The Scary Truth About Air Fresheners, and Asthma and Allergy Sufferers

2013 Oct 14
Posted in: Air Conditioning

Everyone loves air fresheners. Scented candles, plug-ins and aerosol sprays—each make a nice home even nicer with sweet smells of spring, holidays and fresh baked cookies. However, the majority of them are asthma and allergy sufferers’ worst enemy. (They’re not good for anyone else for that matter.)

According to Stanley Fineman, MD, American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI) president-elect:

“About 20 percent of the population and 34 percent of people with asthma report health problems from air fresheners. We know air freshener fragrances can trigger allergy symptoms, aggravate existing allergies and worsen asthma.”

So what causes these seemingly sweet air fresheners to harm people—especially asthma and allergy sufferers?

The problem with air fresheners/home fragrance products

Many common air fresheners contain chemicals known as Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs). These VOCs help cover up, not eliminate, bad smells in your home. These chemicals are what aggravate asthma and allergy symptoms.

Also, in high concentrations they’ll cause:

  • Eye and respiratory tract irritation
  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Memory impairment

Avoid using air fresheners (even “organic” ones) that contain these common VOCs:

  • Formaldehyde (can cause cancer in animals and humans)
  • Petroleum distillates
  • Limonene
  • Esters
  • Alcohols

One study has found another set of hidden chemicals, which are, in a way, even more dangerous than VOCs because they’re not listed on a product’s label.

Going beyond VOCs—phthalates

According to the “Hidden Hazards of Air Fresheners” study by the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC), many common air fresheners were found to contain chemicals called phthalates. Exposure to these chemicals in indoor environments aggravates asthma and allergic symptoms, according to the study.

Unfortunately, because there are no labeling requirements for phthalates, knowing which air fresheners are phthalate-free is impossible unless the product says so explicitly. So unless it says it’s free of phthalates, avoid it.

Safe ways to make your home smell fresh

Air fresheners aren’t a necessity, but it’s still nice to have your home smelling nice.

Google around for a few ways to make your home smell nice naturally. The easiest way is to just open up a window every now and again to get a breath of fresh air (and this is the perfect time of year to do that in the Phoenix area). One solution we like is by sprinkling baking soda on your carpet, let it sit for 15 minutes, and then vacuum. This will give your home a nice fresh smell.

Looking for other ways to make your Phoenix-area home’s air allergy and asthma friendly? Invest in a whole-home air cleaner to capture harmful, hard-to-see particles in your home. Ask one of our air quality experts to learn more.