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Are Air Fresheners Helpful Or Harmful?

2012 February 16

By Lina Younes

My youngest daughter loves to buy air fresheners for the house. She prefers those with strong fruity scents. Personally, I’m not very fond of these chemical fresheners. I’ve always felt that they don’t really “freshen” the air. While they might have a nice smell momentarily, they are really only masking other odors that might be present in your indoor environment. After seeing how an office colleague reacted to an air freshener several offices away, I decided to look further into these household products.

The fact is that most of us spend a lot of our time indoors whether at home, at work, or in school. On average, people spend about 90% of their time indoors. In these confined spaces, there are several sources of air pollution that may cause health problems, allergies, or serious illnesses. These problems can be compounded if there is poor ventilation or you are an asthmatic or suffer from other upper respiratory conditions. In fact, paints and some of these air fresheners have volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde and petroleum distillates which can be very irritating to eyes, skin and throat. Even unscented air fresheners can produce an allergic reaction in certain individuals. So, make sure if you use air fresheners in your home or office, please read the label first to use properly and safely.  Also, keep them out of reach of children and pets.

So, what can you do to improve the air quality in your home, school or office? Understanding some of these common pollutants found inside buildings is the first step to protecting yourself and your family. Furthermore, look for more natural options or non-toxic approaches like baking soda. Hope these tips have been helpful. Your thoughts are always welcomed.

About the author: Lina Younes has been working for EPA since 2002 and currently serves as EPA’s Multilingual Outreach and Communications Liaison in the Office of External Affairs and Environmental Education. Prior to joining EPA, she was the Washington bureau chief for two Puerto Rican newspapers and she has worked for several government agencies.

Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

11 Responses leave one →
  1. Ned permalink
    February 16, 2012

    open a window

  2. Ken permalink
    February 16, 2012

    Many of the common fragrance compounds used in scented products (air fresheners, cleaning products, personal care products, etc.) will readily react with ozone (common in summer months), producing formaldehyde and other byproducts problematic to sensitive individuals.

  3. Nakazi Ntlabati permalink
    February 16, 2012

    I use white vinegar to deoderize my apartment along with baking soda. You mix it in a shallow pan in te center of the room and when I return from work my rooms smell fresh and clean.

  4. kiyohisa tanada permalink
    February 17, 2012

    I did not know that “a flavor” was harmful to an allergic patient.
    What kind of method can comfortable space build for “an allergic patient?”
    Is it an “air filter” air cleaner?
    Is it a “plasma ion” air cleaner?
    The corpse of “dust” and “the house tick” or a parasitic corpse sticking to a pet hits on allergy.
    In the case of “a flavor”, the case of the allergic patient of “the organic solvent” will come under it.
    The same symptom will come out to a person making “an allergic reaction” to an organic solvent used for “new kinds of building materials”.
    This is an important problem.
    I have been talked in old days in Japan if “the hair treatment” was toxic.
    Because this product is familiar to life,
    I am very dangerous to “a baby, an infant”.
    An adult is keeping it in mind in a method by “scrupulous attention”.
    This is my opinion.

  5. Lina-EPA permalink
    February 17, 2012

    Arigato.

    For answers to your questions, I recommend you visit our site on Indoor Air Quality for more information. Here are some useful links:

    http://www.epa.gov/iaq/ia-intro.html

    http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/index.html

    Hope this helps,

    Lina Younes

  6. Prabhat Misra, A.D. Savings, Etawah, U.P., India permalink
    February 18, 2012

    Lina, thanks for an EXCELLENT article. I am the regular visitor of Greenversations. This is true that air fresheners are temporary solutions to bad odors; but these fresheners are NOT health friendly.

  7. Prabhat Misra, A.D. Savings, Etawah, U.P., India permalink
    February 18, 2012

    Lina, thanks for an EXCELLENT article. This is true that air fresheners are temporary solutions to bad odors; but these fresheners are NOT health friendly.

  8. Lina-EPA permalink*
    February 19, 2012

    Thanks. Just want to keep raising awareness>

  9. i Keep Smart Cover,iKeep permalink
    February 21, 2012

    Very impressive, wish you could post more on the topic….!
    i Keep Smart Cover,iKeep

  10. lanescar permalink
    March 14, 2012

    Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

  11. May 7, 2012

    I appreciate about this article the fact is that most of us at work, spent a lot of time indoors, either at home or at school, On average, people spend about 90% of their time indoors. In such a confined space, there are several sources of air pollution may cause health problems, allergies, or serious illness.

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