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Air Freshener's: The Health Hazard in Your Home (and Car), Hiding in Plain Sight

Did you know, less than 10% of air freshener ingredients are disclosed to the public? Less than 10%! This creates the illusion that there aren't many ingredients to be weary of when you do have a look at the label. Air Fresheners are considered to be the number one source of VOC's in you home!

What are VOC's? VOC (Volatile Organic Compound's) are gases that are emitted into the air from products or processes. Some are harmful by themselves, including some that cause cancer. In addition, they can react with other gases and form other air pollutants after they are in the air. Do you remember a time when you purchased paint for your home and had to open all the windows to clear out the heavy thick scent of the paint after you applied it to the walls, that would have otherwise made you light headed, given you a headache or made you sick had you not opened the windows? That heavy thick scent are VOC's. Not too long ago, a commercial came out showing a group of friends helping to paint a mural in a baby's room and the baby sleeping in the room shortly after. While you should let the paint dry fully and its always important to aerate the room as best as possible before settling back into it, especially if its a bedroom, the commercial was advertising a no VOC paint, indicating that the paint had zero scent and was safer for your health.

What other chemicals are hiding in these air fresheners? Here is what you need to know about before bringing one into your home:

  • 1,4-Diclorobenzene (1,4 DB): a VOC that may impair lung function. Impairment of lung function is of special concern for those who have asthma or other respiratory illnesses, especially children.

  • Fragrance: ‘Cool Linen’, "Apple Blossom" and ‘Baby Fresh’ attempt to capture pleasant scent memories, but seeing the word "Fragrance" can include many, many chemicals that are mixed together, usually to mask the smell of the other toxins in the product. Fragrances are linked to allergies, asthma, respiratory concerns, hormone disruptions, reproductive issues and more!

  • Acetaldehyde: is an aldehyde that is highly reactive and toxic. The World Health Organization considers acetaldehyde to be a Class 1 toxin (human carcinogen).

  • Benzene: Benzene is known to cause cancer, based on evidence from studies in both people and lab animals. The link between benzene and cancer has largely focused on leukemia and other cancers of blood cells. It's a known carcinogen and developmental and reproductive toxin.

  • d-Limonene: associated with skin and eye irritation. This substance is a sensitizer, which means it’s likely to increase the odds of a future allergic reaction.

  • Formaldehyde: Formaldehyde is an irritant. Exposure to high concentrations can cause burning sensations in the eyes, nose and throat. Long-term exposure to moderate concentrations (at levels lower than those causing irritation) may worsen asthma symptoms. This is particularly true in children and infants. It may also be linked to other respiratory symptoms and allergic sensitivity.

  • Parabens: linked to breast cancer and effects associated with hormone disruption.

  • Phthalates: associated with effects from endocrine disruption, including damage to the female reproductive system, birth defects, and lower sperm counts.

  • Styrene: associated with cancer and neurotoxicity. Health effects of styrene include irritation of the skin, eyes, and the upper respiratory tract. Acute exposure may also result in gastrointestinal effects.

  • Toluene: linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity. Toluene is irritating to the skin, eyes, and respiratory tract. It can cause systemic toxicity by ingestion or inhalation. The most common route of exposure is via inhalation.

  • Xylene: linked to the effects of central nervous system depression, like headache, dizziness, depression, and impaired short-term memory. Exposure to xylene can irritate the eyes, nose, skin, and throat. Xylene can also cause headaches, dizziness, confusion, loss of muscle coordination.

  • Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs): substances that readily become vapors or gases. Because a wide range of substances are known as VOCs, the associated health impacts span a wide range. Numerous VOCs are known to be toxic. (Some of the other substances on this list are VOCs.)

Now that you know some of what is in air fresheners and why you should avoid them for you and the health of your family, lets look at some safe and healthy alternatives!

  1. For days where you are spending most of your time in the kitchen, why not stove top air freshener! Super easy to do and affordable! Take a large pot of water, add aromatic spices and fruits such as cinnamon sticks, citrus slices, mint leaves, rosemary sprigs and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to a simmer and let the aroma from the fruits and spices fill the air!

2. A DIY Reed Diffuser! Reed diffusers are typically bamboo or rattan reeds that are placed in a vase of fragrant oil. The reeds soak up the fragrant oil and gentle diffuses it into the air. Do it yourself by using a glass or ceramic vase or jar, some neutral carrier oil like sunflower or almond oil (do NOT use vegetable or olive oil, its too thick and wont work as effectively), 100% pure essential oils (not oils you buy at homesense or the dollar store!) and bamboo reeds. Fill the jar or vase with a 1/4 cup oil, 30 drops of essential oils and add 1-2 tablespoons of alcohol (as high an alcohol content as you can find) such as vodka, perfumer’s alcohol, or rubbing alcohol. This helps bind the oils together and thins out the oil enough to travel up the reeds more easily! Place the reeds into the jar and voila! You very own reed diffuser! After a few hours, flip the sticks over and insert the dry end into the jar to saturate the other end. Continue to swirl the jar and flip the sticks over about every week or so until the scent has diminished. Then, you can just add some more essential oils to the mix, swirl, and start again! You can find vases and jars around the house or even at the dollarstore, and the reeds you can find here on Amazon!

3. DIY Essential Oil Room and Linen Mists! This is by far my most favorite way to freshen any room! Essential oils are compounds extracted from herbs, flowers, barks, leaves, trees, and fruits! 100% pure essential oils are always what you should be on the hunt for! Why is this so important? Because since the rise of essential oils popularity, companies have taken advantage of this and have bottled FRAGRANCE oils and labeled them pure essential oils or all natural oils.

This is something to be aware of and I encourage every person reading this, that if you are going to purchase essential oils, contact the manufacturer and inquire with them or ask them questions! Nothing is more important than your health! As a company that deals with essential oils on a daily basis and who's values are behind the health and wellness of everyone who uses our products, we make 1000% sure we purchase pure essential oils from wholesalers that a) purchase from distillers and get the oils 3rd party tested for PURITY! Doing this, the 3rd party provides a document called GC/MS document that shows the complete constituency of the essential oils compounds as well as its purity! This document is provided to us upon purchase of each essential oil, every time we purchase it, and is available for anyone to see upon request!

I know this is long winded but we have heard countless stories of the awful reactions to our customers who have purchase oils they thought were essential oils from big box stores, only to find out that they were NOT 100% pure essential oils. I know it's tough, its a field that is not as regulated as it should be, but that's why its our job to make sure we are taking care of our own health!

SO all that being said, you need for this DIY: Pure essential oils, Purified water (not tap water due to bacterial content), a little vodka or witch hazel, and, ideally, a glass spray bottle!

Fill a 100ml bottle 90% full with water, add a little vodka or witch hazel (which adds to help kill bacteria in water as well as helps with scent anchoring), and then 50-100 drops of essential oils. You can mix different oils together to get the scent you are trying to achieve! Lavender and Rosemary are lovely, any citrus work well together, or even just straight up euclayptus makes a wonderful mist! Give the bottle a good shake, and mist away!! *Please note: Do not spray into face, onto animals or babies. These are meant to be sprayed into the air and onto linen. Some oils, such as clove and cinnamon, oregano and wintergreen, have active compounds in them that are harmful to pets. So please be mindful of the oils you use. Diffusing in this way is typically safe for pets, however never trap an animal in a room you are misting in.

4. A water diffuser! Another awesome way to use essential oils in the home is a water diffuser! These gained popularity over the past 3-4 years now! Plug in diffusers that have many different looks but all function the same! You will them with purified water up to a fill line, add 100% pure essential oils, and press the on button! Bam! Refreshing, all natural aroma filling your space! Many diffusers have duration timers on them! 3h, 6 h or ongoing until the water runs dry, to which most have auto shutoff functions. These are great if you have trouble sleeping, if you have respiratory issues, to help support the immune system or just an everyday pick me up! You customize it the way you want by choosing the oils you want to smell! Done with that smell? Empty the diffuser, give it a wipe, fill and add a new oil! You can even find ones that fit in cup holders of your vehicle and that plug into the lighter outlet or usb port! Same cautions apply as above! Not all oils are safe for children, babies and pets.

5. Last but not least, herbal sachets! These are fun and easy to make and make for a great craft to do with friends or with kids! Gather some dried herbs and flowers and place them in organza or cotton sachets. These can be placed in your glove compartment in your vehicle. Place in drawers and in closets or even in pillow cases and allow the gentle scent from the botanical offer a nice soothing air freshener!

There are so many options to turn to! Make your home and vehicle smell fresh using friendly products not only for the environment but for your health!

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