The Truth About Air Fresheners
By Clifford Woods
Do you buy air fresheners for your home or office? Hard to believe that something so small that smells so nice has ingredients in it that are actually dangerous chemicals. Chemicals that you, your family or your co-workers breath in on a daily basis. And to make it worse, there are no labeling requirements to warn you and even “natural” products can contain toxic chemicals.
It is virtually impossible for the average consumer to know which products may pose a risk or not.
These chemicals in air fresheners have been found to be toxic to humans and these chemicals have been recently investigated for their safety. Investigations concluded that these substances may cause or increase health problems. Air fresheners that are natural and healthy are now being used as alternatives in order to minimize health hazards and environmental pollution.
Basic Ingredients in air fresheners are:
- Petroleum distillates
1. Phthalates are known as “endocrine disruptors” because they mimic the body’s hormones and have, in laboratory animal tests, been shown to cause reproductive and neurological damage.
Toxic phthalates found in some air fresheners:
- Diethyl Phthalate (DEP): May cause damage to the liver and central nervous system.
- Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP): May cause damage to the liver and central nervous system.
- Diisobutyl Phthalate (DIBP): May be harmful if inhaled. May cause respiratory tract irritation.
- Dimethyl Phthalate (DMP): The substance is toxic to the nervous system.
- Diisohexyl Phthalate (DIHP): The available studies demonstrate significant effects on the male reproductive organs and developmental effects.2. Formaldehyde (CH2O) Nasal cancer, respiratory tract irritation; reproductive disorders, asthma, dermatitis; multiple organ damage.
2. Formaldehyde (CH2O) Nasal cancer, respiratory tract irritation; reproductive disorders, asthma, dermatitis; multiple organ damage.
3. Petroleum distillates (PDs) – can affect the nervous system causing headache, dizziness, nausea, and loss of balance and coordination. If inhaled – can irritate the nose, throat and lungs. Petroleum Distillates are on the Right to Know Hazardous Substance List because they are cited by OSHA, DOT, NIOSH and IARC. This chemical is on the Special Health Hazard Substance List.
4. Dichlorobenzene (DCBs) – there are three forms of dichlorobenzene. These chemicals are man-made and do not occur in nature.
1,2-Dichlorobenzene, 1,3-Dichlorobenzene, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene
- 1,2-Dichlorobenzene- This substance is toxic to kidneys, liver, mucous membranes.
- 1,3-Dichlorobenzene- Very little is known about the human health effects of this substance.
- 1,4-Dichlorobenzene- This substance is toxic to kidneys, lungs, liver, mucous membranes. Repeated or prolonged exposure to the substance can produce target organs damage. Repeated or prolonged inhalation of dust may lead to chronic respiratory irritation.
Some Helpful Tips
1. Read the labels and you may be able to identify phthalates in some products by their chemical names or abbreviations: (DEP)(DBP)(DIBP)(DIHP)
- DBP (dibutyl phthalate) and DEP (diethyl phthalate) are often found in nail polishes, deodorants, perfumes, cologne, aftershave lotions, shampoos, hair gels and hand lotions.
- DEHP (di-(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate or Bis (2-ethylhexyl) phthalate) is used in PVC plastics, including some medical devices.
- BzBP (benzylbutyl phthalate) is used in some flooring, car products and personal care products.
Be wary of the term “fragrance,” which is used to with a combination of compounds, possibly including phthatates, which are a subject of recent concern because of studies showing they can mimic certain hormones.
Ventilation: Good ventilation systems reduce the need for air fresheners by stopping the need to cover up odors and naturally eliminate unpleasant odors. Air fresheners cannot substitute for adequate ventilation.
Use Natural and Safe Air Freshener: Alternatives: many products are available that offer healthy alternatives to commercial air fresheners.
- Organic Odor Control
- organic soy and beeswax candles
- natural potpourri
- fresh flowers or herbs
- natural essential oils
- baking soda
Businesses that are looking to find non-toxic air fresheners should investigate available products to ensure not only their own health but also the health of their employees.
United States Environmental Protection Agency
ECHA – European Chemicals Agency
Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS): Formaldehyde
Refuels Recycling Contaminated Fuels
State of New Jersey
Clifford Woods is the CEO of Effective Environmental Services
and Organic Environmental Technology.
We brew Beneficial Microorganisms that eat toxins and offer Natural Organic Solutions