Is Smelling Air Freshener Bad For You?

Is Smelling Air Freshener Bad For You

Last updated on June 4th, 2021

Air fresheners do contain hazardous chemicals that are distributed throughout the air around you. Once the air freshener has been sprayed, these chemicals then last in the room for longer than you might think, allowing you to enjoy the fresh scent. 

However, some researchers believe that these chemicals are harmful to your body and therefore should not be used. Air fresheners put VOCs into the air, which reduces the air quality in your home. Air purifiers will work to remove VOCs, indicating that they’re something that we don’t want to be inhaled into our lungs. 

These chemicals can disrupt the lungs and irritate them. To the average person, this won’t affect them too much. However, to allergy sufferers and asthmatic people, this could be very dangerous to their compromised lungs. 

The most common VOCs found in air fresheners are acetone, d-limonene, ethanol, acetate, and pinene. These are all classified as either toxic or hazardous to the human body, which doesn’t fill us with confidence when people say that air fresheners are safe. 

With that being said, not every researcher believes that air fresheners should be banned from use. Kent Pinkerton, the director of the Center for Health and the Environment at the University of California Davis, specializes in inhalation toxicology. 

Pinkerton believes that our lungs are powerful enough to filter these VOCs to prevent them from causing any harm. However, people with compromised lungs, children, and older people might suffer more from smelling air fresheners.  

How do solid air fresheners work?

Solid air fresheners trap air within a plastic case that also features solid air fresheners. These air fresheners then release their scent into the trapped air, making a very concentrated amount of scented air. This is released back into the room and disperses around the house. 

As the scented air travels further into the room, the scent will become less concentrated and leave a much more enjoyable scent rather than an overpowering one. Solid air fresheners can trap and release air throughout the day and night, so you can enjoy the scent regularly rather than having to spray an aerosol. 

Solid air fresheners are safer to use around children and people with compromised lungs, although some of these types of air fresheners are safer than others. Despite the fact that the solid air freshener isn’t sprayed into the room, it can still let off harmful chemicals such as phthalates. 

Be sure to read the ingredients before opting for a solid air freshener to ensure that it is safe to use around your entire family, including children and pets. 

What are the side effects of air fresheners?

Breathing in air fresheners has been known to cause a number of health concerns in people. Even at low levels, you can feel the effects of air fresheners. Some of the most common side effects include migraines, headaches, asthma attacks, respiratory and breathing difficulties, dermatitis, mucosal symptoms, neurological problems, and ventricular fibrillation. 

In children and babies, the side effects for babies can also include earache and diarrhea. Using an air freshener can also cause respiratory problems in pets. Babies and pets have smaller lungs and therefore are more at risk of severe side effects from air fresheners. 

Using air fresheners inside can contribute to indoor air pollution, which can interrupt your sleep and everyday activities. 

In a recent study of a nationally representative sample of the United States population, 20.4 percent of people reported health concerns after being exposed to air fresheners. Below is a broken-down list of this statistic: 

  • Respiratory problems: 9.5%
  • Mucosal symptoms: 7.6%
  • Migraines and headaches: 7.2%
  • Skin problems: 5.7%
  • Asthma attacks: 4.6%
  • Neurological problems:3.2%
  • Cognitive problems: 2.7%
  • Gastrointestinal problems: 2.7%
  • Cardiovascular problems: 2.6%
  • Musculoskeletal problems: 2.4%
  • Immune system problems: 1.8%
  • Other health concerns: 0.7%

As you can see, this is a considerable amount of worrying side effects from air fresheners. Some people might argue that as only one-fifth of the population suffered from these side effects it’s not as urgent as we might think. 

However, a one in five chance of you or another family member feeling one or more of these side effects is rather scary when you think about it. With the possibility of subjecting them to these side effects, it’s a wonder why people risk using air fresheners at all. 

Is air freshener a gas or liquid?


Aerosol air fresheners begin as liquids inside of the canister before turning to gas as it is sprayed into the air. Our noses are programmed to detect gas molecules better than liquids, which is why we can smell a much stronger scent as soon as the air freshener is sprayed. 

The fact that air fresheners turn to gas before being sprayed into the air is why they give off VOCs. Liquid would be safer to an extent, although it would still be possible for some VOCs to enter the air around you. 

Some air fresheners do come in liquid form, in which a highly scented liquid is slowly evaporated and dispersed into the air. These tend to be automatic so that you don’t have to manually use the air freshener to enjoy it. However, this means that the liquid air fresheners last for a less significant amount of time.  

Air fresheners can also be solid, in which the liquid is solidified into a block and powerfully fragrances a small amount of air to be released into the rest of the room. These, again, are often automatic and you can decide how often you want them to work. The higher the frequency you choose to set them at, the quicker they will lose their strong scent. 

With that being said, the most common air fresheners are aerosol cans, and therefore these can be categorized as both a gas and a liquid as they go through both states before scenting your room.   

How does an air freshener work?

Air fresheners use volatile substances to freshen the air it’s sprayed into. Volatile substances are another term for molecules that can easily change from liquid to gas, no matter the temperature. As our noses are better tuned to detect gas molecules rather than liquids, the volatile substances allow us to smell the air freshener for longer and enjoy the scent. 

Aerosol air fresheners are the most common and this term simply means to ‘dissolve in the air’. The aerosol air freshener sprays a liquid into the air which quickly evaporates before your very eyes and turns into a gas. 

Liquid air fresheners allow the scented liquid to be dissolved into the air at a regular pace so that the air is always smelling nice. This is the same for solid air fresheners that give off volatile substances into the room. 

An air freshener does not remove the odor from the room but masks it with another, stronger scent. As this scent is typically nicer than the one you’re trying to get rid of, your nose will focus on the air freshener rather than the unpleasant smell.

Continuous use of air fresheners can anesthetize your nose to reduce sensitivity around the bad smell. Over time, this will reduce the bad odor’s impact on you and you won’t smell it as much.