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For many years I purchased the car fresheners that pop into the vent and basked in the fresh scent of pine, clean sheets, or Hawaiian breeze. As I researched, I learned most air and car fresheners contain a variety of fragrances and essential oils. Despite their popularity, there are growing concerns that these products increase indoor air pollution and pose a health risk, especially with long-term exposure.


According to a study conducted by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), 86% of air fresheners tested contained phthalates.The UK’s Public Health Centre for Radiation, Chemical and Environmental Hazards has revealed that air fresheners typically contain Formaldehyde. Formaldehyde is a well-known human carcinogen that has been definitively linked to cancers of the nose and throat. It is also known to cause ongoing irritation of the throat and airways, potentially leading to dangerous infections, frequent nosebleeds, asthma, and other respiratory ailments, says the US government’s National Toxicology Program.


These risks are particularly elevated in the elderly, infants, and people with compromised immune systems. In fact, a 2013 study of more than 2,000 pregnant women, posted in the International Journal of Public Health, reported that women who used plug-in air fresheners during gestation were statistically far more likely to have babies that suffered from serious lung infections.2 Without definitively knowing exactly what is in these products, it is impossible to know which do and do not contain potentially harmful chemicals. Environmental groups repeatedly warn against the use of many air fresheners, while industry representatives maintain that such products pose no risk. For more information about the hazards of certain fragrances found in common household products like air fresheners, click here.


If you would like to maintain a fresh smelling home or car, use the following:


  • 1½ - 2 cups distilled water
  • 1 tablespoon baking soda
  • 5 to 8 drops of your preferred essential oil (click here for scents)


You can find empty, refillable clip-on bottles online to hang in your car or to clip into your vents. Mix the ingredients into a spray bottle or empty clip on container and enjoy. One oil can do the trick, or a combination of oils can be used as long as they are mixed proportionately.




1 - "Hidden Hazards of Air Fresheners." NRDC, www.nrdc.org/sites/default/files/airfresheners.pdf.


2 - "The Hidden Health Hazards Of Plug-In Air Fresheners." The Indoor Doctor, www.indoordoctor.com/