Fear of consumer backlash has motivated Walgreens Drugstores to withdraw three air fresheners that contain chemicals which may affect hormones and reproductive development, particularly in babies.
Walgreens’ action was taken after an analysis by the Natural Resources Defense Council and other environmental and health organizations showed that 12 of 14 brands tested contained hormone-disrupting chemicals known as phthalates. Only two, Febreze Air Effects and Renuzit Subtle Effects, contained no detectable levels of these chemicals.
Products that tested positive included ones marketed as “all-natural” and “unscented.” The three with the highest level of phthalates were Walgreens Air Freshener, Walgreens Scented Bouquet, and Ozium Glycolized Air Sanitizer.
The federal government 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,” said Dr. Gina Solomon, NRDC senior scientist.
“Consumers have a right to know what is put into air fresheners and other everyday products they bring into their homes,” Solomon added. “There are too many products on the shelves that we assume are safe, but have never even been tested. The government should be keeping a watchful eye on these household items and the manufacturers who produce them.”
NRDC and its colleagues filed a petition calling for the Environmental Protection Agency and the Consumer Product Safety Commission to assess the risk air fresheners pose to consumers. Air fresheners are not tested for a variety of chemicals, including phthalates, says NRDC, because the government does not require it.
“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.”
Though Walgreens removed its products from the shelves, other phthalate-bearing air fresheners remain. You can use your purse to keep the pressure on by switching to a phthalate-free alternative like Febreze Air Effects Air Refresher or Renuzit Subtle Effects. (Don’t forget to add that purchase to your “One in a Million” bottom line!).
Better yet, stop using air fresheners altogether. To air out a room, open a window, use fresh flowers or try a potpourri made from herbs and dried flowers.