Is It Safe? Air Fresheners and Fragranced Candles

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Somewhere along the way in the past 20 years, synthetic fragrances have exploded into practically every area of the home. And it’s not terribly surprising: kitchens and bathrooms, diaper bins, and pet areas especially, have lots of unpleasant odors that we’d all love to avoid.

But when it comes to conventional chemical air fresheners and fragranced candles, just say no. The scientific community is still divided. But there’s enough risk that’s been documented to give us pause over their use.

While the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency haven’t weighed in, the National Resource Defense Council tested 14 air fresheners and concluded that many contain chemicals like phthalates and formaldehyde that can cause developmental and reproductive problems, especially for infants. Once these chemicals enter the bloodstream through the lungs or skin, they can alter hormone levels and cause birth defects, reproductive problems and asthma.

Fragranced candles, typically made of paraffin wax culled from petroleum, are no better, according to the American Lung Association. The soot from burning them, especially the scented candles, is toxic and can become easily embedded in the lungs. In addition, some wicks contain lead, known to cause brain damage in children (not surprisingly, the National Candle Association disagrees).

Also, keep in mind: air fresheners and fragranced candles don’t eliminate odor, they only mask it. If you want to mask something smelly or just simply have a nice aroma surround you, try California Baby’s organic I Love You Everywhere Spritzer. There are some nice natural herb satchels on the market — or simmer some lemon, cinnamon, cloves or ginger in water to spread a lovely scent around the house (baking a batch of brownies or cookies always does the trick, too!). Candle lovers: look for safer, natural 100 percent beeswax candles.

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