Air Freshener Dangers: A Completely Dishonest Media Myth

Did you know that air fresheners are the second deadliest creation since rat poison?

That’s the type of lie that you would be led to believe if you listened to nobody but popular media outlets when shopping for an air freshener.

The line of thinking goes like this: Air fresheners contain chemicals. Some of these chemicals are harmful to humans if you eat them or expose yourself to them in very large quantities. Therefore, air fresheners are dangerous and will kill us all.

The only problem with this logic is that nobody with a brain is eating their air freshener, or spraying an air freshener aerosol directly into their mouth and breathing it in.

The scientific studies that these media outlets rely on to produce these fear mongering headlines usually do not say what the media headlines are leading you to believe. Just because a chemical is toxic in large doses, does not mean it is going to harm humans who inhale a tiny amount of it via an air freshener.

When used responsibly, air fresheners have a very small chance of causing health problems. The only exception is for hyper-sensitive individuals such as those with asthma, which I will discuss further below.

The “Phthalate” Chemical Concern

This is the area where most of the concern lies. Phthalates are a type of chemical used in many air fresheners to help the fragrance spread out through the air.

While humans should not go out of their way to breathe phthalates, there are no studies that have proved that phthalates in small quantities such as from a normal plugin air freshener can be harmful to humans who breathe them.

The only real science that shows a danger of air fresheners is that some people do report headaches, allergies, or asthma caused by strong air freshener scents. These are not necessarily correlated with phthalates, because even natural air fresheners can cause these symptoms. Instead, it is more likely that some people just do not handle certain scents, or strong smells in general, very well.

The studies showing phthalate toxicity usually go something like this: We fed phthalates directly to rats in large quantities. The rats developed cancer. Therefore, humans should not touch phthalates.

Do you see the problem here? The problem is that many things are dangerous in large doses but not harmful in small ones. Many are also dangerous if you consume them but not if you touch them. Nobody is prying open their air freshener and drinking the scented fluid inside.

The Ridiculous Concern Over “Volatile Organic Compounds”

This is the worst offender by far. So many media outlets tell you to avoid “volatile organic compounds” which create scents in air fresheners.

There’s just one problem with that: volatile organic compounds are completely natural, and actually totally unavoidable in everyday life.

The media intentionally abuses the word “volatile” in this phrase to scare people needlessly. All the word “volatile” means in this case is that the organic compound, which is a scent-producing particle, dissipates rapidly into the air. This dissipation into the air is what causes the scent in the first place. Without scent-producing particles being “volatile” in the air, we would never be able to smell them because they would just stick to the surface where they originated.

Every plant and food that has a scent is producing volatile organic compounds. These organic compounds that spread around the air are where natural scents come from.

This means that when you smell the flowers outside, you are inhaling large quantities of volatile organic compounds. The very dishonest media outlets, who are just trying to grab your attention via fear-mongering headlines, would have you believe that these molecules are somehow capable of harming you. Such ridiculous nonsense should be dismissed entirely.

Just because some people are allergic to a certain scent, does not mean that the particles creating that scent are inherently dangerous to human beings. Just because one person has a sensitive nose that will sneeze at the smell of citrus, does not mean that we should ban lemon-scented air fresheners.

The Real Danger Of Air Fresheners

So, is there anything to actually worry about with air fresheners? Well, yes, a little bit.

The only real problem that air fresheners can cause is that some people are allergic to the smell of them. Air freshener allergies can occur with both natural and unnatural scents, and nobody can predict accurately in advance which scent an individual person is going to be allergic to.

Because allergies are unpredictable, it is generally advised to not use strong scents around young toddlers who cannot talk yet. If they are allergic, they won’t be able to let you know, which means they may suffer from allergies or asthma attacks and you won’t even know that it’s happening.

To avoid developing allergies, another tip is to simply not use air fresheners in very strong quantities. Many air freshener devices have an adjustment knob that allow you to turn down the scent. If have a sensitive nose, then don’t use large quantities of air freshener in small enclosed areas like a bathroom or a car.

Another obvious warning is to never let young toddlers take hold of an air freshener that could be a choking hazard. If a young kid gets into air freshener chemicals like those found in a plugin refill cartridge and actually starts eating them or smearing them on his face, then he could actually develop the problems that the fear-mongering media outlets were claiming would happen to everyone.

How To Avoid Air Freshener Chemicals Entirely

If you’re still scared of air fresheners and their scented chemicals, then the best solution is to use an odor remover that doesn’t put any new chemicals into the air.

I recommend a few different odor-removal options, depending on your specific needs.