I recently rode in a friend’s car. By the time I got home, my lungs felt tight and I was coughing. I knew immediately the air freshener in the car was the culprit. It was one of those new clip on air fresheners filled with a “scent” to eliminate car odors like food, dirt, and cigarette smoke. I decided I must post about this on my blog!
Car air fresheners have gone from pine-scented cardboard cut outs of trees that dangle from the rear view mirror to the new plastic (more plastic!) containers filled with chemical scents. They clip on the air vent and are activated with the airflow. There are several brands with enticing names like Meadows and Rain, Hawaiian Aloha, or Linen and Sky complete with adjustable dials to control “freshness”. The Febreeze ad says, “In just a few moments, you and your passengers can all breathe happy.” I was not happy!
The chemicals used in air fresheners are anything but fresh and do nothing to improve the quality of the air. They just mask the odors and in fact can be quite toxic. The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that most air fresheners contain phthalates, which are at the center of a large debate about their negative health affects. High exposure to certain phthalates, also found in cosmetics, nail polish, paint and other everyday items, can cause cancer, developmental and hormonal abnormalities and can affect fertility. One of the active ingredients found in mothballs, 1,4 dichlorobenzene, is also found in some air fresheners. The EPA lists this ingredient as toxic since its vapors can affect respiratory function. There seems to be a correlation with air fresheners and asthma, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health Sciences. Other known ingredients that cause serious health issues are formaldehyde, acetone and terpenes. According to ehow.com, “These chemicals contain pollutants that, when mixed with ozone, cigarette smoke or dust can cause breathing complications, headaches and damage the central nervous system.” What’s worse is that companies aren’t required to list the ingredients if the product is labeled a “fragrance”.
Air fresheners are everywhere - in the home, office and car. It is estimated that around 75 percent of American homes use some form of them, which amounts to more than $1 billion in profits for the industry. The best air freshener for your car however, is rolling down the windows. You can also easily make your own– a sachet with natural potpourri or dried lavender flowers, baking soda poured into an old sock and placed underneath the seat, or a piece of felt scented with a pure essential oil. You control how much scent you want!
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