a peek inside the fishbowl

25 Sep, 2007

Air freshener as self-administered poison?

Posted by andrea tomkins in: Yaktivism

“A study released last week by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) evaluated 14 air fresheners off the shelf of a local Walgreens and found that 12 contained variable amounts of substances called phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates), a group of chemicals that are used to dissolve and carry fragrances, soften plastics and also as sealants and adhesives …. Studies involving rat and human subjects have suggested that high exposures to certain kinds of phthalates can cause cancer, developmental and sex-hormone abnormalities (including decreased testosterone and sperm levels and malformed sex organs) in infants, and can affect fertility.”

According to this article over at Time Magazine, 75 per cent, yes, SEVENTY FIVE per cent of Americans use some from of air freshener. Why are people obsessed with their homes smelling “fresh” all the time? The answer: marketers have told us that BAD SMELLS are the root of all evil, and that the worst thing in the world is to have a home/car/armpit that DOES NOT SMELL like (someone’s interpretation of) a tropical bouquet.

The last part of the article is a real kick in the pants – like – doh!

“In the meantime, for those who are concerned about phthalates in air fresheners, there are various ways to make the home smell better, au natural. Solomon keeps the house clean and opens the windows –  and makes her husband take out the trash. Other common ways to eliminate odors are to keep fresh coffee grounds on the counter (a trick of many a flight attendant); toss baking soda at the bottom of the trash can; and grind up a slice of lemon in the garbage disposal. “Get at the root of the odor,” says Solomon. “Fresh air will do wonders.”

Please, do you and your family a favour and throw out your air fresheners. Gah.

9 Responses to "Air freshener as self-administered poison?"

1 | BeachMama

September 25th, 2007 at 7:01 pm


Air fresheners, for the most part make me sneeze. If I can’t open windows (winter time) and I feel the air is geting stale, I turn the oven on low with a sprinkling of cinnamon and a dash of nutmeg on a baking sheet and then my house smells like yummy baking, without the calories :).

2 | Marla

September 25th, 2007 at 7:32 pm


Okay everyone (makes conductor motions): DUH.

Fake stuff in can = bad.

Let’s also talk about all the packaging, and the energy consumption for the plug-ins. Bad.

And why? Why cover up? Smells are what tell you something needs attending to!

I’m all “Me too!” with the baking soda, vinegar and coffee and stuff. But also, I like the simple, concentrated orange oil cleaners. Good smells from good things = good.

3 | andrea

September 25th, 2007 at 8:21 pm


Fake stuff in can = bad. That’s what I’m thinking too, so how come so few people seem to know that? You can’t ignore the fact that 70% of of people use this stuff.

Are consumers so gullible that they’ll buy anything? Question nothing? I guess so…

Seriously folks, if your house stinks: take out the garbage, stop smoking, and give your dog a bath.


4 | Bonita

September 25th, 2007 at 9:13 pm


Not only in the house…we used to have a Curves in our town. It was in a rented building where the owner has a paint store at the back. My friend and I used to go together until she started having problems breathing, from the moment she stepped in the door. She has a lung condition to begin with but she would be fine until we walked into the building. She inquired what kind of air fresheners they used…and was told that on the days she would be there the staff member would remove them, that helped for awhile but after the air fresheners had been used in the building for awhile it no longer did any good to remove them for the time she was there. I was even bothered by them.
To add further to the problem, we inquired why they were being used and the answer was because the shop owner in the paint store, which uses the same ventilation system is a chronic smoker and the air fresheners were being used…you guessed it, to cover up the smoke.
So, we were going there to exercise and get healthy and we were inhaling air freshener gunk as well as cigarette smoke.

5 | DaniGirl

September 26th, 2007 at 8:24 am


I’ve always been a little perplexed by “air fresheners.” Even when I was a kid, I hated the chemically smell of them. A little open window goes a long way!!

6 | porter

September 26th, 2007 at 11:57 am


We don’t use air fresheners, I don’t really like ‘fake’ smells.

When I was pregnant with my first child 5 years ago I was very nauseated (like so many pregnant women) and after all these years I am taken back to that horrible feeling if I smell fabric softener of any kind…even on strangers. People use ALOT of fabric softener!!!!!

We have a large dog and our home doesn’t smell (I regularly ask people who don’t live in our home and would tell me the truth!). I am a bit of a clean freak (which can be bad for the environment in many ways) but I’ve totally changed my cleaning methods and no longer use the harsh chemicals I used to use…and I don’t find any negative differences which is great. I vacuum all the time, change our linens often (and hang them on the line), and just keep our home pretty clean. I swear that this alone keeps our home smelling fresh…and equates to shoes that aren’t smelly (because the floors and our socks are clean), and just a fresher smelling home.

Gosh, I need to get a coffee and stop commenting until I eat something so I can actually make sense!!!!

One more point…why WHY do feminine hygiene products come ‘scented’????? I have bought panty liners, maxi pads and even tampons that are scented by accident several times and it really pisses me off that companies would even add scent to these products.

7 | Ginger

September 26th, 2007 at 5:33 pm


Oh my gosh. I never really even thought about air fresheners before. We use the plug-in kind sometimes…and honestly…I like them. But we are struggling with fertility issues. I am throwing them out right now. Thanks for posting this…sometimes it is the things right in front of us that we never even see! Thanks Andrea!!!

8 | a peek inside the fish bowl

May 10th, 2008 at 8:56 am


[…] What else? We don’t use air fresheners. Or anti-bacterial soaps. […]

9 | Ashleigh

October 27th, 2011 at 2:58 am


Over a year ago I tossed all the nasty chemical cleaners and converted my home to safer products, but hubby insisted on keeping the air fresheners in the hall way that go off on a timer. All I did was sneeze, get a sore throat and feel gross anytime I smelled them. Like a dummy, I allowed more of these things into our home recently, and began using Febreeze again on the carpet…. my nose is runny and I’m sneezy, my throat itches and hurts, and I just feel BLAH in general.

Once I tossed the chemical crap, I found myself not feeling sick anymore, until I’d put a dab of perfume on. It’s absolutely sickening that companies are allowed to use such life altering/threatening chemicals in consumer products and not have to reveal all the true ingredients in them — when much of what we use today contains formyldehyde (which has over 30 different trade names), pthalates, parabens, etc…. which are all things that “help” us keep doctors and the cancer industry in business. What a shame!

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