The Toxicity of Plug-In Air Fresheners

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Dangerous chemicals in air fresheners can enter your body by penetrating skin.
Dangerous chemicals in air fresheners can enter your body by penetrating skin. (Image: skin image by Robert Kelly from Fotolia.com)

Many people are oblivious to a hidden danger lurking in virtually every room in their homes. We scouring the supermarket aisles for the latest aroma to permeate the assortment of unpleasant odors afflicting our bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms. Plug-in air fresheners, a relatively new arrival on the scent scene, may emanate more than just the scent of apple cinnamon, wildflowers and clean linen.

Dangers of Phthalates

The National Resources Defense Council, in a study of 14 different air fresheners, confirms that phthalates, a chemical found in many air fresheners that may cause reproductive problems and birth defects, was present in 86 percent of the products tested. Phthalates may cause the premature delivery of babies, speed the onset of puberty in girls and decrease sperm count in men.

Regulation of Plug-In Air Fresheners

Presently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not regulate chemicals such as the phthalates present in air fresheners. In fact, air freshener labels need not even list phthalates among the product ingredients. Contrastly, the European Union, along with other countries worldwide, has banned the use of phthalates in children’s toys.

Factors Affecting Toxicity

Phthalates are especially dangerous because they can penetrate the skin and enter through the nasal cavity. Exposure levels to phthalates depend on several factors. In a spacious room, chemicals cannot diffuse as effectively as in a small enclosure. Additionally, your proximity to the plug-in unit can affect your intake of the toxin. Lastly, the length of time a person remains in a room furnished with a plug-in air freshener influences exposure levels.

Alternatives

Time Health & Science maintains that you do not need plug-in air fresheners to keep your house smelling clean and fresh; instead, performing several daily chores around the house can contribute to fresher air. Taking out the trash daily keeps the stench of rotten food from accumulating, while sprinkling baking soda on the bottom of trash cans keeps them odor free. Placing fresh coffee grounds on your kitchen counter top removes odors. Grinding up lemon slices in the garbage disposal gives your house a natural citrus scent. Finally, airing out the house may eradicate stale odors.

Lemon slices ground up in a garbage disposal give off a fruity scent without dangerous chemicals.
Lemon slices ground up in a garbage disposal give off a fruity scent without dangerous chemicals. (Image: lemon slices image by Maciej Mamro from Fotolia.com)

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