Aerosol air fresheners never seemed like a good idea to us, although we did use them once in a failed attempt to cover up the evidence of a previous tenant's pack-a-day habit. But now there's real reason to pause: the San Francisco Chronicle reports that recent testing from a group including the Natural Resources Defense Council found phthalates, which function to make PVC plastics flexible. (We have no idea what they're doing in air fresheners, but we're beginning to think we need a resident Apartment Therapy chemist.)
Props to Walgreen's for pulling three of the products with the highest phthalate levels off the shelves, and shame on the Consumer Specialty Products Association, whose spokesperson, Bill Lafield, made a particularly disingenuous comment.
According to the Chronicle, Lafield said that air fresheners "contribute to the quality of life. Fragrances have been used for centuries, dating back to when the Chinese and the Egyptians used incense and fragrant oils. They obviously have a value, or consumers wouldn't buy them."
...just like cigarettes? Something tells us that the only benzene, formaldehyde, and phtalates in early Chinese incense and Egyptian oils were naturally occcuring and at trace levels. Let's remember that we're talking about a product that contains phthalates, which, according to lab studies, interfere with hormonal systems, disrupt testosterone production, and cause malformation of sex organs. To say that air fresheners "contribute to the quality of life" is specious, but an understandable response to an attack on a $1.72 billion industry.
The article lists a several good ways to keep things smelling fresh:
• Keep things clean.
• Use baking soda to absorb odors.
• Make your own potpourri.
• Open a window.
• Bake something (This suggestion is particularly appropriate for week 2 of the cure!)
Read the NRDC press release here.