Are Your Air Fresheners Releasing Dangerous Toxins?

Maylin Rodriguez-Paez, RN

Phthalates have been linked to a range of health problems, and many popular air fresheners are full of them.

So, whenever you spray your home with an air freshener, you’re not only freshening up your home with your “scent-of-choice” — you’re also inhaling a potentially dangerous chemical that’s been linked to several diseases.

The research is pretty clear: Conventional home air fresheners are not a safe option.

Fortunately, alternatives exist that are much safer and just as effective. In case that’s not enough for you to switch, let’s take a closer look at the dangers of phthalates.

Phthalates Interrupt Hormone Function

Phthalates are added to fragrances to enhance their smell. It could be easy to avoid them if they were listed on the label; but they’re not listed because it’s not required by law. So, your air freshener at home may very well contain this ingredient.

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, around 86% of the air fresheners they sampled contained phthalates.1

This was revealed after 14 air fresheners were examined in a laboratory. Surprisingly, they discovered that even some of the so-called “natural” home fragrance products contained phthalates as well.

Phthalates have been making the news lately and are linked to problems like obesity,2 heart disease,3 and diabetes.There are actually multiple types of phthalates, and the ones found in air fresheners are specifically associated with reproductive problems.

Phthalates, when inhaled, eventually make it into your bloodstream — or, they can simply be absorbed through your skin.

According to a study, rats exposed to inhaled phthalates, called DEHP, had significant elevations in sex hormones. These rats matured sexually at a premature age.5

Is this our fate as well? Maybe, when you consider that our endocrine system is very similar to rats.

Natural Air Freshener Alternatives are Safer

The good news is that you can have a fragrant home naturally. There are plenty of safe and natural scents to choose from.

Consider essential oils for example. They have been shown to actually benefit your health instead of harm it.

Research shows that essential oils support mood, sleep, and memory, and can even help with pain. So consider making your own air fresheners at home with these natural extracts. You can use a diffuser or make your own bottled spray.

But here’s a word of advice: Use only essential oils — they are the ones that are most effective. Here are some examples:

  • Lavender oil:
    The scent of lavender oil has been shown to alleviate migraine pain6 and enhance sleep. In one study, for instance, 67 middle aged women reported improved sleep quality after inhaling lavender essential oil.7
  • Orange oil:
    Orange oil may help to lessen anxiety. In one trial, participants inhaling orange oil showed fewer signs of stress after being exposed to a stressor called the Stroop Color-Word Test.8
  • Spanish sage:
    According to studies, Spanish sage improves memory in healthy adults.9 This oil prevents the breakdown of acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter that supports cognitive function.10

What You Need to Know

Many commercial air fresheners contain phthalates which have been linked to various health problems. Making matters worse, these phthalates aren't even listed on ingredient labels, so you can't identify offending products when shopping.

So, instead of using store-bought air fresheners, consider making your own at home with essential oils. These oils are safe, effective, and even offer therapeutic effects. What more do you really need to know?

Do you have a favorite essential oil? Please let us know about it in the comments!


  1. Available at Accessed September 25, 2012.
  2. Environ Res. 2012 Jan;112:186-93. Epub 2012 Jan 4.
  3. Atherosclerosis. 2011 Sep;218(1):207-13. Epub 2011 May 10.
  4. Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Sep;120(9):1307-13. Epub 2012 Jun 1.
  5. Toxicol Sci. 2006 Sep;93(1):164-71. Epub 2006 Jun 8.
  6. Eur Neurol. 2012;67(5):288-91. doi: 10.1159/000335249. Epub 2012 Apr 17.
  7. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2012;2012:740813. Epub 2011 Aug 18.
  8. J Altern Complement Med. 2012 Aug;18(8):798-804. Epub 2012 Jul 31.
  9. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003 Jun;75(3):669-74.
  10. J Psychopharmacol. 2011 Aug;25(8):1088-100. Epub 2010 Oct 11.


jen said...

I had a woman clean my home (twice - not a luxury I can afford) and she used all
natural products. She cleaned my floor with clove oil. Every time I smell it now, it reminds
me of the wonderful gift that I was given while my husband was going through cancer treatment.

Life Extension said...

jen - Thank you for chiming in. Natural ingredients can not only clean a home, but they can also make us feel good too. Thanks for bringing this up! ;-)

Melissa said...

Young Living Thieves essential oil is my favorite to diffuse. Not only does it smell great, but it can rid the air of toxins and mold. Not to mention the benefits you get from smelling it (inhaling the molecules). We diffuse it when we have people over- just in case someone is sick :)

LifeExtension said...

Melissa - Nice tip! Thank you

Marla said...

Good article - natural herbs are always a good choice to freshen the air whether you dry them or use them as an essential oil base. Don't think anyone should be using chemical based toxic products. You can save a lot of money with making your own scent using baking soda and essential oils of your choice, putting them in a small jar and punching holes in the lid. It works great and is cheap - the healthy aromatic smell last for months

Life Extension said...

Marla - Thanks for the compliments! BTW, we like your idea regarding the essential oils. :-)

K Thiru K Thiru said...

AEROSOLS may be convenient to use. AEROSOLS of all sorts are within our homes and offices. Air fresheners may freshen the air, but what are these air fresheners releasing in the air? Like masked invaders, these air freshenr aerosols are filling the air with toxins of all sorts and deceiving consumers with the fragrance added within. We spray to glory, and ruin indoor air. What are the other aerosols like insect repellants, cleaning detergents, diy needs and others doing to our indoor air?

Joanne Stevens said...

I don't even want to think about buying one of those toxic air fresheners on the market. Sadly, we use such at work. At home though, I am able to make myself out of essential oils, baking soda, vinegar and other non-chemical combinations.

Life Extension said...

Joanne Stevens - It's good that you're making your own.

Deanna Fields said...

Really interesting information. I have never known of Spanish sage. Today I have learned something new. Thank you! Greetings!

Life Extension said...

Deanna Fields- You're very welcome! We're glad you enjoyed the post!

Feonacy Tyson said...

Small but mighty amazon diffuser! If you are looking for a way to reduce allergens in your living space, this is for you! Certain times of the year my allergies are just unbearable. Running this is my living space and in my bedroom at night has truly helped!

Life Extension said...

Feonancy, glad to hear that! Thanks for your input.

Nancy Garero said...

Thumbs up guys you are really carrying out a great job honeywell hcm 350.

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