Common household air fresheners are laced with chemicals that may mimic hormones and affect reproductive development, and the government is asleep at the switch when it comes to assuring the safety of these products, according to a Natural Resources Defense Council analysis. Even some brands marked "all natural" contain the synthetic chemical linked to endocrine disruption.
"Manufacturers are getting away with marketing products as 'natural' when they're not, and that's because no one is stopping them," said Mae Wu, an attorney in NRDC's health program. "Our research suggests this could be a widespread problem in a booming industry that -- so far -- has been allowed to do what it wants." The federal government, according to the NRDC, does not currently test air fresheners for safety or require manufacturers to meet any specific safety standards. "More than anything, our research highlights cracks in our safety system," Dr. Gina Solomon, NRDC senior scientist, said in a statement made available to the press.
"Consumers have a right to know what is put into air fresheners and other everyday products they bring into their homes. There are too many products on the shelves that we assume are safe, but have never even been tested." NRDC says it tested 14 different brands of common household air fresheners and found that 12 contained the hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates. Only two, Febreze Air Effects and Renuzit Subtle Effects, contained no detectable levels of phthalates. The products that tested positive included ones marketed as "all-natural" and "unscented." None had phthalates in the list of ingredients or anywhere else on the label. The three with the highest level of phthalates were Walgreens Air Freshener, Walgreens Scented Bouquet, and Ozium Glycolized Air Sanitizer.
NRDC said there was cause for concern, but not panic. Any risk comes from long term repeated exposure, and those most susceptible are unborn babies exposed in the womb or young children whose reproductive systems are still undergoing development. Some phthalates have been shown to disrupt normal testosterone functioning, but the specific risk of low-dose exposure is still being explored actively by scientists. It used the study as a vehicle to advance a policy: To expand the Consumer Product Safety Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency to asses the risk of air fresheners and set up a comprehensive testing program. NRDC also hopes to work with the industry to find alternatives to phthalates. About three out of four households use air fresheners, and the $1.72 billion industry has grown 50% since 2003.
For more information, go to: www.simplesteps.org
To see the report, click here.
Enter your city or zip code to get your local temperature and air quality and find local green food and recycling resources near you.