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Air Fresheners and Fragrances

Artificial air fresheners and other fragranced products have become common in many municipal office buildings and other town-owned facilities, despite the propensity of these products to trigger asthma attacks in affected individuals and cause eye and throat irritation for others, even from short-term exposures.

Many of the chemicals contained in commercial air freshening products contain, among other things, phthalates, a class of hazardous chemicals known to cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects, and reproductive problems. An independent test of fourteen common air freshening products conducted by the National Resources Defense Council showed phthalates were present in all but two of them, including many listed as "unscented."

air freshener spraying

Other chemicals commonly found in air fresheners, scented candles and other fragranced products can have serious long-term health impacts, including an increased risk of cancer. Children and pregnant women are particularly vulnerable to these toxins. Good ventilation and regular cleaning is still the best way to keep the air fresh. 

Beyond Toxics provides information on the dangers of hazardous ingredients found in air fresheners and provides alternatives to these harmful products. 

The NRDC has published a pamphlet called Protect Your Family from the Hidden Hazards in Air Fresheners.

The Connecticut Department of Public Health produced this comprehensive fact sheet on air fresheners that details problematic ingredients, as well as good alternative practices to reduce the need for air fresheners.


Ten Questions Concerning Air Fresheners and Indoor Built Environments is a science-based article published in the journal "Building and Environment".



[1] Nørgaard, A., et al. (2014). Ozone-initiated VOC and particle emissions from a cleaning agent and an air freshener: Risk assessment of acute airway effects. Environment International, 68, 209-218.

[2] Kim, S., et al. (2015). Characterization of air freshener emission: The potential health effects. The Journal of Toxicological Sciences, 40(5), 535-550.

[3] Kim, J., et al.  (2018). Risk assessment to human health: Consumer exposure to ingredients in air fresheners. Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology, 98, 31-40.

[4] Cohen, A., et al. (2007). Clearing the Air: Hidden Hazards of Air Fresheners. (pp. 1-16 Issue Brief). New York, NY: National Resource Defence Council.

[5] Dodson, R. E., et al. (2012). Endocrine Disruptors and Asthma-Associated Chemicals in Consumer Products. Environmental Health Perspectives, 120(7), 935-943. 

[6] Wolkoff, P., & Nielsen, G. D. (2017). Effects by inhalation of abundant fragrances in indoor air - An overview. Environment International, 101, 96-107.

[7] Apte, K., & Salvi, S. (2016). Household air pollution and its effects on health. F1000Research, 5, 2593.

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