Air Fresheners and Chronic Illness

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can air fresheners effect chronic illness

Here’s a couple things about air fresheners you should know if you have a Chronic Illness.

We all want our homes smelling fresh and clean, and no matter what scent you want, you can find it in an air freshener! Especially this time of year crisp apple, pumpkin spice, or relaxing autumn all sound wonderful. But over the past decade, scientific studies have shown that your favorite smells could be harmful to your health, especially if you’re a Spoonie.

Here are 5 Chemicals you’ll most likely find in your air fresheners:

Volatile Organic Compounds

VOCs include a variety of chemicals that are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids. According to the EPA, these chemicals are widely used as ingredients in household products including: paints, aerosol sprays, cleaners and disinfectants, automotive supplies, hobby supplies, and (you guessed it) air fresheners.

The health effects can range depending on your expose and sensitivity, but included are eye, nose and throat irritations, headaches, loss of coordination and nausea, damage to liver, kidneys and central nervous system, and in some cases even cancer.


It doesn’t have to just be in an aerosol can to emit chemicals either. Researchers found that those handy electric air fresheners that you plug in and leave can be pretty harmful too. They release significant formaldehyde emissions on their own (17% of the Critical Exposure Limit or CEL), and that combined with seven other common household products (such as all-purpose cleaning agents and furniture/floor polish), your exposure to formaldehyde can reach 34% of the CEL in just 30 minutes without you even realizing it!

Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen and just like VOCs there are many symptoms. You may experience eye, nose, and throat irritation, coughing, wheezing, bronchitis, and even dizziness.


Phthalates have received a lot of attention in the past few years, and while many companies are now removing phthalates from their products, you will still often find them in air fresheners. And of course you would find them! Phthalates are used to dissolve and carry fragrance, however they are now linked to changes in hormone levels, birth defects and reproductive harm. And certain phthalates are even anticipated to be a human carcinogen.

1,4 dichlorobenzene

As a primary ingredient in most room deodorizers, 1,4 dichlorobenzene has been implicated in two major health concerns. Lifetime expose has shown liver cancer in mice, but more concerning for the average spoonie: it may cause reduction in lung function.

“Even a small reduction in lung function may indicate some harm to the lungs,” said NIEHS researcher Stephanie London, M.D., lead investigator on this study, in an NIH News article. “The best way to protect yourself, especially children who may have asthma or other respiratory illnesses, is to reduce the use of products and materials that contain these compounds.”


A 2011 news report released by the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology linked the VOCs in air fresheners with a 34% increase in health problems in people with asthma. So for people with seasonal allergies, lung issues, asthma, COPD, or even simply a common cold, air fresheners should be completely avoided!

There is a safer – and healthier – alternative

Most of us already have enough issues to deal with – we certainly don’t need to unnecessarily add more. But don’t worry! Just because you shouldn’t use air fresheners doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice a good-smelling home. When diffusing 100% pure essential oils not only are you able to create a wonderful smell, but you can use oils that also support your emotional and physical health needs. There are even recipes to make your home smell like a fall-wonderland and help you stay healthier AT THE SAME TIME. For reals.

Contact me if you’d like to chat about oils and diffusing, so you can get rid of those air fresheners once and for all! I have some fab diffuser recipes I’ll be happy to share.


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