Spring is in the air and so is the thought of Spring Cleaning and generally freshening up our indoor spaces, as well as the outdoor ones. One item that many people will use in the Winter to freshen up their spaces are air fresheners. Unfortunately they are quite hazardous, as they are full of some nasty chemicals, such as phthalates, which are used to make the scents last longer. Believe it or not, some fresheners labelled “all-natural” or “unscented” had the highest levels of phthalates!
The problem with phthalates are that they are part of a group of chemicals known as endocrine disruptors, which affect the hormones in your body and may, in time, lead to illness. Other endocrine disruptors are some pesticides like DDT and (now well known) BPA used as a plastic softener in water bottles as well as PCB’s and dioxin which are industrial chemicals. Endocrine disruptors affect our bodies by either binding with our own hormone receptors, or by blocking the binding of our natural hormones or by affecting the metabolism of our hormones. Either way, the end result is that our hormone levels become screwed up, leading to, among other symptoms – acne, hot flashes, headaches, PMS and mood swings. Phthalates themselves affect our reproductive systems and are especially hazardous for pregnant women and babies where they have been shown (in test mammals) to have anti-androgen activity which may cause feminization in boys.
So, why bother with air fresheners at all? The simplest thing to do is open the windows and allow fresh air to circulate. In areas with persistent odours, such as closets and areas where sports equipment is kept, try keeping an open box of baking soda to absorb odours. For a quick refresh, you can put a couple of drops of essential oil on a light bulb and switch it on for a couple of hours to add a pleasant, all-natural scent to the air. Do yourself and your family a favour and throw out those air fresheners!
Check out this article on phthalates in many commercial air fresheners.