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How Air Fresheners Are Killing You

Written by Print 

Unfortunately, the residual chemicals from common cleaning and deodorizing products often results in accidental poisonings to the very people who were supposedly being protected. Some toxic chemicals accumulate in ever-increasing amounts in the human body over a period of years, so the health consequences are rarely attributed to them. Victims sometimes suffer from a strange form of cancer, or they might have some new-age disease like chronic fatigue syndrome, and of course, there is the ever more popular "genetic disorders".

Do you wish to know why your immune system is weak, why you are always fatigued, and why you and your family have all those mystery illnesses and "genetic" disorders? You may find the answers in your cleaning products, medicine cabinet, laundry products, foods, municipal water, in "healthy" products (soy, canola, margarine) and in your air fresheners. There is an endless barrage of unregulated toxic retail products ranging from Clorox wipes to hand sanitizers and air fresheners. The long-term health consequences of these products multiplied together invariably become much worse than any infection or other seemingly isolated ailment.

It is usually assumed that these products must go through rigorous safety testing before placement in retail stores, but this is not true. The cleaning industry is self-regulated, which translates to no regulation. Chemical companies do not need permission from any authoritative body before releasing their latest air fresheners or cleanup wipes. In fact, it took months for the F.D.A. to even warn Clarcon Biological Chemistry Laboratory Inc. that bacteria was living inside its line of supposedly anti-bacterial products. The hand sanitizer was eventually voluntarily recalled, but only after the situation became a public relations problem for both organizations. These voluntary recalls are the most common type, and the term "voluntary" indicates that the F.D.A. officially informed the guilty corporation that it would not take any action against them. The phrase "voluntary recall" seriously means this in the food and pharmaceutical industries.

Air fresheners are thought to be even further outside the jurisdiction of regulators than most products. To its credit, the State of California forces labeling of ingredients that are known to cause cancer or reproductive harm, under Proposition 65, but this is the entirety of this industry's regulations. Common chemical products are increasingly shown in studies to cause serious health problems, and it is impossible to test for truly long-term problems.

The Natural Resources Defense Council studied the effects of air fresheners, discovering that they currently undergo no safety testing. The results were disturbing, because they revealed high levels of phthalates, which are known to be especially harmful to children. These chemicals were even present in sprays which were claimed to be "All-Natural" and "unscented". Phthalates were not disclosed in the list of ingredients for any of the products.

"Phthalates are hormone-disrupting chemicals that can be particularly dangerous for young children and unborn babies. Exposure to phthalates can affect testosterone levels and lead to reproductive abnormalities, including abnormal genitalia and reduced sperm production. The State of California notes that five types of phthalates -- including one that we found in air freshener products -- are 'known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm.'"

-- Natural Resources Defense Council

1,4-Dichlorobenzene is a chemical which can be found in the blood of 96% of Americans. It has been linked to lung damage, is a known carcinogen, and it is an E.P.A. registered pesticide. Studies found it to increase rates of asthma. It can be found in the majority of air fresheners, toilet deodorizers, and mothballs. It works by attacking the receptors in the nose, and thus eliminating the sense of smell. This is how the new generation of air fresheners actually "freshen". These were introduced into the American market with the Febreze product from Proctor & Gamble. The recent generation of air fresheners that were inspired by the success of Febreze are literally using chemical warfare to destroy their customer's sense of smell. That lack of smell is where the illusion of freshness comes from. The user only smells these air fresheners for about the first minute after they have been sprayed, and then the nose cannot smell most fragrances anymore. This is not a normal adjustment to odors, anymore than a loss of one of the other four senses. The process is the equivalent to using a chemical blinding agent to escape the unpleasantness of a bright light; when that chemical is known to be both poisonous and carcinogenic. The chemical causes intentional damage to the mucous membrane, which is claimed to be temporary. However, no long-term studies have ever been done to test the effects of chronic exposure. It is important to remember that anything inhaled is immediately absorbed into the blood through the lungs relatively unchanged.

Dichlorobenzene is, in large part, the reason why so many pet birds die directly after the use of air fresheners. Due to hundreds of reports of bird deaths on the Internet, Procter & Gamble (Febreze manufacturer) funded its own internal study into this, and (without surprise) concluded that there are no safety issues whatsoever concerning pet birds, or human beings.

Dichlorobenzene is the main ingredient used to manufacture the infamous pesticide DDT, and its cousins, DDE and DDD. Chlorine alone has a tendency to form DDT and DDT-like compounds when it reacts with many other substances. Such chlorine compounds disrupt the endocrine system by destroying hormones throughout a body, in a similar manner to BPA; but in a much more powerful way. Sometimes exposure results in horrific health problems that never completely disappear. It may help readers to put the situation into perspective by being made aware that their use of most air freshener brands is the literal practice of inhaling small amounts of DDT. Inhalation is more dangerous than oral ingestion of the same amount.

"Problems associated with DDT, as well as many chlorinated hydrocarbons, involved their tendency to concentrate in the fat of humans, livestock, aquatic food chains, and wildlife. This latter phenomena, called bioaccumulation, has had, and continues to have, severe adverse effects on many forms of wildlife...

"Since implementation of [the DDT ban], residues of the pesticides have significantly decreased in many regions where they were formerly used. However, DDT, DDD and DDE persist in the environment for a very long time. DDT, DDD and DDE residues can still be found in most areas of the United States"... [80 years later]

-- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The issues of synthetic fragrances have been around for years, and have led to many companies selling unscented options. Some fragrances cause changes in blood flow, blood pressure, mood, and trigger migraine headaches. A massive 72% of asthmatics cite these fragrances as a trigger in causing asthma attacks, and they have been implicated as a cause for the initial development of asthma. Asthma rates in the United States have doubled since 1980, and the use of air fresheners has doubled since just 2003. Most synthetic fragrances are also known respiratory irritants, which means that they cause inflammation in the lungs, leading to an increased mucous production, and a greater vulnerability to other chemicals, allergens, and infections. Ninety-five percent of synthetic fragrances are derived from petroleum. They include benzene and aldehydes; which are known to cause cancers, reproductive effects, and problems with the central nervous system. These effects on the nervous system result in increased cases of Alzheimer's disease, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, and more. A study from 1991 entitled, Chemical Exposures: Low Levels and High Stakes, tested the effects of fragrances among test subjects. When asthmatics were exposed to cologne for 10 minutes, their pulmonary functions were impaired by 58% from a previous 18% handicap. Of the 60 asthmatics that they surveyed, 57 complained of respiratory symptoms with exposure to common scents.

Phthalates, like those found in air freshener mists, are usually used in the production of P.V.C plastics. All air fresheners containing phthalates lack any labeling to indicate their presence. Phthalates are also found in air fresheners that are labeled "unscented" and "all natural". With an estimated 75% of consumers using air fresheners in their homes, we strongly recommend improving ventilation systems to dilute these chemicals as much as possible, if they cannot be eliminated altogether. According to the Environmental Working Group, phthalates produce liver cancer, but this link has not been officially acknowledged by regulatory agencies.

The chemicals which are emitted from air fresheners (and other toxic products) accumulate in the fatty tissues over time, so the dangers increase as they build up inside a body. The presence of toxins inside fat can make weight loss difficult. Since the human body uses fat to store certain materials that are too toxic for it to process, breaking down the fat would mean releasing those toxins, so a body must resist its fat loss for self-defense. Thus, fat is sometimes the result of an immune system properly responding to a danger.

Sooner or later, society will have to revert to old-fashioned means of cleaning, cooking, and keeping our homes smelling pleasant. That will include the removal of non-stick pans, air fresheners, and hand sanitizers. While they may make certain tasks easier, avoiding them is an essential step to ensure a long, healthy life for your family. Since children are most at risk, we hope that those reading this will dispose of their air fresheners, to minimize the exposure of those who are not able to protect themselves.


Related Articles

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How Some Gyms Are Very Dangerous To Health and How They Might Even Eventually Kill You

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Comments (8)
  • Rachel Perkins  - Air fresheners

    I don't believe in using air fresheners often, and I don't sanitize everything I touch. Does anybody remember studying about how the Native Americans were nearly wiped out because they lived in a mostly sterile world until the Europeans brought all their diseases with them?

  • Kathy  - A New Trend Has Begun...............


    Thank you for an excellent read. I came across your article while doing some research that I was forced to do concerning my getting blasted with Air Fresheners, every single time I go into a Supermarket or Convenience Store..

    This trend started about 1 year ago, when I started coughing at the checkout line in a supermarket I frequent. After several visits and receiving the same effects, I started to pay more attention to why this was happening to me.

    I always noticed the smell of an Air Freshener in that area of the store, then my nostrils and eyes would dry and burn a little. My front teeth and upper lip, would also numb a little, as well. Once I was outside of the store a few minutes later, the sensations would increase a little more. I later began avoiding that part of the store, because I just did not like the effects of it all.

    But lately, I noticed that many other stores have installed these so called Air Freshers. Whats really disturbing is that, I get blasted on average 3-4 Times a Day, with those chemicals. And some small stores I go into, really have it pumped up to the max. I walk out gasping for air, since I try holding my breath at times, which don't really work too good.

    I was so concerned, that I thought I would do a little research on what's in those so called fresheners. That's how I came across your Article.

    It seems installing those things in more and more stores is one of those New Trends. I've also noticed that the Air Fresheners are always located near the cashier or checkout line.

    Keep up the good work !


  • Kathleen  - scent sensitive

    I can't even walk by the cleaning products in stores without feeling ill. Unscented is best for me. I understand that air fresheners actually "contain a nerve-deadening agent or by coating the nasal passages with an undetectable film."

    Doesn't that sound sensible? Why on earth do we need everything scented?

  • Ana  - Air Freshener - toxic

    I am working in reception in one of British casinos. A while ago has been installed plug-in air freshener designed to spray a mist of "air freshening" chemicals periodically. I experienced immediate difficulty in breathing and headaches. I decided that this horrible feeling could not continue any longer and gone to my boss with printed information from internet about harmful air fresheners.
    I was absolutely ignored, as this was his idea to install it near my reception desk. I am working usually 10 hours a day/night sometimes 7 days around.
    Is any law protecting me from dangerous chemicals in fresheners? Who can help me?

  • Ginger

    Thanks for the important information. I wish knowing this site long time ago. Our guinea pig died by glade, the room spray, today. My daughter is really sad and i won't use them any more. I will be picky to not use harmful cleaning products in my future.

  • goat

    any word on the "natural" citrus air sprays called
    ....CITRUS MAGIC .... tropical citrus blend...when my room mate sprays that crap i used to get a headache ,,so i dont think its all that natural...


  • Lynda Grove  - A natural alternative, surely

    I stopped using toilet air fresheners, they seemed to make the smell worse by covering it up.
    Now I make my own:
    2 tablespoons of vodka, top up with water and add some drops of peppermint essential oil,or whatever you like, in a pump spray bottle you have saved for the purpose.
    This really works, and what's more I think it should be safe.
    Hope this helps someone.

  • Ben Ginsberg

    On a more general note, I am wondering what sources of information you recommend -- and what methodology -- for choosing the safest household products, for example for cleaning.

    One site that supposedly gives scores broken down by ingredient, risk classification and supposed severity is However, they do not seem to have a very impartial or objective business model (see their ripoffreport). Another site is the NIH's,, which itself is based on/outsourced to the consumer product Information Database ( by DeLima Associates.

    For example, let's say I want to discover the safest reasonable convenient method for cleaning laundry. Some people have recommended making your own using Borax, a bar soap, and Sodium Carbonate. How can I assess the risks of Borax in comparison to other alternatives? What sources can I trust to give truly health-informed information? Do I need to study toxicology to know how to use the Material Safety Data Sheet for Borax (

    Other things that come to mind are dishwashing.

    Would I be wrong to assume that low concentrations of vinegar, hydrogen peroxide, and perhaps alcohol and ammonia can safely be used for bathroom cleaning?

    What additives should one watch out for? For example, non-food grade H2O2 often have "proprietary" stabilizers ( which seem prudent to avoid even in cleaning or food gardening.

    Thanks for any suggestions or insight.

Only members may write comments.

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