It obviously comes as no surprise that the modern day lifestyle is absolutely riddled with toxins. From the pesticides used to grow our food, to microplastics IN our food, chemicals in our tap water and chemicals found in our body, face and hair products – sometimes it can feel like they are impossible to avoid! Thankfully all hope is not lost and there are many simple swaps that we can make in our everyday lives to reduce the exposure for both ourselves and our loved ones, to lessen toxins.

One of my favourite go-to swaps is with air fresheners and replacing them with essential oil diffusers – below I will explore the reasons why this swap is so important, along with the associated benefits!

A Bit About Conventional Air Fresheners

So, not only are the artificial smells of these air fresheners overbearing when exposed to our nostrils, the chemicals found in them are incredibly harmful to our bodies when exposed to them in the air and with the droplets on our skin.

One of the most common causes for concern are the use of phthalates which are ‘a group of chemicals used to make plastics more durable (flexible)’ and whilst more research on their impacts on humans is needed, in some studies they have affected the reproductive systems in animals and are generally known for how disruptive they can be for the body – they are on the State of California’s list of toxic substances “known to cause birth defects or reproductive harm” which says enough for me… How about you?

The Natural Resources Defence Council (NRDC) has also warned that even trace amounts of airborne phthalates can accumulate and cause allergic symptoms and asthma, along with other harmful side-effects.

Another incredibly dangerous compound used is formaldehyde which is a very well-known human carcinogen and known to cause irritation in the respiratory system along with a myriad of other issues including reproductive and developmental issues, and also potential lung infections in babies whose mothers used plug-in air fresheners during gestation.

If the sound of the above two weren’t enough to put you off then there is a third chemical included that has been highlighted, called naphthalene, which has been shown to cause tissue damage and cancer in the lungs of rodents in lab studies… You’ve got to be kidding me *face palm*.

Oh and one final chemical for this lovely chemical pie, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which have also been found in plug-in air fresheners. They are compounds with a low boiling point that form gas or vapor at room temperature which helps with the fragrance dispersal. They too, have been linked to an increased risk of asthma, mainly in children.

So if you are anything like me, the brief (but incredibly damning) information I have shared above has left you scratching your head wondering ‘but if these compounds are known to be so harmful, why are they allowed to be used in such common household items?’ – unfortunately that isn’t something I can answer, I don’t think many people can! But what I CAN tell you, is that all we can ever do is share good information we know, and make decisions we believe are best for us, which is why I am also going to share with you some brilliant alternatives to try out in your own home!

Essential oil diffusers

If you aren’t familiar with essential oil diffusers, they are a very aesthetically-pleasing, low-effort way to introduce some wellness into your home and health benefits into your life! The diffuser basically breaks down the oils and evenly dispurses the particles into the air providing some wonderfully subtle smells with some real health benefits both mental and physical (depending on the oil used).

A little bit of detail from an article I read: ‘”One way they work is through our sense of smell,” says Michelle Davila, ND, a naturopathic doctor with the integrative medicine department of Beaumont Health in Grosse Pointe and Royal Oak, Michigan. When you breathe in an essential oil, the scent molecules travel from the olfactory nerves directly to the brain. Here, they interact with a region known as the limbic system, which regulates emotions, memories and sensations.’

The benefits received from using an oil diffuser is dependent on which essential oil you use, below are some examples:

  • Lavender: a soothing and calming scent that can provide some balance and feelings of relaxation to a space, can also help with sleep
  • Eucalyptus: a sharp smell that can be used to help with colds, congested airways, ease coughing, and soothe coldsores with its anti-inflammatory properties”
  • Ginger: a stimulating and warming smell, nicknamed ‘The Oil of Empowerment’ for the feeling of confidence it can provide, but it can also help with concentration, stree, nausea, dizziness and fatigue

These are just some examples I picked out, but there are so many more options to suit any and all issues both mental and physical. I hope I have given you some good information to fuel some interest to go and have a look for yourself, to see if you think that this could be a perfect swap or addition for your home!

Written by: Ellie Dobbs, Holistic Health Coach