Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Air Fresheners: Look and Sniff Before You Spray

Some hostesses go mad with the air freshener sprays around holiday time. They're being sprayed to give a little toxic holiday ambiance, and in the bathrooms to cover up the shocking evidence of children home for the holidays. It’s gross, but true: Just about every college student on the planet is guilty of using air fresheners to put off laundry day or sweeten the smell of a musty college dorm room. These days the handy little spray-bottles-of-clean are used to freshen up just about anything, including underarms and that pair of jeans you’ve worn for four days in a row. But masking not-so-fresh smells with yet another smell can hurt more than your social life. Many aerosol refreshers are tainted with toxic phthalates, which have been linked to birth defects and reproductive harm. A 2007 Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) study found that the hormone-disrupting compounds in 12 out of 14 common air fresheners and none of these products listed phthalates on their labels. Many of these products were labeled “natural” or “unscented.” Febreze Air Effects Air Refresher, unlike thirteen others in NRDC's tests, was found to be free of toxic phthalates, which have been linked to birth defects and reproductive harm. In response to the tests, Walgreen’s last week pledged to remove all phthalates from its branded air fresheners. For the list of phthalate-tainted products, including Glade Air Infusions and both Febreze and Glade scented oils, go to http://www.nrdc.org/. Of course, there are many dozens more air fresheners on the market that haven’t been vetted for phthalates. What to do?
1. Look Before You Spray. Read labels. If you see the word “Fragrance,” it’s likely that the manufacturer is taking an advantage of an FDA labeling loophole that allows users of synthetic fragrance to avoid mentioning specific ingredients—including phthalates, used to disperse synthetic scents. Look instead for specific essential plant oils, preferably organic.
2. Do a Sniff Test. Before buying any fragranced product, natural or not, spray some from a tester to see whether it produces sneezes or itchy eyes. Strong fragrances, particularly citrus or pine, can provoke irritation and allergic/asthmatic reactions. And remember, when it comes to any perfume, a little goes a long way, so you needn’t overdo it.
3. For greener products, see http://greenerpenny.blogspot.com/2007/04/unclean-air-fresheners.html Pass this info on to your odor-phobic college student, teen or preteen, mom, mother-in-law.

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