We often hear about the dangers of outdoor air pollution. What about the potential health risks from exposure to indoor airborne pollutants? Every day, we use a multitude of household products, such air fresheners, that could release Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) into the air inside our homes. (1)
Usually, the levels of VOCs in houses are low enough that they don’t cause health problems in the short-term. However, the possible long-term health effects from low levels of VOCs are still somewhat unknown. (1) It’s important to note that research has linked increased cancer rates with exposure to high levels of certain VOCs, such as formaldehyde. (1)
The state of California lists some components found in air fresheners as “toxic air contaminants,” including certain chemicals that are recognized as “carcinogens or reproductive toxicants.” (2) In addition, the US federal government regulates some of the chemicals found in air fresheners as “hazardous air pollutants.” (2)
Although, it’s not just exposure to the primary components within air fresheners that could be toxic. Secondary products can be produced when the VOCs from these household products react with other airborne chemicals in your home. (2) Inhalation of these secondary products could also present health risks.
The Canadian government recommends limiting the amount of scented products (ie. plug-in or aerosol deodorizers) used within homes in order to lower the concentration of VOCs indoors. (1)
In short, artificial air fresheners contain potentially harmful chemicals that you don’t want lingering in your house. Below you will find a stovetop recipe for an all-natural air freshener that will put a lovely cinnamon orange scent in the air.
Spiced Winter Citrus Air Freshener
– peel from 1 organic orange
– 2 cinnamon sticks
– 4 whole cloves
– 5+ cups of water
Add all the ingredients to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Then, reduce the heat to low. Allow the mixture to simmer uncovered for as long you want the aroma to be released into the air.
Refill the saucepan with more water as needed as it boils off throughout the day.
You can save this natural air freshener and reuse it for a few days. Simply store it in a plastic or glass container in your refrigerator at night to keep it from going bad. Make sure to label it in your fridge since this mixture is NOT edible.
– Courtney Tyler, thankfulvegan.com
1- Government of Canada’s Information on Volatile Organic Compounds. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/air-quality/indoor-air-contaminants/volatile-organic-compounds.html (accessed Jan. 8, 2018).
2- Nazaroff, W.W. and Weschler, C.J. “Cleaning products and air fresheners: exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants.” Atmospheric Environment. 2004. 38: 2841-2865.