Inhaled Any Chemicals Lately?

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June 10, 2013 by Dr. Sana Keller


You would think that something called ‘Air Freshener’ would be a good thing…they can make a room or car smell good (or at least better!), and certain scents can be helpful in creating a certain mood or raising alertness…all is good, right? Well, No…Read on.

I think you would agree that no one would ever willingly take several deep breaths of phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates) or  inhale some liquefied petroleum gas…or better yet, some phenol, propane, acetone, or butane. Of course we would NOT knowingly breathe in any of these toxic chemicals—yet these ingredients are often found in over 80% of the various forms of ‘Air Fresheners’ available today, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Scented sprays (including metered aerosol sprays), gels, oils, and plug-in air fresheners (home & car) were included in their evaluation. Carpet deodorizers and refreshers often contain these harmful chemicals as well.

Human exposure to a group of chemicals called phthalates is a major concern since they can cause cancer, changes in hormone levels (hormone disruptors), poor semen quality, birth defects, asthma, and allergic symptoms. The other chemicals above also have their own lists of potential health dangers when inhaled, especially in enclosed areas with little air exchange.

And, just like the challenge in food labeling, even if an air freshener states that it’s ‘all natural’ or ‘unscented’, it can still contain some of these harmful chemicals. These chemical air fresheners do not ‘clean’ the air; instead they ‘mask’ odors and can actually make the air quality worse.

So how can we have great smelling homes and work spaces? Essential oils are one option, providing safe, clean, fresh aromatherapy, like lavender, lemon, peppermint, basil, and chamomile instead of the often ‘too-perfumey’ aromas from typical air fresheners. I have a small essential oil diffuser in my office with lemon grass…very invigorating. I can easily change to peppermint essential oil…very refreshing and mentally stimulating…or cinnamon…orange…etc.

Pure essential oils can be used in a variety of ways including adding a few drops to a small, folded handkerchief to hold under your nose and breathing deeply when needed, using an aromatherapy lamp, adding a few drops to a carrier oil (like almond oil) for massage, adding a few drops to your bath water (like lavender), or making a room spray with distilled water and essential oils of your choice (you can blend a few, like orange & cinnamon, lemon & basil…)  Check out this website for ideas on simple DIY essential oil air fresheners:

Another idea: Simmer a sliced lemon, a few sprigs of rosemary and a teaspoon of vanilla in 2 cups of water for 5 minutes—what a wonderful, inviting (safe!) aroma! air-freshener-lemon

An important part of my Integrative Health Evaluations with clients includes assessing for possible environmental toxins that could be affecting their health, such as the use of air fresheners. My website has further information:

Photo credits: that’ &

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