November 17, 2011
Millions of Americans use scented candles, air freshener sprays, plug-in deodorizers and diffusers to make their living spaces smell clean and pleasant, but are the chemicals in these products safe? New research compiled by scientists from Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., and the Atlanta Allergy & Asthma Clinic suggests that various chemical additives in air fresheners can trigger allergies, asthma and other health problems.
“The chemicals in some of these products can trigger the nasal congestion, sneezing and the runny nose,” said Dr. Stanley Fineman, an allergist from Emory who helped gather data for the study. “With the asthmatics, there’s really good data showing their lung function changes when they’re exposed to these compounds.”
Many scented air freshener products contain harmful volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, benzene and limonene, which are known to trigger asthma and other respiratory symptoms, as well as eye irritation, bone damage and leukemia. They also contain various other toxic ingredients like benzyl alcohol, camphor, dichlorobenzene, ethanol, naphthalene, phenol and pinene (http://mcs-america.org/airfresh.pdf).
Even some scented products labeled “natural” contain harmful ingredients like phthalates that can build up in the liver and fatty tissue over time. Phthalate exposure is linked to low sperm counts and reproductive damage (http://www.naturalhomeandgarden.com…). This is why it is always a good idea, even with “natural” products, to verify all ingredients with product manufacturers prior to purchasing them.
In 2007, the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) tested 14 different brands of popular household air freshener products and found that most of them, even those labeled “all natural” or “unscented,” contained dangerous chemicals linked to hormone disruption and reproductive problems (http://www.nrdc.org/media/2007/0709…).
The worst offender in the test was Walgreens Scented Bouquet Air Freshener, which contained 7,300 parts per million (ppm) of di-ethyl phthalate (DEP), a chemical linked to damaging hormones and impairing genital development, followed by Walgreens Air Freshener Spray with 1,100 ppm of DEP.
You can read the full NRDC report here:
“Consumers have a right to know what is put into air fresheners and other everyday products they bring into their homes,” said Dr. Gina Solomon back in 2007. “There are too many products on the shelves that we assume are safe, but have never even been tested. The government should be keeping a watchful eye on these household items and the manufacturers who produce them.”