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Chemicals Hiding in Common Room Fresheners

by Anant Khare 08 Jun 2022

The ingredients used in most commercial room fresheners include solvents, fragrances, and other chemicals that can cause eye, nose and throat irritation; headaches; dizziness; nausea; vomiting; difficulty breathing; asthma attacks and other respiratory problems. Some people are more sensitive to these chemicals, but many have reported reactions after using an air freshener. Some common ingredients found in commercial air fresheners are: 

Fumes from aerosols can cause headaches and nausea. Some aerosol cans contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including benzene, toluene, and xylene. These chemicals are known as carcinogens. In addition, fragrances such as limonene (found in citrus fruits) can irritate the skin and eyes when sprayed directly into the air or onto furniture surfaces. Citrus oils may also cause allergic reactions when inhaled over long periods by some people with asthma or other respiratory conditions such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 

Air fresheners are designed to make us feel good, but they can also affect our health and well-being. Because air fresheners are so widespread, there is concern about the potential effects of exposure to their ingredients. Many people report adverse reactions such as headaches, nausea, dizziness and irritation after exposure to air fresheners. In addition, some studies have shown that exposure to room sprays containing synthetic fragrances can cause respiratory problems such as asthma attacks in sensitive individuals. 

These concerns have led some governments to ban or restrict certain ingredients from use in room sprays sold in public places, including schools, hospitals and offices. For example, the United Kingdom banned five chemicals from household products in November 2010: limonene, musk xylene (musk ambrette), galactoside, alpha-hexyl cinnamic aldehyde (Hexyl Cinnamic Aldehyde) and linalool oxide. 


Many chemicals are used in air fresheners which aren't listed on the label. 

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) 

VOCs are a large class of chemicals that include many different volatile organic compounds — meaning they evaporate quickly into the air — and other types of organic compounds. The EPA has found that some VOCs can harm our health if we breathe too much of them over time. For example, some VOCs have been linked to cancer and other serious health effects such as congenital disabilities and impaired lung function. 

1,4-Diclorobenzene (1,4 DB): a VOC that may impair lung function. Impairment of lung function is of particular concern for those who have asthma or other respiratory illnesses, especially children. 

Acetaldehyde: a probable carcinogen. 

Benzene: a known carcinogen and developmental and reproductive toxin. 

D-Limonene: associated with skin and eye irritation. This substance is a sensitizer, which means it's likely to increase the odds of a future allergic reaction. 

Formaldehyde: a known carcinogen that can cause several health hazards. 

Parabens: They are linked to breast cancer and also interrupt hormonal balance. 

Phthalates: It can cause endocrine disruption and damage the female reproductive system. Phthalates can also cause birth issues and lower sperm count. 

Styrene: Can cause cancer and neurotoxicity. 

Toluene: Prevents overall development and reproductive toxicity. 

Xylene: Can affect the central nervous system, resulting in stress, anxiety, headaches, dizziness, and short-term memory loss.  

Tips for safer indoor air:  

Watch out for these factors in your air fresheners: 

Fragrance: This is a catchall term for hundreds of different chemicals that give products their scent. It can be made up of natural or synthetic ingredients, but it's usually not safe. The fragrance has been linked to asthma and allergies in kids and can cause headaches, dizziness, nausea and rashes in adults. 

Alcohol – Alcohol evaporates quickly and leaves behind no residue — but it also makes it harder for the nose to detect other odours, so you may not realize there's something toxic brewing in your home until it's too late! 

Aerosols- Choose products that are not aerosolized (meaning they don't come out of an aerosol can). Aerosolized products are more likely to be inhaled into the lungs and may contain hazardous ingredients such as synthetic musks (which can be endocrine disruptors). 

Chemicals: Avoid air fresheners that release chemicals into the air for long periods – these include plug-ins, sprays, and automatic sprays/diffusers/misters. Instead, look for products that only emit fragrance for a short period (e.g., 30 seconds) or a few hours at most before needing to be reapplied.  

Wise choices go a long way. Choosing the best air freshener for your indoor air is also not an exception. Switch to eco-friendly, chemical-free air fresheners with TheBetterHome's air freshener cards. It consists of no parabens and chemicals and is available in four fragrances: Aqua cool, Orange bust, Rain Forest, and Lavender mist. 

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