Are Air Fresheners Helpful Or Harmful?

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.

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