Air fresheners have been used for decades to mask unpleasant smells. They come in a variety of forms from aerosols to gels. Most contain a variety of various fragrances and essential oils. Fragrances are chemical compounds that have pleasant odors and essential oils are naturally occurring oils that typically come from plants.

Despite the fact that these scents have become increasingly popular throughout history, there is an increasing amount of concern for their effects on ones health. These air fresheners release VOC’s or Volatile organic compounds. VOC’s are a type of chemical that turns into a vapor and/or gas at room temp. It is thought that health problems arise from the chemicals and their secondary pollutants which form when said chemicals combine with the ozone that’s already in the air. They also contain a host of other toxic chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, mp-xylene, phthalates, and more. The air inside of our home can actually be more toxic than the air outside of the home due to these air fresheners and many other harmful home products such as cleaning agents.

These fresheners can cause problems from unintentional burns due to the flammable effects of them when ignited by a nearby flame, skin irritations when coming into contact with them, allergic type reaction, redness/irritation to the eyes, coughing, choking, or difficulty catching ones breath, & toxicity from minor mouth irritation to life threatening effects when ingested.

Recently, researchers have linked repeated exposure to cancers-from the formaldehyde in them, neurotoxicity, and effects from endocrine disruption. Headaches and respiratory problems are also major side effects from exposure. The VOC’s talked about earlier, have been shown to combine with the ozone already in the air to make the secondary pollutants also discussed earlier. These include: formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, acetone, picric acid, and methyl vinyl ketone. These chemicals also have been known to stick to objects in the home such as furniture and are then re released into the air long after the smell is gone.

So how do we get the same pleasant effects without the use of such harmful products? How can we rid our homes or work spaces of the odors we bought the air fresheners for? For one, get to the bottom of the smell. Find the source of this unpleasant odor and properly deal with it. If you are unable to find the source of the smell, try leaving small bowls of baking soda around the home to absorb the odor. This is the same concept as having the bowl of baking soda in your refrigerator. The baking soda doesn’t just mask the smell, it actually absorbs it so you are getting rid of it entirely vs just covering it up. You also need to make sure all appliances are properly ventilated so as not to have lingering smells from cooking. Open the windows or doors while cooking to let the smells out and the fresh air in.

A great way to combat air quality is with greenery. Fill your home with plants like the spider plant, snake plants, or peace Lillies. These plants naturally filter the air in your home. When cleaning, make sure your vacuum has a HEPA filter that will suck up settled particles vs spreading them around causing recirculation. Regularly clean your home, especially areas that can cause smells such as toilets and sinks. This prevents the smell before it even has a chance to start.

Finally, if you’ve tried all the above and then some, but still want that fresh autumn scent or that crisp spring smell floating around your home, try natural alternatives. DIY your own “air fresheners.” Make your own sprays with safer ingredients such as essential oils. Take fruits, herbs, and spices and put on the stove to simmer for a potpourri like effect. Get creative with your DIY. There are tons of recipes and websites out there with helpful tips to choose from. Below, you’ll find one of my favorites for fall.

Autumn Spice: simmer apple cider on the stovetop with a cinnamon stick, orange slices, & cloves.

Sources:

https://www.poison.org/articles/air-freshener-171

Toxic Chemicals in Air Fresheners

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