The Hidden Dangers of Home Fragrance Products

As cooler weather sets in and images of fall baking and cozy evenings fill our minds, it's only natural to want to scent your home to match the mood of this fragrant, yummy time of the year. "Pumpkin spice and everything nice" seems to be the mantra of the season. When it comes to home fragrance this season, we have good news and bad news.  

First, the bad news:
 Many of us are not aware that several conventional scenting products available in stores, such as candles, room sprays and plug-ins, are often full of harmful chemicals. Let's break it down and take a look at some of the toxins you could be releasing into the air of your home without even knowing:

Conventional air freshener sprays often contain:

  • Formaldehyde: A known eye, nose, and throat irritant also linked to asthma attacks, nausea, and even cancer risk.
  • Petroleum distillates: Environmentally damaging to produce, these chemicals have been linked to causing and/or irritating preexisting asthma, pneumonia, and lung damage.
  • Aerosol propellants: Another environmentally harmful substance that has been linked to increased cancer risk.
  • Paradichlorobenzene (p-DCB): A known skin irritant that's also been linked to increased risk for a host of other health issues, including liver damage.

Conventional scent plug-ins often contain:

  • Pthalates: Plasticizers used to hold color and scent in air fresheners, these have been linked to a host of health problems, including endocrine disruption and reproductive health issues.
  • Allergens: Several known respiratory and skin allergens have made their way into these household products undetected, because laws in our country dictate that they don't have to be printed on the label (like they do in Europe, for example).
  • Synthetic musks: (Doesn't that just sound gross?) These substances are potential hormone disruptors and have been shown to be bioaccumulative (meaning their presence can build up in the body over time).

Sources: Cassidy Randall of Women's Voices for the Earth, Ron and Lisa of The Healthy Home Dream Team, and green beauty author and blogger Kimberly Snyder 

Conventional candles often contain:

  • Paraffin: Used as the base of most mass-produced candles on the market today, paraffin wax is a petroleum by-product produced using sludge waste from crude oil. When burned, paraffin releases several undesirable chemicals into the air, most notably:
    • Benzene: According to the CDC, prolonged exposure to benzene can negatively effect the body's bone marrow and even lower your red blood cell count, leading to anemia.
    • Toulene: OSHA standards for toluene exposures for workers are strict, thanks to evidence that it can lead to a host of health problems, including: irritation of the eyes and nose; weakness, exhaustion, dizziness, headache; anxiety, muscle fatigue, insomnia, and dermatitis, to name just a few. Prolonged exposure has also been linked to kidney and liver damage.


So, now that we've faced the bad news about conventional home fragrance options, don't worry - there's good news, too: 

There are still plenty of totally safe, natural alternatives to synthetic air fresheners when it comes to scenting your home for fall! Here are some of our favorites to get your home smelling delicious this season, no nasty chemicals needed:

1. Essential oils

For you essential oil lovers, try this simple, scrumptious recipe from The Mountain Rose Blog for a DIY Pumpkin Spice Aroma you can diffuse throughout your home. The mix of cardamom, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove will have you feeling warm and cozy in no time! Don't have all the scents listed? Experiment with your own combinations to create a unique signature fall scent.

2. Simmering spices

Next time you're at the grocery store, pick up a few extras of your favorite fall spices, like cloves, ginger and cardamom. You can easily toss them on the stove to simmer with some apple and  orange slices and cinnamon sticks to quickly fill your home with a dreamy fall aroma. We love this DIY recipe from blogger Jessica Merchant.

3. Natural home sprays

Our good friends at C & Co. Naturals make some amazing (and completely toxin-free) home and linen sprays, scented with only the highest-quality natural ingredients. A good rule of thumb when checking ingredient lists for scent products like this is that it should be short (say, 5-10 ingredients versus 30) and it should be easily readable. C & Co. proudly meets these standards with all the simple, lovely products they create. We carry their heavenly Lavender scent, and they also craft Rosemary & Lemongrass and Sweet Orange & Clove scents at their Asheville-based shop. A couple quick spritzes is all it takes to scent an entire room - no lighter required.

4. Non-GMO soy or beeswax candles

If you just love the warm, cozy feeling that lighting a candle creates, there are some safe alternatives out there to paraffin wax. Just be very cautious when checking your ingredients. Like with natural sprays, lists should be short and readable. These lists from the Honest Company's Soy Candles provide a good example. And if you see the word "fragrance" (also sometimes called "perfume" or "parfum"), it's a no-go - this is a word used to conceal thousands of harmful, unstudied chemicals, under the guise of protecting "trade secrets" for companies' signature scents. If a company can't tell you exactly what ingredients go into making their products smell good, you probably don't want to know, and you definitely don't want them released into the air of your home.

So, beauties, which of these yummy treats will you use to cozy up your home this fall? Do you have any tricks you use to scent your home without candles? Let us know in the comments below!



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