Are air fresheners safe?

An air freshener is sprayed in a room. But is it safe?

Photo by New Africa on Adobe Stock

It is human nature to enjoy natural scents and smells. The smells of a ripe orange, fresh rain, or a home-cooked meal are pleasant scents most people enjoy breathing in. Over the last several decades, the household-cleaning industry has sold artificially scented products to mask or eliminate unpleasant odors. Are air fresheners safe? How do they impact your body? Let’s look at some of the evidence.

Is it safe to be exposed to air fresheners?

According to the healthy-product advocate MADE SAFE, many chemicals in air fresheners can negatively impact one’s health. Some of the most common problems are headaches and respiratory complications, but there are other side effects.

Most air fresheners contain many ingredients. Research studies have found harmful effects correlated with chemicals such as benzene, formaldehyde, toluene, phthalates, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and much more present in many air fresheners.

One study found using a floor-cleaning product, an electric air freshener, or a candle emitted formaldehyde, a well-known carcinogen, at a high level in the air quality. The researchers discovered that the chemical level significantly increased with multiple products used.

Further research examined sprays, gels, solids, disks, oils, cartridges, diffusers, and evaporator air fresheners. The results showed that various air fresheners release high concentrations of VOCs.

Perhaps you do not like the artificially fragranced air. You are not alone. Research suggests most people prefer to have fragrance-free air.

Are unscented and all-natural air fresheners safe?

One must also understand that if a product is labeled “green,” “all-natural,” “unscented,” or “clean,” that does not necessarily mean that it is safe to use or adheres to regulations. For example, researchers Cohen, Janssen, and Solomon found that 12 of 14 air fresheners tested positive for phthalates. The chemical is associated with causing hormonal abnormalities in the endocrine system, birth defects, and reproductive problems. The researchers determined one product labeled “all-natural” tested positive for phthalates. Another “unscented” air freshener, often used in hospital settings, was measured to have the third highest level of phthalates among the studied products.  

What are alternatives to air fresheners?

There are several ways to freshen up the air in your home. For instance, baking soda can rid your environment of odors by absorbing them instead of masking them. Placing small bowls of baking soda around the house can eliminate odor after a few days. Baking soda is not harmful to pets unless consumed in large quantities. If you have pets, you may want to try cleaning the air with a spray bottle filled with water and one tablespoon of baking soda.

Certain plants can naturally filter the air in your home. The Boston fern, snake plant, spider plant, golden pothos, and peace lily help eliminate air pollutants from your living space. In addition, the snake plant, spider plant, and peace lily can combat radiation caused by electronic devices. If you have pets, know that snake plants, golden pothos, and peace lilies are toxic to cats and dogs. The Boston Fern is safe for both cats and dogs. The spider plant is non-toxic to either pet, but one should keep them from eating the leaves because doing so can cause your pet to have an upset stomach, vomiting, or diarrhea. Also, hallucinogenic properties characterize the spider-plant leaves and can alter pet behavior temporarily.

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About Joey Hinojosa

Joey Hinojosa graduated with a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism and a master's degree in mass communications. He began working at Empower Brokerage in early 2022 and enjoys being creative in his writing, photography, videography, and other projects.

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