Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN
So, whenever you spray your home with an air freshener, you’re not only freshening up your home with your “scent-of-choice” — you’re also inhaling a potentially dangerous chemical that’s been linked to several diseases.
The research is pretty clear: Conventional home air fresheners are not a safe option.
Fortunately, alternatives exist that are much safer and just as effective. In case that’s not enough for you to switch, let’s take a closer look at the dangers of phthalates.
Phthalates Interrupt Hormone FunctionPhthalates are added to fragrances to enhance their smell. It could be easy to avoid them if they were listed on the label; but they’re not listed because it’s not required by law. So, your air freshener at home may very well contain this ingredient.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, around 86% of the air fresheners they sampled contained phthalates.1
This was revealed after 14 air fresheners were examined in a laboratory. Surprisingly, they discovered that even some of the so-called “natural” home fragrance products contained phthalates as well.
Phthalates have been making the news lately and are linked to problems like obesity,2 heart disease,3 and diabetes.4 There are actually multiple types of phthalates, and the ones found in air fresheners are specifically associated with reproductive problems.
Phthalates, when inhaled, eventually make it into your bloodstream — or, they can simply be absorbed through your skin.
According to a study, rats exposed to inhaled phthalates, called DEHP, had significant elevations in sex hormones. These rats matured sexually at a premature age.5
Is this our fate as well? Maybe, when you consider that our endocrine system is very similar to rats.
Natural Air Freshener Alternatives are SaferThe good news is that you can have a fragrant home naturally. There are plenty of safe and natural scents to choose from.
Consider essential oils for example. They have been shown to actually benefit your health instead of harm it.
Research shows that essential oils support mood, sleep, and memory, and can even help with pain. So consider making your own air fresheners at home with these natural extracts. You can use a diffuser or make your own bottled spray.
But here’s a word of advice: Use only essential oils — they are the ones that are most effective. Here are some examples:
- Lavender oil:
The scent of lavender oil has been shown to alleviate migraine pain6 and enhance sleep. In one study, for instance, 67 middle aged women reported improved sleep quality after inhaling lavender essential oil.7
- Orange oil:
Orange oil may help to lessen anxiety. In one trial, participants inhaling orange oil showed fewer signs of stress after being exposed to a stressor called the Stroop Color-Word Test.8
- Spanish sage:
According to studies, Spanish sage improves memory in healthy adults.9 This oil prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that supports cognitive function.10
What You Need to KnowMany commercial air fresheners contain phthalates which have been linked to various health problems. Making matters worse, these phthalates aren't even listed on ingredient labels, so you can't identify offending products when shopping.
So, instead of using store-bought air fresheners, consider making your own at home with essential oils. These oils are safe, effective, and even offer therapeutic effects. What more do you really need to know?
Do you have a favorite essential oil? Please let us know about it in the comments!
- Available at http://www.nrdc.org/health/home/airfresheners/fairfresheners.pdf. Accessed September 25, 2012.
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- Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:740813. Epub 2011 Aug 18.
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- J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Aug;25(8):1088-100. Epub 2010 Oct 11