Air Freshener Alert: Harm of chemical used in air fresheners

Toxic Air Fresheners

Today, I'd like to share some worrying news about certain chemicals freely used in a certain household items, mainly air fresheners. After all who doesn't like a pleasant smelling home, or vehicle?

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) published a report called "Clearing the Air—Hidden Hazards of Air Fresheners." In the report, they reveal that 12 of the 14 widely available air fresheners they tested contained phthalates, which are chemicals used to soften plastics and make them more malleable.

They are also used in perfumes as fixatives to slow the rate at which fragrances evaporate. The phthalates in air fresheners were added for precisely that purpose—to increase the length of time that we can smell these scents.

The NRDC chose to take a closer look at air fresheners since they have taken off as a "critical" household item and since they are marketed as being able to clean and freshen the air.

The samples tested included eight aerosol sprays, five continuously emitting liquids, and one solid. (To see the full list of the fresheners that were tested and detailed results of the study, visit In the search box, type "clearing the air.")

Rather than being "clean," however, all but two of the air fresheners contained phthalates, which have been found to cause hormonal disruptions and reproductive problems. Studies on animals have indicated that prenatal exposure to phthalates interferes with normal development and maturation, particularly of the male reproductive system.

(To read more about hormonal health you can click here.)

Rats that were exposed to phthalates while still in the uterus were born with malformed genitalia and reproductive organs. The same was true in studies of the effects of prenatal exposure to phthalates on male human infants.

Their reproductive organs were not appropriately developed, and a third study showed that adult men who had phthalates in their urine also had low semen quality, meaning they are less likely to be able to fertilize an egg.

The NRDC acknowledges that their testing is not comprehensive and that more thorough testing will need to be done to determine the full extent of phthalates in air fresheners. The scariest part of this study, however, is that 10 of the 14 air fresheners tested did not provide any ingredient listings on their containers.

 The remaining four did list some ingredients, but phthalates were not listed on any of the labels. The goal of the NRDC's report is to shed light on the potentially toxic chemicals that are included in products and not disclosed.

My Take on Air Fresheners: 

I highly recommend that everyone—especially children, pregnant women, and women who are trying to conceive—avoid commercial air fresheners because there is just no way of knowing which ones contain phthalates.

Instead, freshen the air around you naturally by opening your windows or using pure essential oils and a diffuser to spread sweet scents throughout your home. 

If you must purchase air fresheners, try the ones sold at Thrive Market. You can check them out by clicking the blue Thrive market box in the right bar.

Dr Susan

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