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What You Really Breathe In When You Spray Chemical Air Fresheners Return to Homepage

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The Facts
By Scott Rauvers founder of

Research Studies have shown that breathing indoor air can be 7 times more pollutive than outdoor air.  This is because your furniture, carpets,  floors, insulation, plastics and all other objects in your home emit very fine particles of waste, odors and microscopic bacteria. Chemical based air  fresheners do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of indoor air, and in fact, can contribute to a host of ailments from headaches, high pulse  rate and nausea; to mention a few. As of January 2012 Glade and Frebreeze have quietly removed the ingredients from their labels.  

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Next to pharmaceuticals there is nothing more heavily advertised than deodorizers or air fresheners. They come in all sorts and sizes, metered  sprays, plug-ins, sticks, wicks, mists, aerosols, carpet "cleaners," scented candles and even scented stones. 


They can be found in every American business and home including bathrooms, lobbies, hallways, office spaces and, most frightening, nurseries.


Many people are unwittingly cleverly seduced via advertising to ensure that as many rooms as possible have these "fresheners" circulating various  chemical scents throughout the house.  Gullible consumers extend this passion by installing "fresheners" in their cars.  By doing this they now have  a mixture of pollution coming from the interior of their car, along with an additional 3rd element, pollution from idling cars while sitting in traffic filling  the cars interior with toxic chemicals and increasing the risk for respiratory disease.


Due to loopholes and favoritism regarding the chemical perfume industry, companies pushing these products aren't even required to list the  ingredients of anything labeled as "fragrance."  Walk into any wal mart or large department store and pick up a can of Febreeze or other major air  freshener, you will find no ingredients listed on tier labels.


In no way, shape or form does a chemically-scented fragrance and/or aerosols propelled by butane, propane or other toxins create an indoor  environment of fresh air.  The way chemical "deodorizers" or chemical air "fresheners" work is by masking the original cause the odors. 


A recent MSN article stated that being exposed to air "freshener" chemicals as little as once a week will increase your odds of developing asthma  symptoms as much as 71 percent.  It can also contribute to an increased risk of a number of pulmonary diseases, and a 2006 study showed that  people with high blood levels of the chemical 1.4 dichlorobenzene -- commonly found in air fresheners -- were more likely to experience a decline in  lung function.


A September 2007 TIME magazine article, 'How "Fresh" is Air Freshener' reported that the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) discovered  that most chemical air "fresheners" contained variable amounts of substances called phthalates (pronounced THAL-ates).  Besides the use of  phthalates used as sealants and adhesives and to soften plastics, they are also used to dissolve and carry fragrances.  It also stated that  "phthalates are commonly found in a variety of products, including cosmetics, paints, nail polish and children's toys -- and have long been at the  center of a larger international controversy over their health effects." 


In the United States, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no regulations on the use of phthalates, does not require the labeling of  phthalates content on products and does not consider the quantities to which people are exposed to be harmful, even though studies have  suggested that high exposure to certain kinds of phthalates can cause cancer, developmental and sex-hormone abnormalities in infants, and can  affect fertility. 


Let's take a look at the ingredients and warnings in common household air fresheners.


Metered Aerosol Sprays

These are found in hundreds of thousands of chemical spray dispensers in workplaces.  They typically hold 7-ounce aerosol cans. The estimated 3,400 - 3,900 metered sprays per can are triggered by battery-operated automatic aerosol dispenser units several times an hour. 


These cans contain a "CAS" number following each chemical name.  This is a uniform number given most chemicals in the chemical industry which can be looked up in the MSDS Book (Material Safety Data Sheets).  Let's take a closer look: Peach, Product # 465, Big D Industries, Oklahoma City, OK, 73148 1-800-654-4752   Ingredients: Acetone (CAS # 67-64-1); Liquefied Petroleum Gas (CAS # 68476-85-7); Fragrance (no CAS #).  The label states, "Strong drafts of forced air or wind will remove the effectiveness of the deodorant..."  In other words, one is to assume, keep it confined.  Compare that with the warning on this next one:


Clean & Fresh, Time Mist, Waterbury Companies, Inc., P.O. Box 1812, Waterbury, CT, 06722 985-878-6751.  Ingredients: Acetone (CAS # 67-64-1);  Diethylene Glycol Monoethyl Ether (CAS # 111-90-0); Propane (CAS # 74-98-6); Perfume (CAS # N/A); and C8-C9 Isoparaffinic Hydrocarbons (CAS # 64742-48-9)  "Excessive inhalation in confined areas may cause headaches or dizziness." 


Tropical Trade Winds, Health Gards (can you believe the audacity of such a brand name?)  HOSPECO, Cleveland, OH 44143, 440-720-1800.  Ingredients: Petroleum distillate, aliphatic (CAS # 64742-47-8); Ethanol (CAS # 64-17-5); Propane (CAS # 74-98-6); Butane (CAS # 106-97-8); Isobutane (CAS # 75-28-5).  "Just remove the cap and hand spray to prime the area."  "Deliberately ... inhaling the vapor of the contents may be harmful or fatal." 


Cinnascent Time Mist, Pelican Brand, Long's Preferred Products, Inc., 2630 Broadway, Alexandria, LA, 71302, 800-444-6373   Ingredients: Acetone (CAS # 67-64-1); Fragrance (N/A); Propane (CAS # 74-98-6); Butane (CAS # 106-97-8)  "Avoid inhaling spray mist or vapor."


Acetone the primary chemical in most of these products and Propane are classified as cardiovascular or blood toxicants, gastrointestinal or liver toxicants, kidney toxicants, neurotoxicants, respiratory toxicants and a skin or sense organ toxicants.


Butane is a neurotoxicant, which means that exposure can cause adverse effects on the central nervous system.


Acetone, Spectrum Chemical, a top chemical listings service, warns that "The most probable human exposure would be occupational (workplace) exposure, which may occur through inhalation." 

Isoparaffinic and Aliphatic Hydrocarbons are classified as toxic. Also, since hydrocarbons are chemical compounds containing only hydrogen and carbon, they literally suffocate oxygen in the bloodstream.


This is what people are unconsciouslly using to mask their odors. Especially as it dispenses a spit or a fine mist over your head while you're in a rest room, physician's waiting room, picking up your child at day care, or even in a restaurant dining area.


Scented Oils

Glade Plug-Ins Manufacturer: S.C. Johnson & Sons, Racine, Wisconsin.  Ingredients: "Amorphous Fumed Silica, Fragrance." Regulatory information: "All ingredients in this product are listed or excluded on the U.S. Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Chemical Substance Inventory."


Regarding "Amorphous Fumed Silica," OSHA states that overexposure to respirable crystalline silica can cause silicosis, a "disabling, non reversible and fatal lung disease."   Amorphous is defined as being shapeless, or to lack form; and fumed, of course, is to emit fumes.   And since "fragrance" can mean anything, S.C. Johnson is clearly taking advantage of the exclusion clause of the TSCA to push its product, regardless of whatever health hazards that may result from use of it.


Glade Car Scented Oil Manufacturer: S.C. Johnson & Sons, Racine, Wisconsin.  Ingredient(s): "Mixture of perfume oils."  Exposure limit/toxicity: Not established. Inhalation Health Hazards Identification: "Irritation to nose, throat and respiratory tract."  First Aid Measures: "Remove to fresh air." 


S.C. Johnson & Sons won't even list the "mixture of perfume oils" ingredients. Thier products attach to your car's dashboard air vent, enabling the fumes to circulate throughout your car.  The MSDS of Glade Care Scented Oil warns that "Irritation to nose, throat and respiratory tract" is a possible health hazard.  Presumably, then, you're supposed to hold your breath as you drive while using this product. 


Air Wick Scented Oil Manufacturer: Reckitt Benckiser, Inc., Wayne, N.J. "Scented oil is used in an adjustable plug-in air freshener unit."   Ingredients: "Proprietary fragrance oils." 


Again, "fragrance oils."  Yet because of special privileges and loopholes granted to the chemical industry in regards to perfumes and fragrances, Air Wick is not required to disclose the "proprietary fragrance oils" ingredients.


Carpet "Deodorizers"

Carpet Fresh Carpet Refresher  Manufacturer: WD-40, 1061 Cudahy Place, San Diego, CA, 92110.  800-448-9340.  The product is a white powder that is sprinkled onto carpeting, then vacuumed up.  Ingredients: Fragrance oil.  CAS number: Not established.  Hazard data: Not established.  Effects of inhalation overexposure: Possible mild mucous irritation.  First Aid Procedure: Remove to fresh air.


If "Fragrance oil" is the only ingredient listed, then what is the white powder?  What is WD-40 concealing, and why would a product that's listed as a "refresher" possibly cause a consumer to have to be removed from it to fresh air?  Perhaps the following will provide a clue: 


Carpet Fresh No-Vacuum Carpet Refresher  Manufacturer: WD-40.  Ingredients: Liquefied petroleum gas (CAS # 68476-85-7), Isopropanol (CAS # 67-63-0).  "Inhalation: No adverse effects experienced in an otherwise healthy individual exposed to this product during normal use.  Excessive inhalation can cause headache, drowsiness, nausea and lack of coordination." 


"Otherwise healthy individual."  "Normal use."  Just don't stay in a motel with a frail parent or with an infant where this product was used (or, more commonly, overused by housekeepers). 


OSHA has classified liquefied petroleum gas as an asphyxiant (a chemical -- gas or vapor -- that can cause death or unconsciousness by suffocation) and a narcosis (a stupor or unconsciousness produced by exposure to a chemical).  And like other chemicals listed on this page, isopropanol is classified as a cardiovascular or blood toxicant, a developmental toxicant, an endocrine (glands) toxicant, a gastrointestina or liver toxicant, a neurotoxicant, a reproductive toxicant, a respiratory toxicant and a skin or sense organ toxicant. [8]


Arm & Hammer Foam Carpet Deodorizer Manufacturer: Arm & Hammer  (No Address or phone number found on its website.)  The product comes in a 16-oz. can that sprays out as a foam onto the carpet, and once dried, it's vaccumed up. Although this product is available at practically any retail store such as Wal-Mart for consumers to buy and use in their homes, an Arm & Hammer spokeswoman explained that the company only sends out MSDS's to businesses, not "individuals."  The spokeswoman did, however, read over the phone the three ingredients listed on the carpet deodorizer. These ingredients are "Fragrance, surfactants and baking soda." 


Again -- and again -- fragrance can mean anything. While baking soda is certainly a safe product, surfactants are, as the spokeswoman explained, "a detergent compound."   Arm & Hammer's Foam Carpet Deodorizer is simply another perfumed mask to counter foul-smelling carpeting with dangerous chemicals that Arm & Hammer wishes to conceal from "individual" consumers.


This page lists just a few of the several most popular "deodorizers" available  practically anywhere.  Another sad fact is many of these air fresheners use steel containers, once empty are tossed into the trash, contributing to valuable landfill space. When they are crushed, their residue leaks into the clean pure ground water, and water treatment plants, which aren't equiped to filter these chemicals, as they are largely ignored by regulators.  Thus, the chemical pollution to our drinking, cooking and bath water is another serious side effect from these products:. 



1., 'Scented Secrets'
2.  'Air Fresheners: Are they bad for my Heath?' by Andrew Weil, M.D, 'Prevention,' October 2008,, Acetone
3.  TIME, 24 September 2007, 'How "Fresh" is Air Freshener?",8599,1664954,00.html
4. Ibid
5., Propane
6., Acetone MSDS
8. 'Hazardous Materials & Waste  Management,' Nicholas   P. Cheremisinoff, p. 138
9., isopropanol

For more info read my the article, "Dangers of The Dangers of Pharmaceutical Prescriptions" at

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