We’d probably all like to have a nicely scented home, but is it really worth sacrificing our good health, and the health of our planet?
Most people probably don’t think twice about using air fresheners, plugging them in and enjoying a “Summer Breeze”, without the understanding that it could be damaging their health, not to mention the health of one’s family, including unborn children and pets.
While there’s no doubt that the plug-in type is a big improvement over sprays, which lead to a direct breakdown of ozone in the stratosphere, that doesn’t mean they deserve a clean bill of environmental health either.
Air fresheners can contain volatile organic compounds, or VOCs, a class of chemicals that are well known to be hazardous to the environment as well as human health. In just one example, the University of Washington’s Anne Steinemann demonstrated that several of the leading air-freshener brands contained both a probable human carcinogen and a federally-designated hazardous air pollutant known as acetaldehyde.
The residual chemicals in air freshening products are known to accumulate in continually increasing amounts in the body over time, which means when health consequences eventually occur, they’re almost never attributed to them.
While many people were excited about the new plug-in types of air fresheners, it turns out, what we believed was the latest and greatest technology for filling our homes with a scented aroma, was not. In fact, scientists have uncovered numerous toxic substance in what seems like a fairly innocuous device.
Those toxic compounds include:
Phthalates. Phthalates come with many risks. Most have been linked to reproductive abnormalities, interfering with the production of testosterone, the male hormone.
The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) found that when testing over a dozen different air fresheners, the majority contained these chemicals that are also listed on the State of California’s list of toxic substances “known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm.” The NRDC has also stated that phthalates in the air we breathe can lead to asthma and allergy symptoms even in only trace amounts.
Naphthalene. The majority of plug-in air fresheners brands contain a chemical known as naphthalene which has been found to cause tissue damage and even lung cancer in laboratory rats and is suspected to have a similar effect in humans.
Formaldehyde. A well-known human carcinogen, formaldehyde is commonly used in air fresheners and other household products and has been definitively associated with nose and throat cancer. It can also lead to the chronic irritation of airways and the throat, potentially causing serious infection, asthma, and other respiratory issues, as the U.S. government National Toxicology Program reports.
Volatile Organic Compounds. As we mentioned VOCs are compounds that are used to help disperse scents in air fresheners, but these are harmful chemicals too.
Just one of the VOCs in air fresheners, 1,4-Dichlorobenzene, has been found in the bloodstreams of 96% of U.S. adults, an EPA registered pesticide and a known carcinogen that’s been linked to lung damage.
Another VOC, dichlorobenzene, was found to be the cause of death in many pet birds. In fact, the birds passed away not long after air fresheners had been used close to them. It also happens to be the primary ingredient used in the frightening pesticide DDT.
Even if you only use these air fresheners occasionally, studies have found that being exposed even just once a week raises the risk of household members developing asthma, and by as much as 71%, which is why it’s far better to make your own, than to subject yourself, your family and our environment to such a long list of potential hazards.
Make Your Own Gel Fresheners
Freshen up your home naturally with these simple gel fresheners.
They’re easy to make with a few simple ingredients. You can customize them with any scent and color you prefer. Plus, they’re fun to look at!
The process is so simple, you can easily make a bunch of air fresheners in just a few minutes. Make one for every room in your home.
Bring 3/4 of water to boil in a small saucepan.
Add gelatin packet and stir until dissolved. When you add the gelatin, the water will start to boil more aggressively. Turn off the heat at this point. Let mixture sit until cooled to room temperature, then add the 1/4 cup of vodka.
The alcohol in the vodka will keep mold from forming on the surface of the gel freshener. You can substitute with one tablespoon of salt.
Add the food coloring. You only need one or two drops. Stir.
Add in 10-15 drops of essential oils and stir. Refrigerate the gels until set.
Place a frog grid, a lid with a straw hole, or even a small piece of cheesecloth over the jars. This will help keep debris out while still allowing the scent to flow. You don’t have to use a lid, but gel fresheners will evaporate in about a month without one.
The recipe can be doubled or tripled to make more gel freshers.
Try different scents throughout the seasons. They are also perfect for hostess gifts.