According to Professor Anne Steinemann, air fresheners are more dangerous to our health than we realize. Dr. Steinemann is an internationally recognized scientist, with more than 20 years of experience helping people create healthier living and working environments. In this Q and A article she goes into detail discussing ten common and relevant questions about air fresheners. She warns that even ones called green and organic can emit potentially hazardous chemicals. Dr. Steinemann also suggests that over 20% of the general U.S. population report adverse health effects from air fresheners.
The ten questions are posted below, with answers for two of them included in part. For the full discussion, see here. This report is technical, with references provided. If you are having trouble making sure your work space or school is scent-free, article has the information you need to make your case.
Ten questions on air fresheners
- What are air fresheners? (See below)
- Where are air fresheners used?
- What do air fresheners emit? (See below)
- How do air freshener emissions affect the indoor environment?
- How do air freshener emissions affect human health?
- Do air fresheners disclose their ingredients?
- Do emissions from “green” air fresheners differ from regular air fresheners?
- What about involuntary exposure to air fresheners within indoor environments?
- What are possible solutions or alternatives?
- What are research directions needed for science, health, and policy?
#1: What are air fresheners?
Air fresheners are consumer products that emit a fragrance to provide an aroma to a space, to mask an odor, or both. Air fresheners come in numerous versions, including sprays, gels, oils, liquids, solids, plug-ins, hanging disks, beads, potpourri, wick diffusers, and scented candles; in active or passive forms; and with instant, intermittent, or continuous release.
Air fresheners also include so-called air care, deodorizer, odor control and neutralizer products. In addition to site-specific units or portable products, air fresheners can include scented air systems, which deliver fragrance throughout a space, such as by connecting a fragrance diffuser to the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning system. In this paper, air fresheners are considered as products designed to impart an aromatic fragrance or a masking fragrance into the air; they are not considered to include air cleaning devices designed to filter or purify the air.
#3 What do air fresheners emit?
Air fresheners emit over 100 different chemicals, including volatile organic compounds (terpenes such as limonene, alpha-pinene, and beta-pinene; terpenoids such as linalool and alpha-terpineol; ethanol, formaldehyde, benzene, toluene, and xylene) and semi-volatile organic compounds (such as phthalates) .
Air freshener emissions can also react with indoor oxidants, such as ozone (O3), hydroxyl radicals (OH), and nitrate radicals (NO3), to generate a range of oxidation products.
For instance, primary emissions such as terpenes can readily react with ozone to generate secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde and acetaldehyde, glycol ethers, free radicals (such as hydroperoxy and alkyl peroxy radicals), and ultrafine particles.
Factors that influence emissions of secondary pollutants include ingredient composition, ingredient concentrations, reactive chemistry, and product usage.
For more on #3 and the remaining questions, please see the full article printed in Building and Environment.
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