I enjoy visiting the Western & Southern Open in Cincinnati each year. I love that the tennis greats practically play in our backyard! The grounds at the Lindner Tennis Center are well maintained. However; on my recent visit, I was horrified at what I saw when I used the restroom – an automatic air freshener dispenser was in every stall!
I had to do a double take. Was I really seeing what I thought I was seeing?
I went into a different stall and the same thing was there. I even sent my husband into the men’s restroom to see if he saw the same thing. It was in there too – an automatic air freshener attached to every toilet paper dispenser.
Automatic Air Freshener Dispensers, Really?
I am sympathetic to facilities that try to keep their restrooms free of foul odors during large events. When you have thousands of people going in and out of the restrooms each day, keeping the restrooms clean and smelling good can be challenging.
In years past, this tennis tournament has typically had wall air freshener dispensers on one or two walls.
Most restrooms that I go into, whether at an entertainment venue or restaurant have automatic air freshener dispensers on their wall which shoot out a puff of air freshener every few minutes.
I have always tried to avoid the area in the restroom where I see an automatic air freshener dispenser. I don’t want the puff of toxic chemicals to rain down on me.
With these newly added automatic air fresheners at the tennis center, I was being exposed to chemicals each time I used the bathroom.
There was no escaping it!
When I walked into a stall, a light would turn on above the toilet paper dispenser, then the awful smell of air freshener would be released.
Believe me, I tried not to create any motion to activate the air freshener, but there was no getting around it. There’s only so much room in a toilet stall!
I leaned to the left and then to the right. I backed up and I ducked down, but nothing worked. The puff of air freshener got me!
When I sat down on the toilet, I could smell the scent of air freshener right in front of my face. I was pretty much eye level with the dispenser and inhaling its fume.
Then it happened, my head started to ache. There was no getting around it, if I needed to use the restroom, I was going to end up with a headache. And if I needed to use it more than once throughout the day, I would end up with a migraine. Ugh!
Does Toxic Air Freshener Have to Be Everywhere?
It would be nice if every stall didn’t have an automatic air freshener. Of course, I would rather companies not use the option of automatic air freshener dispensers in every bathroom stall, but if they choose to use them, I would highly recommend not putting them in every single stall.
It would be nice if they left a few stalls “dispenser-less” for those of us who can’t tolerate the chemicals.
As I continued to walk throughout the tennis venue that day, I noticed additional air fresheners. This time the smell was coming from decorative plants setting outside.
Now that’s taking it a little too far!
We were stuck next to one of these plants during a rain delay. Someone tried to move the plant so I could sit down on the floor while we waited out the rain. As soon as the plant moved, the smell became stronger.
Even those who aren’t as sensitive to chemicals as I am noticed the horrible smell of air freshener wafting out of the plant. Needless to say, I quickly moved to another area that was as far from the plant as possible.
Can You Get Sick From Air Fresheners?
I have never liked the smell of air fresheners. There was just something about them that didn’t seem right to me.
Then when I developed Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, I began having major reactions from air fresheners. Reactions such as headaches, a sore throat, racing heart rate, congested ears, and tingling lips.
I couldn’t stand to be in a room that had an air freshener, especially a plug in air freshener. It was at that point that I began to realize that synthetic air fresheners were toxic. I started to do some research and came to learn that yes indeed, the ingredients used in most synthetic air fresheners are toxic when used on a regular basis.
Let’s look at some of the ingredients which are typical in air fresheners.
Phthalates cover a large class of chemicals. They are chemicals that make a scent last longer. Phthalates are known endocrine disruptors. The endocrine system helps to regulate hormones.
Phthalates have been linked to health problems including asthma, birth defects, diabetes, and cancer.
“Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are airborne gas byproducts emitted by a wide array of household products…The most prevalent VOCs classified as toxic or hazardous in fragranced air fresheners are acetone, ethanol, d-limonene, pinene, and acetate, according to a 2015 study authored by Steinemann and published in Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health.”
Exposure to VOCs can range in a host of health problems from as little as throat and eye irritation to as great as liver and kidney damage.
Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen.
When chemicals that are used in the fragrance of an air freshener react with ozone in the air, they can develop harmful byproducts such as formaldehyde.
“Studies reveal that an abundance of potentially dangerous chemicals and chemical byproducts—such as formaldehyde—are released with each perfumed puff.”
Fragrance is defined by the FDA as “a combination of chemicals that gives each perfume or cologne (including those used in other products) its distinct scent. Fragrance ingredients may be derived from petroleum or natural raw materials.”
Hundreds of chemicals can be used under the umbrella term, “fragrance?” Manufacturers do not have to reveal the ingredients that comprise the “fragrance.” They are protected as trade secrets.
Unfortunately, the chemicals used in fragrances are typically untested and unlabeled.
Toxic Chemical Soup in Air Freshener
Those are just some of the ingredients which can be found in synthetic air fresheners. It’s really a soup of harmful chemicals. Exposure to them can cause short-term problems such as a headache, or throat irritation, while long-term exposure can do more harm.
The next time you’re in a restroom, let me know if you figure out a way to use the bathroom without triggering the automatic air freshener.
Read Next: Air Freshener – An Oxymoron!
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