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Air Freshener Dangers: A Breath of Death Air?

By Chere Di Boscio

True story: once, in a Parisian gym, the owner opened the door of the facility, went outside with a colleague, and had a cigarette, with the door open. Smelling smoke whilst running on my treadmill, I looked around for the culprit, ran off the machine and angrily shut the door. When the owner came back in, he apologised and proceeded to spray a chemical spray in the air, which I was forced to inhale deeply, to ‘freshen’ it.

Moments later, I had the worst asthma attack I’d had in years.

For some reason, people seem to believe that the contents of aerosol air fresheners are exactly what’s portrayed on the package: ocean spray, dew drops  on flowers and juicy citrus fruits. But if they stopped to read the label, they would be horrified.

Air Freshener Dangers

There is a cocktail of toxins in the vast majority of ‘air fresheners’ that really should have them labelled as ‘air poisoners’.

One of the main ingredients are phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals that are added to not only air fresheners, but perfumes as well, in order to sustain the fragrance in the product for a longer period of time. These chemicals are considered highly toxic, particularly for children and babies, and can cause asthma,  irregular heartbeats, headaches, depression, earaches, diarrhea, and possibly even cancer.

Even though they may not be listed on the tin, many air fresheners on the market still contain phthalates–a recent study even found phthalates in brands that were marketed as being ‘natural’.  Confused about which brands are the worst? According to The Daily Health Post, you should particularly watch out for these brands:
  • Air Wick Scented Oil
  • Febreze NOTICEables Scented Oil
  • Glade Air Infusions
  • Glade PlugIn Scented Oil
  • Oust Air Sanitizer Spray

But it’s not just phthalates in such products that you need to watch for.


Terpene, for example, is another toxin found in room sprays. When this volatile compound encounters ozone, the combination of the two elements creates formaldehyde, which the  International Agency for Research on Cancer  classifies as a potent human carcinogen.

As I unhappily discovered in the gym, another health problem brought on by air fresheners is that they can increase your risk of asthma by as much as 50%, thanks to ingredients like DCB, according to a study by the  European Community Respiratory Health Survey. But maybe the worst ingredients are those that are known carcinogens: Benzene (of which there are NO safe levels), Naphthanlene, and others, for example.

So What to Do?

There are a few natural air fresheners you can buy:

Cire Trudon

Housed in a chic, green, Italian crafted glass bottle,  Cire Trudon’s variety of gorgeous scents freshen your room through the power of herbal fragrances. Our favourite? The Abd El Kader room spray, which features notes of fresh mint, lemon, jasmine and ginger.

Saint Cômé  Aromaspray

French brand Saint Cômé have come up with the perfect natural spray for your home, comprised of 100% pure and natural premium grade essential oils. These sprays not only work to deodorize and enhance the surrounding environment with a unique blend of aromatic scents, but they’re also made without the use of ozone-depleting gas. Aromaspray is stored inside recyclable bottles and each one is able to spritz roughly 500 powerful sprays; and just one spray is enough to cover a space of a whopping 10 square metres.

1001 Remedies Pur Air

This is the perfect solution for fresher air! This refreshing spray by 1001 Remedies contains a remedial blend of 19 essential oils, including citrus, thyme, and cinnamon, that not only make the room smell great, but even boost your body’s natural immune system.

Citrus Magic

This is a spray that uses only natural citrus and fruit and vegetable oils to cover up nasty smells. Very reasonably priced, it also comes in solid form.

air freshener dangers


Elm Pure Organics Room Fragrance

Made with only pure, organic essential oils, these room fragrances come in three scents:

Lemanja – An exotic fragrance, combining warming Organic Thai Lemongrass, Exotic Black Pepper counterbalanced by Sweet Fresh Basil.

Inika – Calming Organic Chamomile is hand-blended with relaxing Organic Lavender, healing Organic Rosemary and warming Lemongrass.

Dakota Meadow – A gorgeous scent envelopes your home in a pure, fresh and calming scent. Organic floral Geranium Rose and aromatic Sage, twisted with calming Lavender.

More than making your home smell fresh, these room perfumes can change the whole mood that permeates your house!

Ecogecko Globes

The Ecogecko earth globe revitaliser cleans and deodorises the air around using waterwash technology. Basically, what that means is that water droplets are used to remove  dust and bacteria from the air and return clean and fresh air back into the room. This has zero scent, but can remove unpleasant odours.


In short, there really is no such thing as a ‘natural’ air freshener spray. If you’re concerned about nasty smells in your home, first of all, eliminate the possible stink: clean mould off walls and shower tiles; open windows when cooking, and make sure pets are shampooed regularly, for example.

But if you’re still unhappy with smells in your home, try these alternatives:

  • Put a pot of water on the stove and heat below a boil. Add a few drops of organic aromatherapy oils like lavender, rose, or basil, and you’ll be amazed at how these permeate the house.
  • Try natural candles from organic brands like Neom or Cire Trudon.
  • Leave boxes of baking soda open in the corners of different rooms. Baking soda can help minimise odours related to humidity and eradicate many unpleasant smells.

Or even better yet, open a window. Nothing freshens the air quite like…fresh air.

10 thoughts on “Air Freshener Dangers: A Breath of Death Air?”

  1. At age 29 I was diagnosed of COPD. I had severe shortness of breath after energetic activity; even just climbing stairs, wheezing, fatigue and tightness of the chest. I was on Advair and albuteral inhaler. I even used Prima Tene Mist inhaler, but nothing really made me feel better. About two years ago, I began to do a lot of research and learnt about a COPD TREATMENT from Rich Herbs Foundation and their success rate with the treatment,i immediately started on the treatment, i started experience reduction/decline in major symptoms, including the shortness of breath, fatigue, cough and wheezing. Visit RHF page ww w. richherbsfoundation. c om. Its been over 1 years since treatment, i feel great and breath well

  2. I have had ASTHMA my whole life but about 7 years ago my asthma got so bad and was diagnosed of EMPHYSEMA/COPD which was most likely due to the asthma. I was on double antibiotics and steroids, still didn’t feel any better. It was hell for me due to the severe difficulty breathing. April 2016 my sister in-law told us about Rich Herbs Foundation where she ordered herbs that effectively treated her arthritis. We ordered the COPD herbal treatment after reading positive reviews, i am happy to report this COPD herbal treatment effectively treated my lungs condition. My quality of life has greatly improved and every one of my symptoms including difficulty breathing and wheezing are gone. Visit ww w. richherbsfoundation .c om. I will be 52 soon and have never been healthier

    I’m from Nebraska USA, I was diagnosed with Emphysema in July of 2009. I may have had it for 6 months to 1 year prior to diagnosis. It started with a dry cough, shortness of breath, and fatigue. A chest x-ray confirmed it and I was placed on corticosteroids. As the disease progressed all medication stopped working, i was introduced to NewLife herbal clinic who have successful herbal treatment to Emphysema and other lungs related diseases. I spoke to few people who used the treatment here in USA and they all gave positive responses, so i immediately purchased the emphysema herbal remedy and commenced usage, i used the herbal supplement for only 7 weeks, all symptoms were reversed, herbs are truly gift from God. contact this herbal clinic via their email (newlifeherbalclinic @ gmail. com or visit www. newlifeherbalclinic. weebly. com)

  4. Thank you for some other great post. The place else may just anyone get that kind of info in such a perfect
    way of writing? I’ve a presentation subsequent week, and I am on the look for
    such information.

  5. How about telling me how to get rid of the smells and toxins left by plug-in air fresheners used by the previous owner of my house? Everyone has ideas of freshening the air without air fresheners but how do you get rid of them once they are here and killing you?

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