Clear the Air

Clear the Air
Clear the Air


Avoid artificial air fresheners and other scented products. Instead, use fresh flowers and greens to freshen your home. Choose beeswax and organic candles, which emit fewer toxics than candles made from paraffin. And be sure to select candles with cotton wicks rather than metal core wicks, which often contain lead.

Join a national environmental advocacy group. Increasingly, such groups are making a difference. After the Natural Resources Defense Council tested 14 air fresheners from Walgreens, for example, and found them to contain “a veritable cocktail” of chemicals, including some that have been linked to development problems in infants and breathing difficulties in adults, thousands of Walgreens stores pulled the air fresheners from their shelves. Lend your help to such efforts.

A Silent Spring Institute study found that air fresheners may be associated with an increased risk of breast cancer. A team of the Institute’s researchers questioned 787 women diagnosed with breast cancer and 721 comparison women on their product use, beliefs about breast cancer causes, and established and suspected risk factors.

The results showed an association between breast cancer and cleaning products, air fresheners, and insect repellents. Little association was observed with overall pesticide use, however.

A later Silent Spring Institute study found that, of common consumer products, those with fragrance—including perfume, air fresheners, and dryer sheets—had the largest number of suspect chemicals and in some of the highest concentrations.

“Scent” as an ingredient often signifies the presence of phthalates, which are endocrine-disrupting chemicals that have been associated with cancer, impaired fertility, and male birth defects.