Do you know that air fresheners with synthetic fragrances do not add natural aromas or “purify” the air? They work by interfering with your ability to smell so you don’t smell anything! They also produce toxic off-gassing from synthetic chemicals to ‘mask’ or ‘overpower’ the odours.
They drown out the offensive smell by releasing chemical such as methoxychlor which coats your nasal passages with a film of oil or by deadening the olfactory nerves (which transmit signals from your nose to the brain and help you to identify smell).
Air fresheners come in many forms such as aerosol sprays, scented or aromatherapy candles, fragrance impregnated gels, plug-in deodorisers, atomisers, wick and reed diffusers and many more.
Some of the toxic chemicals that can be found in air fresheners:
- benzene – has been associated with cancer and aplastic anaemia. According to WHO, no safe level of exposure can be recommended.
- formaldehyde – a carcinogen (causes cancer), can also cause skin, eye, nose and throat irritation, asthma, headaches, nausea and vomiting.
- methoxychlor – a toxic pesticide that bioaccumulates in fat cells and persists in the environment. Its use as a pesticide is banned in Australia and other countries.
- paradichlorobenzene – also known as 1, 4-dichlorobenzene, or 1,4-DCB has been shown to cause cancer in mice. Its vapour is toxic and can cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, fatigue, headache, irritation to skin, eyes, nasal passages and lungs.
- phenol – a highly flammable and corrosive substance that causes serious skin reaction.
- phthalates – synthetic fragrances which are hormone disruptors. They are particularly dangerous for young children and unborn babies. Long term exposure to phthalates can affect testosterone levels and lead to reproductive abnormalities.
- styrene – suspected to be a hormone disruptor, possibly contributing to thyroid problems and reproductive system dysfunction.
- and many, many more toxic chemicals…..
Aerosol sprays used to contain chlorofluorocarbons (CFC’s) until they were banned because of the effects on the ozone layer. CFC’s had been replaced with volatile hydrocarbons such as methylene chloride, propane, n-butane and isobutene which are all flammable petrochemicals.
Scented and aromatherapy candles are usually made of paraffin waxes (petrochemical) and synthetic fragrance oils which release toxic fumes when the candles are burnt.
Most of these chemicals have not been tested for their long term and cumulative effects on human health. But it is safe to say that these chemicals represent a real risk especially to those who use them regularly and continuously, young children, pregnant women and those who suffer from allergies and asthma.