Air Fresheners and Indoor Air Quality

There’s nothing nicer than the smell of a freshly cleaned home. If your home has a funky smell, or has developed one recently, you might be tempted to use air fresheners to improve your indoor air quality – but they might be doing a lot more to your indoor air quality than adding a pretty smell.

While ‘forest mist’ might smell more appealing in your indoor air quality than ‘musty basement’ does, the chemicals in air freshening products could be harming you or your family’s health, and it’s important to be aware of what you’re putting into your sindoor air quality.

A recent survey of scented home products showed that they emitted more than 100 different volatile organic compounds (VOC). Not every VOC is hazardous to your health and indoor air quality – VOCs are in many of the things we enjoy: spring flowers, fresh rosemary, and new strawberries. A VOC is an organic compound that, at room temperature, volatizes and evaporates into the air, which is what we smell when we, for example, zest a lemon. The fresh scent of lemon is, of course, not a bad thing for your indoor air quality, but when it takes the form of a chemically based air freshener, the VOCs it is emitting may not be quite as good for you.

In the survey, the VOCs released into your indoor air quality by these products included:

  • Acetone, which is better known for being part of nail polish remover. It can irritate the nose and throat, or even cause dizziness and confusion. Long term effects from prolonged acetone exposure in your indoor air quality may cause nervous system problems.
  • Ethanol will cause headaches, fatigue, and red, burning eyes in some people – while being the active ingredient in many of your favourite alcoholic beverages, at high concentrations, and when it is derived from petrochemicals, ethanol is a dangerous chemical to be released into your indoor air.
  • Methylene chloride is used as a solvent to break down materials in air fresheners – it is suspected to be carcinogenic, and like acetone and ethanol, can cause headaches, dizziness, and headaches.
  • Formaldehyde is used as a preservative, but is a known carcinogen, and causes respiratory symptoms.

If you’re wondering if it’s only chemical scents that cause indoor air quality trouble,  think again – something like limonene, which is a compound produced naturally by lemons and which gives them their distinct smell, can mix with other chemicals in the air and form secondary pollutants like formaldehyde in your indoor air quality.

Even if you have a good HEPA filter as part of your HVAC system, your indoor air quality may still be affected by some of these harmful VOCs: acetone and formaldehyde, for example, have such small particles that they often pass straight through the filter.

If you have a lingering smell in your home, the safest way to improve your indoor air quality isn’t to plug in air fresheners – the only permanent way to getting rid of odours from your home is to get rid of the problem. At SafeAir, we take your indoor air quality seriously, and can assess your home for indoor air quality problems and track them to their source, recommending healthy and safe ways of freshening up your home that won’t just hide the source.

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