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In no way, shape or form does a chemically-scented fragrance and/or aerosols propelled by butane, propane or other toxins create an indoor environment of fresh air. Chemical "deodorizers" or chemical air "fresheners" only mask other odors. These products do absolutely nothing to improve the quality of indoor air, and in fact, can contribute to a host of ailments--from headaches, high pulse rate and nausea; to mention a few.

Reports of the dangers of chemical air fresheners are beginning to make the news. A recent MSN article stated that being exposed to air freshener chemicals as little as once a week can increase your odds of developing asthma symptoms as much as 71 percent and can contribute to an increased risk of a number of pulmonary diseases.

A September 2007 TIME Magazine article titled "How Fresh is Air Freshener" reported that the Natural Resources Council (NRDC) discovered that most chemical air fresheners contained variable amounts of phthlates. 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has no regulations on the use of phthlates, does not require the labeling of phthlates content on products and does not consider the quantities to which people are exposed to be harmful, even though studies have suggested that high exposure to certain kinds of phthlates can cause cancer, developmental and sex-hormone abnormalities in infants, and can affect fertility.

The biggest overuse of chemical air fresheners is the boom in metered deodorizers that has resulted in hundreds of thousands of chemical spray dispensers being placed in workplaces throughout America. (Acetone, Propane and Butane are three of the most common ingredients.)

Acetone -- the primary chemical in most of these products -- and propane are classified as cardiovascular or blood toxicants, gastrointestinal or liver toxicants, kidney toxicants, neurotoxicants, respiratory toxicants and a skin or sense organ toxicant. Butane is classified as a neurotoxicant which means that exposure can cause adverse effects on the central nervous system.

Source:  Air Fresheners: The Dangers of Indoor Chemical Pollution (published by  To read the report, click here.

Olfactory Fatigue

You should also be aware of "olfactory fatigue" which results from a normal but temporary inability to pick up a particular smell after being exposed to it for a long time. 

The apparent strength or intensity of a fragrance is dependent on the length of time the fragrance is inhaled. This phenomenon is termed "odor adaptation" or "olfactory fatigue." Upon initial exposure to a fragrance, the perceived intensity is maximum. After several minutes of exposure, the perceived intensity is substantially reduced, due to diminished sensitivity of the fragrance-sensing olfactory receptor cells and higher brain olfactory centers. After several additional minutes, many people are not able to detect the fragrance on themselves, especially if it was applied in close proximity to the nose.

When this happens in businesses using these commercial air fresheners, they (the management or employees) "turn up" the system. It often gets turned up beyond the limit recommended by the manufacturer which causes even greater harm to employees and customers.  

This is a common problem in hotels and other businesses that use commercial air freshening systems. Sometimes they "crank it up" so high that you can smell it in the parking lots, and it stays on your hair and clothes when you leave the building.

American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM)--Position Statement on Chemical Sensitivity

The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has published a position statement on Chemical Sensitivity.  Here is an excerpt:

Chemical sensitivity is a physical reality that our society will have to recognize and address. The word "sensitivity" implies that tiny exposures lead to big problems. The 90,000 chemicals commonly circulating in our modern world appear to be causing considerably more problems for humans than are typically recognized. Chemically sensitive persons, when reacting to even small chemical exposures, suffer with various symptoms that range in intensity from being unpleasant to being temporarily or even permanently disabling. Only too frequently this condition is unrecognized as it progressively leads to poor health, reduced activity, stressed social relationships and reduced job productivity.

Common incitants include pesticides; natural gas; petroleum-based solvents like toluene and benzene; volatile organic compounds (VOCs) like formaldehyde; heavy metals like mercury and aluminum; molds and the potentially dangerous mycotoxins they release; tobacco smoke; the phthalates and other endocrine-disrupting compounds, like bisphenol A, found in plastics; flame retardants like PBDEs; and automobile exhaust fumes; synthetic fragrances like perfumes, air fresheners, and other "pleasant-scented" products; newspaper print; personal care products; laundry detergents and fabric softeners; household cleaners; and fluoride-containing water and toothpaste, etc.

To read the AAEM's position statement on Chemical Sensitivity, click here.

Other Resources

Air Fresheners: Are they bad for my health? (published in Prevention Magazine by Andrew Weil, M.D., October 2008). Click here.

Fragrance in the Workplace: What Managers Need to Know (published by the Journal of Management and Marketing Research). Click here.

How Fresh is "Air Freshener"? (published in Time Magazine, September 24, 2007). Click here.

Fragrance in the Workplace is the New Second-Hand Smoke (published in the Proceedings of the ASBBS, Volume 16, Number 1, Annual Conference in Las Vegas, February 2009). Click here.

Labor Law Center article on "New ADA Guidelines for Fragrance Sensitivity" (posted May 16, 2016). Click here.

Scented Secrets (published by the Environmental Working Group). Click here.

A major loophole in federal law allows fragrance manufacturers to hide potentially hazardous chemicals in product scents, including substances linked to allergies, birth defects, and even cancer. 

Job Accommodation Network: Employees with Fragrance Sensitivity (Accommodation and Compliance Series). Click here.

Fragrances are made from chemicals

Most consumer fragrances and fragranced products are made from chemicals and are harmful to humans and pets

U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC)--Indoor Environmental Quality Policy

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control enacted an Indoor Environmental Quality Policy in 2009. Here's an excerpt:

Scented or fragranced products are prohibited at all times in all interior space owned, rented, or leased by CDC. This includes the use of:

• Incense, candles, or reed diffusers
• Fragrance-emitting devices of any kind
• Wall-mounted devices, similar to fragrance-emitting devices, that operate automatically or by pushing a button to dispense deodorizers or disinfectants
• Potpourri
• Plug-in or spray air fresheners
• Urinal or toilet blocks
• Other fragranced deodorizer/re-odorizer products

Personal care products (e.g. colognes, perfumes, essential oils, scented skin and hair products) should not be applied at or near actual workstations, restrooms, or anywhere in CDC owned or leased buildings.

In addition, CDC encourages employees to be as fragrance-free as possible when they arrive in the workplace. Fragrance is not appropriate for a professional work environment, and the use of some products with fragrance may be detrimental to the health of workers with chemical sensitivities, allergies, asthma, and chronic headaches/migraines.

To read the CDC's Indoor Environmental Quality Policy, click here.

Fragrance-Free Policies

Many businesses, universities, organizations and government agencies have adopted fragrance-free policies. In North America, Canada has taken the lead on policy. Halifax is considered the “most scent-aware region” in North America. The Regional Municipality of Halifax, the provincial government, businesses, public transport, many performances spaces, hospitals and educational institutions, and a number of public places and institutions have adopted voluntary scent-awareness policies. The University of Calgary, University of Toronto and McMaster University have established similar policies on their campuses. 

Here are a few additional examples in the U.S. and Canada:

U.S. Access Board (federal government agency). Click here.

Brigham & Women's Hospital. Click here.

University of Toronto (Canada). Click here.

City of Portland, Oregon. Click here.

Queen's University, School of Medicine, Department of Radiology (Canada). Click here.

Canadian Centre for Occupational Health & Safety (CCOHS): Scent-Free Policy for the Workplace (Canada). Click here.

University of Missouri. Click here.

American Lung Association (sample fragrance-free policy). Click here.

American Lung Association (sample fragrance-free policy for schools). Click here.

HR and Employment Law News (sample wording for a fragrance-free policy). Click here.

36th District Court (busiest courthouse in Detroit, Michigan). Click here.

Air Fresheners

Air fresheners have a negative effect on indoor air quality due to the chemicals used to create these products. Acetone, propane and butane are three of the most common ingredients in air fresheners. Acetone and propane are classified as cardiovascular or blood toxicants, gastrointestinal or liver toxicants, kidney toxicants, neurotoxicants, respiratory toxicants and a skin or sense organ toxicant. Butane is classified as a neurotoxicant which means that exposure can cause adverse effects on the central nervous system.

Phthalates are also used in air fresheners. The U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) tested 14 common air fresheners. Even though none of those products listed phthalates as an ingredient, they found phthalates in 86% of the products. It is important to note that several of those products claimed to be all-natural or unscented.

In a 2015 study, they discussed how the chemicals in air fresheners “react with ozone to produce secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde, secondary organic aerosol (SOA), oxidative product, and ultrafine particles.”

These pollutants then adversely affect human health, in many ways such as damage to the central nervous system, alteration of hormone levels, etc. In particular, the ultrafine particles may induce severe adverse effects on diverse organs, including the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems.

Dr. Anne Steinemann's research

Dr. Anne Steinemann has done a great deal of work in regard to the chemicals used in fragrances, air fresheners and everyday products. The following excerpts are from one of her reports:

Society is suffused with fragranced consumer products: air fresheners, cleaning products, soaps, hand sanitizers, laundry supplies, and personal care products, to name a few out of hundreds. Fragranced products emit a range of volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as terpenes (e.g., limonene), which often dominate pollutants found indoors and generate secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde.

Despite numerous laws designed to protect human health and the environment, no law in the US requires the disclosure of all ingredients in fragranced consumer products. Protections on ingredient disclosure depend on the product. For all fragranced consumer products, the general term “fragrance” can be listed on the label, or a related term (such as “perfume”), rather than the specific ingredients in a fragrance. Yet an individual “fragrance” in a product is typically a complex mixture of several dozen to several hundred chemicals, primarily synthetic compounds.

Fragranced Consumer Products: Exposures and Effects from Emissions. Click here.

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