Pronounced exposure to air fresheners harmful –Experts

Medical experts have urged Nigerians to be more cautious with the use of air fresheners, noting that inhaling air fresheners can cause serious health problems including cancer, migraine headache, and respiratory problems.

Inhaling air fresheners, the experts added can also trigger asthma and worsen the health condition of those already living with it among other health complications.

The experts explained that unknown to many people, there are some chemicals used in the production of air fresheners that are harmful to the human system, noting that some of the chemicals have been linked with cancer, heart, and lung disease.

According to the public health experts, there are serious dangers in air freshener fragrances, stressing that many studies describe them as the new second-hand smoke.

Speaking with PUNCH HealthWise, the experts, a professor on public health, Prof. Tanimola Akande, and a public expert at the Olabisi Onabanjo University Teaching Hospital, Sagamu, Ogun State, Dr. Laolu Adetoye, said research has shown that chemicals used in the production of air fresheners, such as limonene, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and toluene, harm the body.

While describing the chemicals as toxic, Dr. Adetoye said that exposure to excessive air freshener fragrances can cause cancer, birth defects, allergies, and damage to the central and peripheral nervous systems.

He said, “For instance, the chemical toluene is problematic since it has been associated with a wide range of health issues, from minor to serious. This neurotoxin can harm the central nervous system, heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver in addition to causing headaches, irritability, brain fog, and other symptoms. additionally to more severe issues like memory loss, hearing or vision loss, and even death when a person is exposed to high quantities.

“Fragrances can weaken the immune system, leaving it at risk for developing serious illnesses. According to a report that analyzes the Immune effects of respiratory exposure to fragrance chemicals, some chemicals found in fragrance, particularly isoeugenol and cinnamal, are irritants to our bodies and can induce cell proliferation.

“The immune system may get weakened by fragrances, making it more susceptible to deadly infections. According to a paper that examines the immunological consequences of breathing exposure to fragrance chemicals, certain scent molecules, in particular isoeugenol and cinnamal, are irritating to human bodies and can cause cell growth.”

Prof. Akande noted that air freshener products have to be labeled with caution, lamenting that many users are unaware of the health hazards connected with air fresheners.

He said, “Very few people are aware of health risks associated with air fresheners in Nigeria. This is more so because the containers hardly contain information on the side effects of the air fresheners that people buy.

“Air fresheners are a source of indoor air pollution. They contain chemicals, and like most chemicals depending on the level of exposure, they can cause health problems.

“It is important for all products with potential negative effects on human beings to bear warnings to users on the likely health effects of such products.

“It is desirable to regulate the manufacturing, importation, and sales of air fresheners. This will ensure that adequate instructions are known to users and that the chemicals contained in them are at levels that will not be hazardous to human beings.”

According to a study published online by the Journal of Environmental and Public Health titled: ‘Qualitative Analysis of Air Freshener Spray’, air fresheners contain various chemicals that may be harmful to human health and the environment.

The study added that the products have been related to adverse effects such as asthma attacks, mucosal symptoms, infant illness, breathing difficulties, and migraine headaches from a health perspective.

The study which was carried out on four different brands of spray air fresheners noted in its findings that chemicals found in the samples include; lilial, galaxolide, benzenemethanol, musk ketone, butylated hydroxytoluene, and linalool.

The study stressed that the chemicals found in the samples may cause irritation and other health problems, concluding that air fresheners need to be free of any toxic or harmful chemicals and include natural ingredients instead.

Another study conducted by the Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC), said 86 per cent of air fresheners tested contained phthalates.

The study noted that phthalates, which are also found in many plastics, aerosol sprays, paints, pesticides, cosmetics, and fragrances, are notoriously disruptive to the body.

Most phthalates are well known to interfere with the production of the male hormone testosterone and have been linked to anomalies in reproduction, according to the NRDC’s research.

Phthalates are listed as dangerous compounds by the State of California that are “known to cause birth abnormalities or reproductive damage.”

The NRDC also cautioned that phthalates in the air could trigger asthma attacks and allergic reactions. Phthalates can build up in even trace concentrations to produce these negative side effects.


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