Humans have a complex relationship with smell and scent. We love it when things smell nice and hate it when they don’t. What we find appealing to our sense of smell also greatly differs from one person to the next, and as often as we try to hold on to smells we love and that evoke happy memories, they elude us, leaving us to try and replicate them with often inferior results.

Enter the air freshener. This product is a modern take on ancient practices that saw people burning, soaking, or carry-ing around herbs and flowers in an attempt to extract or preserve their wonderful smells. However, today’s air freshen-ers are a far cry from their predecessors. Instead of relying on natural ingredients for fragrance, manufactures use chemicals to reduce their production costs.

The NRDC, Natural Resources Defence Council, independently tested several air fresheners and discovered that 86% of them, including those listed as ‘natural’ or ‘unscented,’ had toxic chemicals. The effect these contaminants are hav-ing on our health is slowly starting to be exposed. For example, air fresheners often contain toxic chemicals such as endocrine disruptors (e.g. phthalates), and carcinogens (e.g. formaldehyde and benzene). These chemicals can in turn give rise to serious health issues such as birth defects, altered hormone levels, and possible increase in cancer rate1.

Not only is it important to note that air fresheners in their various forms are being linked to allergies and asthma2, but it must also be remembered that they are used in confined areas such as cars or insulated homes, thus making our con-tact with the toxic particles they release that much more potent.

What may be even more shocking to some is that the air fresheners don’t even remove odors but most often just mask them, or alter our ability to smell them. If the goal is to both get fresher air and air that smells fresher, the solution is to look for natural air purifiers. These are products that largely consist of activated carbon to absorb air impurities, and essential oils to release a pleasant scent into the surrounding area.

Seeing that active carbon is effective in various applications such as purifying water, absorbing poison, and is used even in the filters of gas masks, it makes an exceptional air purifier in that it actually traps VOCs and toxic chemicals. When essential oils such as those used in aromatherapy are added to the product, it then works double-duty by both cleaning the air and releasing a light and natural scent.

Plants are nature’s wonderful air purifiers and should be placed liberally throughout your home. Air absorbers placed throughout the home, too, can improve air quality and get rid of unwanted odors. Now you can breathe easy…

References and Further Reading:

1 “Protect Your Family from the Hidden Hazards in Air Fresheners.” NRDC. https://www.nrdc.org/health/home/airfresheners/fairfresheners.pdf
2 Hobbs, Alexis. “New Study Finds Scented Candles and Air Fresheners Pose Dangerous Health Risks.” Woman’s Day. 3 September 2015. http://www.womansday.com/health-fitness/wellness/news/a51813/new-study-finds-scented-candles-and-air-fresheners-pose-massive-health-risks/
Cook, Michelle Schoffro. “Exposed: The Shocking Truth About Air Fresheners.” Care2. 30
August 2012. http://www.care2.com/greenliving/exposed-the-shocking-truth-about-air-fresheners.html
“Non-Toxic Air Freshener Guide.” Gimme the Good Stuff.
https://gimmethegoodstuff.org/safe-product-guides/air-fresheners