The Dangers of Air Fresheners in Office
The use of air fresheners in our indoor environments has become mainstream. Fragrances are marketed with promises of providing ambiance, atmosphere, freshness, clean air, healthy air or “purified” air, void of harmful or foul smells. Hanging their hats on the notion that fragrance will enhance a customer’s experience or an employee’s comfort and solve malodor issues, many business across all industries have brought fragrances into their spaces – stores, department stores, supermarkets, public restrooms, hotels, and restaurants. Business offices too use fragrances, often to mask unpleasant odors that linger and cause employees to complain or feel discomfort. But many businesses are bringing in fragrances into their office spaces without realizing the dangers it imposes on employees and how it may actually be negatively affecting their office and business.
What’s Made Up of Air Fresheners
There is an ever increasing spectrum of different kinds of air fresheners and fragrances available in the market today – natural or mechanic diffusers, automatic, timed or hand-held sprays, gels, scented objects, candles etc. And all of them (unless it uses only certified natural essential oils), contain an array of manmade chemicals, many of which are toxic and harmful.
Some of the common chemicals found in air fresheners and artificial fragrances include:
- Phthalates, known to affect the human reproductive system, development in infants, and is also linked to the cause of cancers.
- Benzene, known to cause harmful effects on bone marrow, decrease in red blood cells and development of cancers (the WHO recommends zero exposure to this).
- Formaldehyde, also linked to cancer development and is listed by several worldwide agencies such as the CDC and WHO as a “known human carcinogen”.
- Synthetic Musks, known to damage hormone functions in the body leading to hormone-related diseases, infertility, birth defects, breast and ovarian cancers, and type II diabetes etc.
These chemicals are found in almost any product that includes artificial fragrances and certainly in the majority of air fresheners. Short term exposure alone to these toxic compounds can result in respiratory tract irritations, eye or skin irritations, headaches, dizziness, fatigue, nausea and memory impairment, the development or aggravation of allergies, asthma, sleeping disorders. And long term exposure can lead to the development of more serious health problems as mentioned above.
Potential Health Risks
Despite the glaring potential health risks, consumers are not protected. The multi billion dollar air freshener industry has proven to be extremely reluctant and skillful at avoiding having to list the specific chemical contents of their products. Therefore, irregardless of the fact that so many of the chemicals used in fragrances and air fresheners are on the black lists of so many health monitoring bodies, consumers cannot fully be aware if they are exposing themselves to them. Even if a business or an office cannot stretch its mind to worrying about the potential development of cancer in employees, it should at least consider the short term effects it is having on daily health as well as the daily business operations. Think about it: heachaches, dizziness, fatigue, memory impairment are not winning ingredients to a healthy office space, a healthy organization or a healthy business.
Best Solutions For Odor Issues
If introducing air fresheners into the office is motivated by the desire to create a more pleasant, fresh environment with a some ambience and style, then the best thing to do for the organization’s health is to find natural ways to introduce scent (organic essential oils, peppermint, lemon, orange, fragrant plants, organic and natural potpourri, herbal sachets etc). If the introduction of air fresheners is brought on by odor issues, then the most important thing to do first is to address the source of the malodors.
Adding scent from air fresheners on to an existing odor issue is only polluting that air MORE, as air fresheners and fragrances are not capable of eliminating the causes of bad odors – they are only capable of masking them.
For odors to truly be eradicated, they must be oxidized and destroyed at a molecular level. So it is best to find a solution that is capable of oxidizing the sources of bad odors, and produce fresh, clean, truly healthy air without the use of ANY chemicals.