How Long Do Air Freshener Chemicals Stay in the Air?

  1. Chemicals in Air Fresheners

    • Since 2006, studies from the National Resource Defense Council, researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, the University of Washington and the Environmental Protection Agency, to name a few, have warned of the danger of certain volatile organic compounds found in many home products labeled as air fresheners. The NRDC reports that chronic exposure to phthalates----chemicals whose danger is known, but which the U.S. government does not require companies to include on a product's list of ingredients----can cause "hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems."

    Coming in Contact with Chemicals

    • Judging by his spending habits on these products, the American consumer believes that the air in his home can be cleaned and purified by spraying into the air products that claim to capture odors. Bad odors are thought to make the air dirty and unsafe, when in reality, use of common air fresheners can do more damage to the human body (especially in children and pregnant women). When you spray one of these products in a room with little ventilation, you risk absorbing toxic chemicals through your lungs and skin. In this case, chemicals in air fresheners might not stay in the air for very long (after all, greater frequency of use means more money for manufacturers), but once they enter our bodies, there may be long-term effects.

      Science Daily reported in May 2006 on particular groups of chemical called terpenes and glycol ethers. Terpenes make up scent compounds in air fresheners and cleaning colutions, and are not harmful on their own, but become harmful when they react with ozone. Ozone is the primary constituent of smog and normally enters the indoor environment through air filtration systems, but can also be produced by "air purifiers" often found in office environments. These products are most harmful when used in small, poorly ventilated areas, such as office spaces, small bathrooms or a child's bedroom. .

    Tips

    • If you use scented cleaning products remember to wear a mask, try to avoid contact with your skin and keep the area in question well-ventilated during and after use. If you are pregnant or have small children, avoid use of these products altogether. Because of its acidity, white vinegar is a popular disinfectant. It is also inexpensive and completely harmless to humans and animals. If you find the scent of vinegar offensive, you can add a few drops of essential oil to the mixture.

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