Air freshners may be doing more harm than good

Something in the Air



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One winter when I was very young a can arrived in the mail from some relatives who were vacationing in Florida. Just like a postcard, the label of the can was printed with a view of Miami Beach, alongside a place for our address and a first class stamp. Across the top of a photo of coconut palms were printed the words: “Fresh Ocean Air from Miami Beach!”

I was just young enough to believe that the can actually contained air captured on the beach in Miami. I even imagined what the seaside open-air canning factory might look like, with workers holding up cans to catch some breeze and then quickly sealing the cans and boxing them to send off to local gift shops.

You’d have to be a child, or very naive, to believe that ocean air could really be canned. And yet, there are many who believe that by spraying chemicals from a can they’ll “freshen” the air in their home. Chemicals can infuse the air with a scent that mimics fresh aroma, but in some cases they can actually make the air unhealthy.

Gradual buildup

Many household products contain solvents called volatile organic
compounds (VOCs).
And in this case the word “organic” doesn’t imply a health benefit. Far from it.

Two typical VOCs (used in many commercial air fresheners) are benzene; a carcinogen that’s been linked to leukemia, and xylene; a toxic petroleum byproduct that’s been associated with headaches and cognitive impairment.

Researchers at the University of Bristol in the UK examined the effects of VOCs on mothers and infants enrolled in a large, ongoing study known as Children of the 90s. More than 10,000 mothers in this study responded to questionnaires regarding the use of products known to raise VOC levels. The questionnaires also gathered information about known symptoms of VOC exposure. In addition, 170 of the subjects agreed to
have VOC levels monitored in their homes for one year.

The Bristol team reported these findings:

*In homes where air fresheners were used daily, mothers averaged nearly 10 percent more frequent headaches than mothers in homes where air fresheners were used once a week or less

*In the “daily” homes, mothers had more than 25 percent higher
risk of depression compared to mothers in the “once a week” homes

*In the “daily” homes, infants were 32 percent more likely to
suffer from diarrhea

*Infants in the “daily” homes had significantly more earaches
than infants in “once a week” homes

In their published study in the Archives of Environmental Health, the
researchers noted that the daily use of air fresheners and other aerosol products created a gradual accumulation of VOCs. And while the study focused on mothers and infants, the researchers believe that VOCs may cause similar reactions for anyone who spends a significant amount of time at home, such as retirees.

Set on simmer

In a press release from the University of Bristol, the lead author of
the study, Dr. Alexandra Farrow, noted that until further research is
done on air fresheners and aerosols it would be wise to limit the use of these products. Her suggestion: “Squeezing a lemon is just as effective at freshening the air.”

I agree. Over the holidays I stopped by a friend’s house and the moment I walked through the front door I noticed a very appealing aroma. This was not the result of something sprayed out of a can or injected into the air in a puff of smoke from a “fragrancer” unit. My friend had simply filled a large pot with water, tossed in some orange rinds, apple slices and cinnamon, and set the stovetop burner on low.

The result: A subtle and inviting aroma without the unnecessary extra baggage of benzene, xylene or any other VOCs.



You wouldn’t knowingly bathe in toxins every morningor set out to
ravage your lungs and sinuses, irritate your allergies, aggravate your skin, orperhaps most horrifying of all

Willingly increase your risk of cancer would you?

Visit below to find out how to purify your water of chlorine and the
dangerous chlorine by-products that are putting your health at risk.
and another thing

I came across this Valentine’s Day treat in the Bangkok Post: chopped oranges with dark chocolate and cinnamon, topped with peppermint oil.

And here’s the best part: You don’t eat it.

Every year as Valentine’s Day approaches, TV news-readers dust off the story about dark chocolate actually being good for you. Yep, it’s practically health food according to some.

You can file that one under “Modern Delusions.”

In the e-Alert “Dark Shadows” (9/3/03), I told you about two studies
that examined the “health” benefits of eating dark chocolate. Cocoa beans contain polyphenols; antioxidant compounds that we’ve frequently written about at HSI. Polyphenols don’t make it through the processing of milk chocolate and white chocolate, but they’re still on board in dark chocolate.

But if you happen to be looking for sources of polyphenols that don’t promote obesity and type 2 diabetes, you can always put down the candy bar and eat polyphenol-rich fruits and vegetables or drink tea and red wine.

Meanwhile – back in Bangkok – the Chocolate Lover’s Special is a
two-and-a-half hour treatment offered to Valentine couples at Centara Spa. The itinerary:

*Cleaning the skin with chopped orange and mineral salts

*Dark chocolate full body wrap (includes cinnamon and detoxifying

*Peppermint oil soak


This procedure is reasonably priced at just 5,494 baht per couple (about $145).

Supposedly, the skin enjoys benefits from antioxidants in the dark
chocolate. I can’t confirm that, but I’ve got a hunch that when you’re
finished, you and your Valentine will be in one of those good
“chocolate” moods.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

To Your Good Health,

Jenny Thompson
Health Sciences Institute


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“Symptoms of Mothers and Infants Related to Total Volatile Organic Compounds in Household Products” Archives of Environmental Health, Vol. 58, No. 18,

“Air Fresheners Can Make Mothers and Babies Ill” Press Release, University of Bristol,

“Romance Lives” Stay Peerawat Jariyasombat, The Bangkok Post, 2/10/05,