Scented plug-ins, candles, and sprays can provide a lovely ambiance, especially during the cold winter months. But the images they bring to mind – of pine trees or spring flowers – are a long way from what is actually permeating your home. And the promise that they will make the air “fresher” couldn’t be more inaccurate!
Most fragrances are created from a chemicals stew that has been found to pose serious health risks. Here are some of the ingredients of concern that may be used, and the health issues attributed to them:
Petroleum – used to create fragrances as well as pesticides and many food additives, they can trigger ADHD symptoms, headaches, respiratory problems, and neurological dysfunction, among other effects.
Phthalates – linked to behavior problems, reproductive disorders including early puberty, birth defects, obesity, and damage to the nervous system.
Formaldehyde – a probable human carcinogen, it can cause respiratory distress and nausea.
Benzene – a culprit in leukemia, damages the blood by reducing levels of platelets and white blood cells.
Parabens – a likely cause of breast cancer, gastrointestinal problems, and immune system damage.
1,4-dichlorobenzene – most-likely a human carcinogen, damaging to kidneys and liver, and a trigger for asthma.
Camphor – considered a hazardous waste product, can cause dizziness, nausea, and convulsions.
Naphthalene – linked to kidney damage, cataracts, cancer.
Pinene – a flammable chemical that damages mucous membranes.
Consumers don’t have a way of knowing what chemicals are in scented products since the Food and Drug Administration considers them trade secrets that companies are not required to disclose.
Do they really get rid of unwanted odors? No, in addition to covering up odors, the chemicals work by coating the nasal passages with an oily film, blunting the ability to smell.
Healthy air freshener alternatives
- To help get rid of unwanted odors, good old baking soda will absorb unwanted smells. In place of perfumed sprays, try spraying ZorbX, an unscented liquid that will absorb odor molecules.
- Add some pleasant scents with natural ingredients. Put citrus peels in a warm oven, or toss them into the fireplace where the heat will release the tangy oils.
- Put apple slices, a cinnamon stick and bit of vanilla extract in a pot of water and simmer it on the stove.
- Place some good quality essential oils (such as Rocky Mountain Oils) in a diffuser to add fragrance without harm. But be aware that there are many products claiming to be essential oils that are diluted with unwanted chemicals. Genuine essential oils might appear expensive, depending on the plants from which they are sourced, but they are potent so you may be able to use only a drop or two.
- For scented candles without headaches or worse, go online to check out Ava Anderson’s products that are made with coconut wax and bee’s wax, plus essential oils.
Editor’s note: I use Rocky Mountain Oils in our home, and you may want to check them out as well. I find them to be much less expensive than other oils sold through multi-level marketing. They don’t, however, skimp on quality, and are transparent in their quality control efforts. If you’re new to essential oils, below are some you may want to try to get started. Definitely check out the “Explore” tab on their website and find “essential” information there. And be on the lookout for sales! When you sign up for their newsletter, you’ll get advance notice… ~ Pat
Breathe Ease Essential Oil Blend – When (or if!) you catch that winter sniffle, this blend is crafted to help revitalize your respiratory system.Immune Strength Essential Oil Blend – During the holidays and winter months, when we’re near lots of people and often stuck inside, passing around colds is easy. Boost your line of defense!Rosemary Essential Oil – This oil can also be used for cleaning and, along with a soothing carrier oil, makes a great skin tonic when the air is drier and the temps are cooler.