Thursday, November 27, 2014

Great Smelling Homes - At What Cost?

Advertisers have done an excellent job of convincing us that it's unacceptable for our friends to smell our food cooking or know that we have a pet.  We're told to remove those smells with their products, convincing anyone who sets foot in our homes that we live in a tropical paradise, on a breezy beach, or in the midst of an orange grove!

What this multi-billion dollar industry doesn't tell us is that their products don't eliminate anything; they just overpower the existing spells with stronger smells, produced by chemicals, many of which are toxic to us (especially our children!) and our pets!

I'm not a chemist, but when I googled 'chemicals in air fresheners', I was inundated with information on the chemicals used in air fresheners and how those chemicals affect us.

I'm going to cite the findings of some government agencies about the dangers of the toxic chemicals that the manufacturers portray through advertising as safe, natural, and necessary for us and our families.  The bottom line, though, is that these products are neither safe or natural, and certainly aren't necessary.  The truth is that every time we spray, plug in, light, or set a solid air freshener on the counter, we're harming ourselves, our children, and our pets by breathing in the chemicals in these products.


An even simpler bottom line: 

Don't Use Air Fresheners!


At the forefront, are phthalates.   Phthalates have been shown to cause birth defects and reproductive problems, in addition to attributing to allergic symptoms and asthma.  When we use air fresheners containing phthlates, minute particles enter our noses.  If you think that chemicals entering our bodies that way isn't a big deal, think cocaine, and how that affects the body by way of the nose.  Phthlates can also be absorbed through the skin.

For a detailed report, go to National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and learn more about phthlates and which air freshener brands contain the most.*  You can read that report here:  Protect Your Family From the Hidden Hazards in Air Fresheners.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that there are four basic ingredients in air fresheners: formaldehyde, petroleum distillates, p-dichlorobenzene, and aerosol propellants. 

Formaldehyde: According to the National Cancer Institute, Formaldehyde is classified as a known human carcinogen (simply put, it causes cancer!) by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.   

Petroleum Distillates: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Petroleum Distillates can cause irritation to the eyes, nose and throat; dizziness, drowsiness, headache, nausea, and dry cracked skin.

p-Dichlorobenzene: Again, I checked the CDC, which states that this chemical can cause eye irritation, swelling around the eyes, profuse rhinitis (chronic sneezing and a congested or drippy nose), headache, nausea, vomiting, jaundice, cirrhosis, liver and kidney damage in animals, and is a potential carcinogen.

Aerosol Propellants: Studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) from the 1970's stated that Aerosol Propellants are rapidly acting and potent cardiac toxins, calling for further studies.


My go-to source for learning about which products contain toxic chemicals is the Environmental Working Group (EWG).  There, you can see which brands are the most toxic and which chemicals are contained in different brands of air fresheners.  

EWG recommends avoiding air fresheners.  For a list of air fresheners by name and which chemicals each contains, go here.

Here are some thoughts on air fresheners from EWG:

33- Do air fresheners destroy odors?

No, they just cover them up. They also contaminate the air, exposing people to a host of undisclosed, untested and potentially toxic substances, including phthalates, synthetic musks and allergens. Identify, clean up or remove odor sources. Open a window! An open box of baking soda can eliminate odors safely. Investigate persistent odors. They might be caused by inadequate ventilation, mold, mildew, pests or vermin.

34- What about scented candles?

Skip these too. Just like air fresheners, scented candles release mixtures of undisclosed fragrance chemicals into the air to cover up other odors. There’s no evidence to indicate that scented candles are any safer than any other type of air freshener.

One thing to note is that Fragrance, which sounds so innocent and harmless, is a term that encompasses many chemicals.  There is nothing natural about the ingredient Fragrance.  I avoid it in all products, using only products that contain Essential Oils, which are extracted from plants and truly are natural.  Make sure that they're pure Essential Oils, and not Fragrance Oils, which are made from chemicals.

A couple of great sources for Essential Oils are:

Young Living


I will be the first to admit that our houses don't always smell the best.  Certain foods can smell pretty darned bad.  On nice days when my kids are reluctant to go outside, I've been known to steam some broccoli or cook some cabbage.  Before long, there are groans and complaints, and before I know it, they're all outside!  Works every time!

What can you do when the air in your home really doesn't smell the best?

        Open a window!

        Simmer some cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, and nutmeg in water on the stove.
       (Keep an eye on it, replenishing water as necessary!)

       Place some baking soda in a bowl and add a few drops of an essential oil. 

       Light a Beeswax Candle (without colors or fragrances) with a lead-free wick.

       You could also put baking soda and oils in a mason jar and punch holes in the lid.

       Place a few drops of our Wholesome in your vacuum cleaner bag or container.

       Use one of our Room Sprays, made with essential oils, distilled water, and alcohol.
       (For sale at local shows; coming soon to our online store.)

       Clean your house.  (Yes, I intentionally put this one last!)

There are so many simple, inexpensive ways to deal with undesirable odors if you don't want to smell them.  Choose the simple route instead of harming the health of your family!

 Our Holiday Essential Oil Room Sprays

Candy Cane Joy: Invigorating, uplifting Mint Essential Oils

Home for the Holidays: Homey Essential Oils of Vanilla, Cloves, and Orange

Peaceful Lavender: Pure Lavender to help with relaxation after a stressful day

*I read that Walgreen's pulled some of their air fresheners in response to that report to have them analyzed.  I don't know what, if any, action they took after that, though.



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