Can Air Fresheners Cause Breathing Problems?

Whether you want to make your home smell like scented candles or essential oils, there is always an air freshener for that. Indeed, there is a variety of fragrance options available to meet the needs of everybody. But do you know that these sweet-smelling products might have some damaging effects on your health?

Over the past few years, many scientific studies have revealed that many common air fresheners in the household contain some chemicals which would be possibly harmful.

Can Air Fresheners Cause Breathing Problems?

While most air fresheners might smell sweet, many studies have shown that they contain many hazardous chemicals which can cause serious breathing issues with average exposure.

Even “all-natural” products which are often marketed as organic often contain these toxic components. This should not be surprising because fragrance products don’t remove bad odours but only cover them up.

Basically, our lungs work as a pair of filter which can get rid of millions of toxic particles every day. But when you are directly exposed to some harmful substances found in air fresheners, these body parts can’t filter out everything and let many of them penetrate your body.

As a result, they will increase the risks of breathing problems, especially in those people whose lungs are highly susceptible like kids or asthma suffers. Keep in mind that children might have as many as 20 times greater exposure than adults due to their degree of activity and size.

For this reason, it is essential for households to consider the possible risks of air fresheners and make better choices for their health. The main concerns should be long-term exposures. You can’t notice the effects of these products after a few weeks or months.

But using them year after year might result in these mentioned health issues, such as asthma, respiratory tract irritation, or allergies.

5 Chemicals To Keep An Eye On Air Fresheners

If you want to use air fresheners in your home, it is necessary to understand the presence and effects of the following chemicals:

Volatile organic compounds or VOCs

VOCs are the byproducts of airborne gas released by a variety of household products, such as paints, disinfectants, and air fresheners. Some of the most prevalent forms are widely considered as hazardous and toxic include acetate, pinene, d-limonene, ethanol, and acetone.

Depending on your sensitivity and exposure, VOCs can have many health effects such as throat and nose irritation, headaches, nausea, and damages to your central nervous system.


Formaldehyde is a type of carcinogen that can lead to many symptoms such as coughing, nose irritation, dizziness, or bronchitis. Some common indoor sources of this substance include paints, resins, cosmetics, cleaning products, and air fresheners.

The risks can be increased when you combine these options with fragrance. To ensure safety, you can purchase a testing kit and measure the level of formaldehyde in your home.


Many air fresheners, including unscented and all-natural products, contain phthalates, which are often used to carry and dissolve fragrance. However, many studies have shown that this chemical is associated with changes in levels of hormone, poor quality of semen, or even birth defects.

1,4 DCB

1,4 DCB (dichlorobenzene) is another main ingredient in many air fresheners, room deodorisers, and mothballs. Many studies have shown that it might trigger minor reductions in your lung function. The only way to protect yourself, particularly kids who have respiratory diseases, is to minimise the use of these products.


For those with a common cold, chronic asthma, or seasonal allergies, air fresheners are a definite no-no because most of them contain many allergens or irritants to your airways. Direct exposure to these substances might worsen the inflammation and lead to more serious breathing issues.

Safer Alternatives To Freshen Your Home

If you are worried about the breathing issues caused by chemicals in air fresheners, but still want your living space smell good, then it is better to go for natural sources.

Only pure, natural sources would be completely free of chemicals. Keep in mind then even essential oils can release some similar harmful substances to air fresheners. For example, you can grind up fresh oranges or brew mint tea to create a healthy and sweet fragrance.

It is also important to clean the air in your home regularly to eliminate any offensive smells. Make sure to avoid cigarettes, aerosol products, and check your bathroom or kitchen vents to ensure they direct moisture and odours outside.

Wash your bedding and clothing at least twice per week. Even when they don’t annoy you, these personal items might build up odours which might irritate others.

Another simple way to freshen up is to keep your home well ventilated just by opening the windows and letting fresh air come in. By doing this, you don’t need to use any air fresheners, which are chemical mixtures used to mask smells rather than clean or disinfect the air.

The best odour is no odour, meaning that you should keep the air in your home always circulate and be fresh.

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