We are exposed to many fragrances throughout the day. Some of the most common are air fresheners in our home, office, or car. They can emit over 100 different chemicals, including high concentrations of volatile organic compounds, such as ethanol, formaldehyde, and toluene, as well as semi-volatile compounds like phthalates! Fragrances don’t need to be fully disclosed on the label, and the word “fragrance” on the ingredient list can actually include a mixture of dozens, or even hundreds, of different chemicals. Studies show that less than 10% of the volatile ingredients are typically disclosed.
What kind of health problems can they cause? Fragranced products, including air fresheners, have been associated with migraines, asthma attacks, dermatitis, and respiratory, cardiovascular, cognitive, neurological, gastrointestinal and immune problems. They also contain chemicals that may have harmful effects on reproduction or development. Even air fresheners labeled “green,” “natural,” or “organic” may contain pollutants like phthalates and ethanol, though the actual ingredient list may say “fragrance and essential oils.” When studied, 12 out of 14 products that were tested contained toxic, and even carcinogenic, compounds. The conclusion was that green and organic air fresheners were not much different than the regular brands.
Asthmatics are much more likely to be adversely affected by exposure to fragrances, but limiting fragrances can lower everyone’s risks. Fragrance sensitivity is not just from air fresheners, but also perfume, laundry detergents, dryer sheets, cleaning products, hand soaps and lotions, deodorants and other personal care products. What options do you have? Consider implementing fragrance-free policies. For homes, offices, and vehicles, clean or get rid of the root cause of the smells rather than masking them with chemicals. Increase ventilation by using fans and opening windows. Give fragrance-free cleaning and personal care products a try. Breathe easier by going fragrance-free!