Air freshener or air poisoner?

Photo: istockphoto.com/Jill Fromer
Air fresheners are delivering more than a fresh scent. They may be responsible for polluting your indoor air and causing asthma attacks. You're better off opening a window. Science smells something is off A study recently published in American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, found the regular use of sprays increased the risk of asthma by 30 to 50 percent. The study was done by the European Community Respiratory Health Survey, and followed 3,500 people in 10 European countries. A second report released by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in Sept 2007 tested 14 brands of common household air fresheners. They found that most scented sprays, gels and plug-in fresheners offer no public health benefits yet contain harmful chemicals. Twelve of the products tested contained phthalates, despite their "all-natural" and "unscented" label. But phthalates were not even listed as ingredients. Makes no scent But you can understand why an air freshener wouldn't want to advertise having this noxious chemical. Phthalates are an acknowledged hormone disrupting chemical, linked to birth defects and shown to affect the development of brain, nervous and immune system development in small children. It might hurt sales, which are expected to reach $1.72 billion U. S. this year. Air fresheners also contain other harmful chemicals, including benzene and formaldehyde, Regulations needed As a result of the test, the NRDC, Sierra Club, the Alliance for Healthy Homes and the National Center for Healthy Housing recently petitioned the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission for stricter regulations around air fresheners. They want the EPA to pay particular attention to the link with asthma and air fresheners. The petitioned stated that Americans suffer significant exposure "to a veritable cocktail of dangerous and potentially dangerous volatile organic compounds. In cases of mold and damp indoor environments, air fresheners may hide an indicator of potentially serious health threats to the respiratory system." In response to the groups' petition Walgreen Co. quickly pulled three of its air fresheners off the shelves of its 5,850 stores nationwide. At the same time Walgreens representatives did also point out that their air fresheners do contribute to a better quality of life. Other manufacturers such as Procter and Gamble, S.C. Johnson, Dial Corp., Sara Lee Corp. and Reckitt Benckiser Inc. have not responded. The NRDC air freshener hit list Highest levels of phthalates:
  • Walgreens Air Freshener Spray (removed from shelves)
  • Walgreens Scented Bouquet Air Fresheners (removed from shelves)
  • Walgreens Solid Air Fresheners (removed from shelves)
  • Ozium Glycolized Air Sanitizer
  • Medium levels of phthalates:
  • Air Wick Scented Oil
  • Febreze NOTICEables Scented Oil
  • Glade Air Infusions
  • Glade PlugIn Scented Oil
  • Oust Air Sanitizer Spray
  • Low levels or no phthalates detected:
  • Citrus Magic
  • Febreze Air Effects Air Refresher
  • Lysol Brand II Disinfectant
  • Oust Fan Liquid Refills
  • Renuzit Subtle Effects