Why are Air Fresheners Toxic?

why are air fresheners toxic juicygreenmom

What does “home” smell like to you? What smells make you feel happy? These are things that air fresheners are designed to address – inject your home with smells to make you feel good. What you may not realize is how dangerous these smells can be to your health. So why are air fresheners toxic?

They are full of toxic chemicals, which don’t need to be disclosed.

There are no regulations around air fresheners so companies do not need to disclose any of the ingredients in these products. If you look at the air fresheners down the grocery store aisle, take a look at the packaging and see if you can find an ingredients list. Very likely not.

Even if there are ingredients listed, chances are the terms “fragrance” or “parfum” are used. (Because using the French word for fragrance means it’s not as bad. Not.) If you’ve read my post on ingredients to avoid in skincare products, then you know that the word “fragrance” can encompass hundreds of chemicals hidden behind that word. National Resources Defense Council has a paper on this topic, and Environmental Defence has a great report about fragrance (focusing on perfumes) that explains why this is such a big deal.

Also, air fresheners don’t actually do anything about existing odors, they just mask the odors with other smells.

Let’s take a look at this Glade Plug-In I looked up on their website. Here’s what I found for the ingredients list:

screen shot of Glade Plug In ingredients list

Environmental Working Group (EWG) has a database you can search for cleaning products, as well as air fresheners, to see how they score in terms of toxicity and hazard to health. Find it at EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning.

Here’s what I found when I searched for “Glade Plug In”.

screen shot of EWG scores for Glade Plug In

I don’t know about you, but scores of D and F mean FAIL to me.

What about scented candles?

Aack!! I know a lot of people are jumping on the Scentsy bandwagon lately because they claim to have “natural fragrances”. (A little greenwashing, anyone?) They are no better than the other air fresheners, I’m afraid. Traditional candles are made of petrochemicals in the first place, and when you add “secret ingredients” to the mix and heat them up – it’s just not a good combination.

There are many ways you can improve the quality of your indoor environment and avoid using toxic air fresheners. First, try a deep clean of your house. You can either do this yourself or get professional cleaners in (make sure they’re not using harmful chemicals!) and your house will smell instantly better. Many odours like to hide in textiles such as carpets and curtains, so removing the source of the odour should help.

Secondly, install an AC that can filter the air in your home. This is an especially good idea if you live near a busy road or a smoking shelter – essentially sources of odour that you can’t control and that will keep coming back. Filter them out of your home completely and your home should smell clean and fresh.

Finally, if you want to add a smell so that your house doesn’t just smell of nothing, try using a diffuser with essential oils or a houseplant with fragranced flowers. You can also get beeswax candles that are 100% natural with nothing added. Just make sure the wax is sustainably sourced. These natural sources of perfume are much healthier to breathe in than artificial chemical scents, and they can even lift and revitalise your mood!

What do you use instead of air fresheners?

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