by Jessica Sanders

At what cost are you keeping your home smelling fresh? According to scientists at Emory University and Atlanta Allergy and Asthma Clinic, it’s a hefty cost. But the cost is not necessarily financial. Scientists have found that scented candles and air fresheners are wreaking havoc on our bodies, contributing to a host of ailments from headaches, high pulse rate, asthma and nausea; to mention a few.

The source of your headache may not the long hours in front of the computer, hormones or stress.  The pain you are feeling in your head could be caused by air fresheners. A whiff of Febreze spray, Air Wick plugin, Glade car vent clip or Yankee Candle can stimulate the nervous system and activate nerve cells in your brain. The chemical stewpot of air fresheners can threaten your health.

So, before you light another candle, find out why your car and house may home to nearly 100 dangerous toxins.

The Freshener Toxins

Dangers air fresheners

Unfortunately, you’re not just battling one dangerous toxin when you use an air freshener, but many. A variety of studies in the past decade have revealed that most fresheners are a chemical cocktail posing danger to everyone who breathes it in. In fact, homes where air fresheners are used have a higher risk of occupants being diagnosed with asthma, cancers and allergies.

While nearly every VOC (volatile organic compound) used poses some risk, there are a few top contenders.


A study in 2007, by the Natural Resources Defense Council, found that 12 out of the 14 top brands of air fresheners contained phthalates. This chemical is used to help scented items smell good longer. However, Dr. Ben Kim explains, “Regular exposure to phthalates can increase your risk of experiencing endocrine, reproductive, and developmental problems.” This chemical is linked to low semen quality, low testosterone levels, and even birth defects.


This toxic chemical has long been known to cause health problems, ranging from watery eyes to nausea and asthma attacks. In June of 2011, the National Toxicology Program deemed it a known human carcinogen. Derivatives of it are used to manufacture cars and their accompanying parts; it’s also used in the textile industry and most air freshener products.


According to Earth Kind, the term “propellants” can be referring to a number of VOCs including butane, isobutene or propane. All three of the chemicals pose a risk to your brain and nervous system, and under normal circumstances, it’s common sense not to breathe them in. When used for grills, we keep it outside because it’s dangerous to have in the house. Yet many of us are unknowingly using all three to freshen our air.

That’s not all. There are over 100 VOCs found in air fresheners. And, whether there are 20 or 50 used in one product, it’s dangerous all the same. reported that plug in deodorizers have 20 VOCs, and 1/3 of them are classed as dangerous or toxic.

The Environmental Protection Agency cautions against use of air fresheners, citing solid air fresheners usually cause death if eaten by people or pets. So, we breathe them in instead?

DIY Fresheners

Luckily, you’re not destined to a life of smelly homes. There are plenty of DIY air fresheners that will work just as well without poisoning everyone who walks into your house.

Temporary Freshener

If you have people coming over for a party, or need to get rid of a particularly bad smell, try this temporary solution.

  • fresh approach air freshenersPlace chopped citrus fruit, such as oranges, spices, such as rosemary, and an essential oil extract, like ginger into a pot of water on the stove.
  • Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and let the fresh scent waft throughout your house. If you have an open concept home this will work especially well.

Reed Diffusers

Instead of buying reed diffusers from a store, make your own. This idea is simple, easy to personalize, and goes well with the rest of your home decor.

Baking Soda

Baking soda is a natural deodorizer, which is why many people put a box of it in the back of their fridge. However, with a few extra steps you can turn it into the perfect air freshener.

  • Fill the bottom of a mason jar with a 1/2 cup of baking soda. Keep in mind, you can use any jar you have lying around the house.
  • Put 10 drops of your favorite essential oil in.
  • Cover with a decorative piece of fabric or paper, and poke holes in the top.

The majority of the U.S. population (as much as 75%) uses commercial air fresheners, according to Earth Kind, but the reward just isn’t worth the risk. In no way, shape or form does a chemically-scented fragrance and/or aerosols propelled by propane and laden with other dangerous toxins create an indoor environment of fresh air.  Chemical “deodorizers” or chemical air “fresheners” only mask other odors.  These products do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of indoor air. The best way to avoid a smelly problem might be to simply open a window instead of reaching for an air freshener.

Rather than breathing in chemicals that cause asthma, reproductive problems, and endocrine issues, try creating your own freshener. Using basic household products you can have a home that smells fresh without the dangerous side effects.

What kind of candles do you buy? Do you use essential oils in the home? Share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. I always learn so much from you guys so I’m anxious to hear what you have to say!

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