We’ve all seen the commercials in which people cringe at an uncovered embarrassing household smell, a phantom hand passes them a bottle of Febreze to cleanse the air of the foul odor, and they coat their surroundings with the magic liquid, breathing in deeply and smiling. Sure, air fresheners may seem to get rid of nasty smells, but they set a high price: your health.
Many commercial air fresheners are made with less than favorable ingredients. The Natural Resources Defense Council tested 14 commercial air fresheners and found that 12 contained phthalates — probable human carcinogens. Time reports that rat and human studies have suggested that exposure to certain phthalates can cause cancer, developmental and sex-hormone abnormalities in infants, and can affect fertility. Air fresheners have also been found to contain cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde and 1,4-dichlorobenzene (1,4-DCB). 1,4-DCB has been linked to reduced lung function and increased asthma rates in humans.
Though the majority of air fresheners that line store shelves are bad news, there are many alternative, non-carcinogenic air fresheners you can turn to.
Essence of Vali Botanical Mists contain plant essential oils and distilled water. Manufactured in New York City, they are 100% vegan, and cost $8.50 for a 2 ounce bottle.
Aura Cacia has a number of fantastic options for freshening the air in your home. Their Air Freshening Spritzes contain essential oils and water, and run $10.99 for a 6 ounce bottle. They also have electric air Fresheners as well as an aromatherapy vaporizer, terra cotta diffusers, a car diffuser, and a pocket diffuser for your essential oils.
Clean Air Odor Neutralizing Sprays made by Way Out Wax come in Tropical Citrus, Lavender Sky, Indian Summer, and Neutral. The Vermont-based company is committed to disclosing all of their ingredients, and you’ll find no synthetic fragrance chemicals in their array of spray and candle products.
If you want to save money or prefer to make your own household care products, there are fantastic DIY air freshening spray ideas. You can buy your own essential oils and mix with distilled water, or mix essential oils, distilled water, and baking soda. You can also create your own reed diffuser or simmer fragrant fruit or essential oils.
Though the US bans three types of phthalates in children’s toys and certain child care items, we are far behind other countries that ban specific phthalates in cosmetics. The Natural Resources Defense Council and other groups have petitioned the US Consumer Products Safety Commission to ban hazardous phthalates in consumer products. If you want to support their efforts, you can join their network.