To this point we have gone over how the ‘just cleaned’ smell of chemical cleaners may be damaging your health; we’ve discussed the surprising way your favorite fragrance affects your family’s sleep (and what you can do about it); and lastly we went over 10 more ways household fragrances affect your family’s health.

There is one thing all of these posts have in common and is the topic of discussion for today's post: indoor air pollution. And since we spend the majority of our time indoors versus being outdoors, being cognizant of the levels of toxins we expose our air to is significant.




Without question two of the top contributors to indoor air pollution are the chemicals we use and the air “fresheners” we employ to give our house its characteristic clean and fresh smell.

The scent of air fresheners are, by design, made to linger in the air. This is done through the use of phthalates, which are known to disrupt the body’s hormones and have been implicated in relation to breast cancer, birth defects, asthma neurodevelopmental problems in newborns, fertility issues and obesity.

A study done by Anne Steinemann of the University of Washington found that top-selling laundry products and air fresheners emitted dozens of different chemicals. That part we’ve discussed. But what we haven’t talked about is the direct effect to the air you breathe.

Professor Steinemann found that nearly 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCS) were emitted from only 6 tested products and that none were listed on any product labels. Furthermore, 5 of the 6 products she tested emitted one or more cancer-causing hazardous air pollutants that are considered to have no safe exposure level whatsoever. Meaning any and every exposure to these chemicals can be detrimental to your health and the health of your family.

She then completed a more thorough study of more products found mostly in the grocery store, and had similar findings. Each product was placed in a room at room temperature and the air was analyzed for VOCs. To read more of the study click here.

It is worth noting that in Europe, legislation has been passed that requires companies to list certain chemical fragrances when they are used in excess of a certain concentration whereas the United States does not.



The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) states that there are many different sources of indoor air pollution. In addition to air fresheners and household cleaning and maintenance products, wet or damp carpet, cabinetry or furniture made of certain pressed wood products, personal care products, improperly vented gas stoves, furnaces, paint strippers, and pesticides are among the list.

The EPA also states that the relative importance of any single source depends on how much of a pollutant is emitted and how hazardous they are. Additionally, you must consider that some activities lead to pollutants being released intermittently (like cleaning products) while others release them more continuously (like air fresheners and candles).


“Health effects from indoor air pollutants may be experienced soon after exposure or, possibly, years later”- Environmental Protection Agency

indoor air article in a pinch-10

Tomorrow’s post will highlight the measures you can take to reduce indoor air pollution. But for now, take inventory over your home for all of the listed air pollutants and tell me in the comments. I’ll go first!




  1. For years I used scented candles, febreze, scented 409 and other household cleaners, and I practically had a plug-in air freshener in EVERY OUTLET! Since limiting my family’s exposure to these products I have noticed much less complaining of headaches and I feel less groggy after cleaning. I had not really thought of indoor air pollution so I was quite alarmed to realize the toxins I was exposing my family to each and every day.

  2. Great read!! I really don’t think about the pollutants that are in the air.

    I actually rarely use candles or air fresheners. I live pretty close to a port, so our biggest pollutant in our house would be the debris from there. You can even see it outside on our balcony — it has developed a small bit of black dust. For the most part, we keep our windows closed, but I’m sure there is some that makes it’s way in.

    Thanks for this post! It’s definitely got me thinking of what may be polluting the air inside my house!

    • Hi Jennifer,

      I’m glad you found the post helpful and that it got you thinking. Kudos to you for not using air fresheners and candles! If finances allow, you might look into purchasing a HEPA air purifier (stands for high efficiency particulate arresting) to handle the outdoor pollutants. Especially since you are constantly exposed to it. Amazon has some that have great reviews. I don’t have any personal recommendations but per my research they work well.

      Hope that helps. 🙂

      Thank you so much for reading and for actually commenting!


Leave a Reply