefully, people will become more aware of the risks and avoid using them.”
Why risk your family’s health and welfare with such dangerous products?
There is a solution on the market today.
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Great for Asthma and Allergy Sufferers.
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Some you can smell.
Most you can’t.
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