The companies who sell plug-in air fresheners advertise how they make your house smell clean and fresh, and show you photos that make it appear as if the fresheners are bringing nature right into your home. What the commercials don’t say is that plug-in air fresheners may also be bathing your house in toxic chemicals that can harm your health.
One of the primary concerns with plug-in air fresheners is their use of phthalates. In fact, the National Resources Defense Council conducted a study that concluded that 86% of the air fresheners tested contain phthalates. Why is this a problem? Phthalates are disruptive to the body, alter hormone levels, interfere with testosterone, and are associated with reproductive abnormalities and birth defects. They can also cause asthma and allergic reactions. And studies in animals show an alarming possibility of a link to cancer and liver and kidney toxicity.
But there is more. Air fresheners also typically contain formaldehyde, a toxic compound that is definitely linked to cancer of the nose and throat. Formaldehyde can also cause irritation of the throat and airways, potentially leading to infections and other respiratory ailments. In fact, a study in 2013 done by the International Journal of Public Health found that babies whose mothers used plug-in air fresheners during pregnancy were far more likely to have a serious lung infection than babies whose mothers did not.
Compounding the problem, most major air fresheners also contain another chemical called naphthalene, which has been found to cause tissue damage and cancer in the lungs of rodents in laboratory studies; and sometimes contain other volatile organic compounds which have been linked to asthma and other health issues.
When these toxins are released into the air, they can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin. None of the companies that make plug-in air fresheners tell you about these sneaky ingredients lurking in the pleasant smell wafting across your room. That’s because most people would not be interested in buying formaldehyde and phthalate scents for their homes.
Consumers need to know that instead of being fresh and clean products that are good for you, plug-in air fresheners are potentially toxic time bombs which could be harming your health with every breath. To be safe, check out the Environmental Working Group’s guide to air fresheners to find healthier options.
Alternatively, if you really want your home or office to smell like a bunch of flowers, skip the plug-in air fresheners, and head for your local farmer’s market and buy a fresh bouquet. Your home will look great, and you will feel better in the long run, too.