Pregnant women and air-fresheners

Air fresheners and pregnant women.

Air fresheners and pregnant women.

Target Audience

Pregnant women, their unborn foetus and babies up to 6 months of age have been identified as vulnerable to adverse health effects as a result of chemical exposure from air fresheners in the home due to the length of time spent in this environment (Farrow, Taylor, Northstone & Golding, 2003). Social media is an appropriate information source, in particular Facebook, with 81% of Mother´s using this platform and 66% seeking parenting information from it (Duggan, Lenhart, Lampe & Ellison, 2015).

Is ¨fresh¨ really best?

Air fresheners come in many forms including scented candles, incense, gels, aerosols and electric diffuses. They do not ¨purify¨ the air and instead emit chemicals known as volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the environment to mask odours. These chemicals can be, but are not limited to benzene, toluene, ethylene, limonene, linalool and xylene (Kim, Hong, Bong & Cho, 2015). These chemicals have their own health risks which can include reproductive complications, delayed growth of the unborn foetus, headache, shortness of breath, kidney and liver damage (Kim, Hong, Bong & Cho, 2015). The VOCs also react with other particles in the air to form secondary pollutants including, formaldehyde, which has detrimental health effects, and other ultra- fine particles (Kim, Hong, Bong & Cho, 2015). These particles can cause breathing problems and cardiovascular disease (Kim, Hong, Bong & Cho, 2015). The use of air fresheners during pregnancy may increase the risk of wheezing and infections in the new born (Casas et al., 2013).

Current labelling legislation in Australia means that as the consumer, you are not informed of all the chemicals released by the air freshener. A study conducted by Steinemann (2015) found that 94% of hazardous VOCs were not disclosed on the products analyzed and are generally labelled as ¨perfumes¨.

Would you expose yourself or your family to hazardous chemicals with known adverse health effects, when researchers are yet to find out if the amount of each chemical being released overtime is safe for human exposure and the full extent of long term health effects remains unclear?

To eliminate the need to use an air freshener conduct an assessment in your home to identify and remove the cause of unpleasant odour. Always ensure good ventilation by opening windows and using exhaust fans. Empty bins regularly and use sun light to air odour causing items. Squeezing a lemon is just as effective at freshening the air, and safe too! (Farrow, Taylor, Northstone & Golding, 2003).


Casas, L., Zock, J.P., Carsin, A.E., Fernandez-Somoano, A., Esplugues, A., Santa-Marina, L., Tardon, A., Ballester, F., Basterrechea, M., Sunyer, J. (2013). The use of household cleaning products during pregnancy and lower respiratory tract infections and wheezing during early life. International Journal of Public Health, 58(5), 757-764. doi: 10.1007/s00038-012-0417-2

Duggan, M., Lenhart, A., Lampe, C., & Ellison, N.B. (2015). Parents and Social media. Retrieved from

Farrow, A., Taylor, H., Northstone., K & Golding, J. (2003). Symptoms of Mothers and Infants Related to Total Volatile Organic Compounds in Household Products.  Archives of Environmental Health: An International Journal, 58(10), 633-641. doi:10.3200/AEOH.58.10.633-641

Kim, S., Hong, S., Bong, C., & Cho, M. (2015). Characterization of air freshener emission: the potential health effects. The Journal of Toxicological Sciences, 40(5), 535-550.

Steinemann, A. (2015). Volatile emissions from common consumer products. Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, 8, 273-281. doi:10.1007/s11869-015-0327-6.

 Leonie Arnold