They lurk in buildings around the globe. They sit on the wall, have a flashing light, an intermittent beep and sometimes a motion sensor.
The race is on when I see an air freshener in a public washroom. My challenge is to get in and out of the washroom before the “psttttt” of synthetic chemicals is sprayed out of the air freshener.
I am capable of getting in and out of the “loo” at speeds Olympians or Formula One teams would be proud of. I challenge any F1 team to change four race slicks faster than I use a washroom after having spied an air freshener!
So why do I dislike air fresheners so much?
They emit synthetic chemicals alarmingly frequently and it is debatable whether the air is fresher or merely awash with toxins. The smell of “happy jasmine” will likely contain phthalates, which can cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems.
The Natural Resources Defense Council in the U.S. found phthalates in 86 per cent (12 of 14) of air freshener products tested — including those marketed as “all-natural” or “unscented.” Phthalates have been banned from children’s toys in 12 European countries.
Last year, when checking into a hotel I noticed an overpowering fragrance wafting through the reception area. I asked the staff why they fragranced the reception. The reply was that it “creates atmosphere.” But the manager did not know what sort of atmosphere that was!
Air fresheners are a $1.72 billion industry in the United States. But are they simply an Emperor’s-New-Clothes product?
Many hotel rooms have little plug air fresheners on the wall. I take the air freshener to the manager of the hotel and they usually admit (off the record) that they hate them too. Perhaps we would be wise to refuse to sleep in air-freshened rooms or wait in line in atmospheric receptions?
Solutions for non-toxic air fresheners are cheap and effective. Open a window or use a drop of essential oil on a cotton ball. It is so simple it seems ludicrous to pay money for toxins.
You can make your own air freshener with essential oils. I like orange, lemon or lavender. Baking soda in a small pot with 10 drops of essential oils will work in your bathroom or kitchen.
Or put a drop of essential oil on a tissue and leave it on the windowsill. Better still — open the window. Fresh air never smelled so good.
This article first appeared in The Question newspaper in British Columbia, Canada.
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