Posts Tagged ‘toxic chemicals’

Are Air Fresheners Really Fresh?

By the time I got home from a ride in my friend’s car one day, my lungs felt tight and I was coughing.  I knew immediately the air freshener in the car was the culprit, one of those new clip on air fresheners filled with a “scent” to eliminate car odors like food, dirt, and cigarette smoke.  I decided I must post about this on my blog!

Car air fresheners have gone from pine-scented cardboard cut outs of trees that dangle from the rear view mirror to the new plastic (more plastic!) containers filled with chemical scents.  They clip on the air vent and are activated with the airflow.  There are several brands with enticing names like Meadows and Rain, Hawaiian Aloha, or Linen and Sky complete with adjustable dials to control “freshness”.  The Febreeze ad says, “In just a few moments, you and your passengers can all breathe happy.” I was not happy!

A basic gel fragrance air freshener.

The chemicals used in air fresheners are anything but fresh and do nothing to improve the quality of the air.  They just mask the odors and in fact can be quite toxic.  The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that most air fresheners contain phthalates, which are at the center of a large debate about their negative health affects.  High exposure to certain phthalates, also found in cosmetics, nail polish, paint and other everyday items, can cause cancer, developmental and hormonal abnormalities and can affect fertility.  One of the active ingredients found in mothballs, 1,4 dichlorobenzene, is also found in some air fresheners.  The EPA lists this ingredient as toxic since its vapors can affect respiratory function.  There seems to be a correlation with air fresheners and asthma, according to the U.S. National Institute of Health Sciences. Other known ingredients that cause serious health issues are formaldehyde, acetone and terpenes.  According to, “These chemicals contain pollutants that, when mixed with ozone, cigarette smoke or dust can cause breathing complications, headaches and damage the central nervous system.”  What’s worse is that companies aren’t required to list the ingredients if the product is labeled a “fragrance”.

Air fresheners are everywhere – in the home, office and car.  It is estimated that around 75 percent of American homes use some form of them, which amounts to more than $1 billion in profits for the industry. The best air freshener for your car however, is rolling down the windows. You can also easily make your own– a sachet with natural potpourri or dried lavender flowers, baking soda poured into an old sock and placed underneath the seat, or a piece of felt scented with a pure essential oil.  You control how much scent you want!

Play it safe and do away with air fresheners!

Information compiled from,,


Reduce Your Plastics Usage

Reduce, reuse, recycle…. It’s encouraging to see recycling becoming routine.  Many people have recycling bins in their homes; recycling containers are in downtowns and parks, airports and shopping malls.  (Shockingly though, there are many areas of the country that do not recycle.) But – we also need to reuse and reduce the amount of plastic we use.  Below are some ideas on how:

  • Plastic Water Bottles – Only 1 in 5 water bottles are recycled. They are not biodegradable and end up as litter or in the landfill leaching chemicals, especially if the plastic is cracked or damaged. 40% of bottled water is tap water and 22% of tested bottled water contained chemical contaminants.  There are times when it’s convenient to carry a plastic water bottle, but most of the time it’s just as easy to use a reusable one or drink from a glass.  Install a water filter or buy a Brita  water filter pitcher for delicious water if you are concerned about tap water, though we have some of the safest water in the world.
  • Plastic refrigerator containers – It’s good to reuse a sturdy plastic ice cream or take out container  (never microwave in them however), but when you buy refrigerator containers, go with glass.  Pyrex and other brands make heavy, tempered glass containers that are stackable, freezable, microwaveable and dishwasher safe. And they won’t leach toxic chemicals into your food!  The Container Store carries vintage glass refrigerator dishes and I found the real, colored Pyrex containers from the 1950’s at a flea market.  Fun!  My rule of thumb:  food and plastic don’t go together.
  • Liquid soap dispensers – Liquid soap dispensers seem to have replaced bar soap.  There are many different brands, scents and lovely plastic bottles.  Sometimes they are convenient, but really, what is wrong with a bar of soap placed in a soap container by your sink?  A liquid soap dispenser at the kitchen sink and in each bathroom, replaced every few months, adds up to a lot of unnecessary plastic!  If you must use them, please refill the same containers with liquid soap from a larger container.
  • Reusable shopping bags have really count on and are definitely helping to reduce the millions of plastic bags we acquire!  If you haven’t got on board yet, now is the time!

With a little awareness, you can cut back on your plastic usage. Email me your ideas!


Some Information compiled from



Does your husband throw away plastic containers?  Does your wife idle the car too long?  Do your children constantly leave the lights or the tv on when they leave the room?   Is your family complaining because you have cut out processed foods and feed them only local, organic food? Do some members of your family think climate change is a myth? Do you find yourself getting frustrated and angry because not everyone is on board?

Even though you know you are doing the right thing, it’s inevitable that not all family members will be as passionate about the environment as you are.  I know I am constantly taking used paper towel rolls out of the trash and putting them in the paper-recycling bin.  Or I have to stop my husband from throwing away an empty jar.  Whether it’s arguments over the correct way to discipline a child or planning your retirement, a certain amount of conflict is normal between spouses, family members or friends.  When tensions arise about going green, handle it just like any other disagreement.

  • Educate – explain the importance of a greener lifestyle and why it is necessary. Taking care of the earth now will insure a better earth for future generations.
  • Lead by example – no one is going to adopt new methods if you don’t do it yourself.
  • Try not to nag – be patient, everyone eventually catches on but it takes time. 
  • Introduce new habits slowly – start with the easiest habits first like turning off the water when you brush your teeth, add non-toxic cleaning supplies and work up to an electric car!
  • Make it fun!  Let your kids decide for themselves which green tip they want to do.
  • Reward the family with a fun outing using the money you have saved by conserving electricity or cutting back on junk food.

There will come a time when we look back and say, “Can you imagine we used to put toxic chemicals on our lawn? “  Start making a difference now, it’s easy!





It’s easy to feel doom and gloom about the future of the earth.  But, as Earth Day approaches on April 22, we should be proud of the changes we have adopted and the progress we have made.

Image by ax2groin

One of the biggest changes is that people are aware and talking about the state of the environment – the harmful effects of toxic chemicals, the price of cheap, the declining wildlife and rising sea levels, the state of the oceans, air and water pollution, carbon emissions, climate change and alternative energy.  Awareness is a huge first step and one that propels action.

“Reduce, reuse, recycle” has become the norm.  Depending on the area of the country, most people recycle at least their newspapers and often plastic, glass, metal and more.  Many communities even take garbage for composting.  It is not uncommon to see recycling bins in towns along main commercial streets and in malls.  Restaurants recycle bottles and more and more use biocompostable take out containers.

Organic food abounds.  According to the Organic Trade Association’s 2010 Organic Industry Survey, U.S. sales of organic food and beverages have grown from $1 billion in 1990 to $24.8 billion in 2009.  The Organic Monitor estimates global organic sales reached $50.9 billion in 2008, double the $25 billion recorded in 2003.  Farmer’s markets as a source of healthy, fresh, local food and a place for community are catching on.

Finding personal care products and cosmetics without unnecessary additives and toxic chemicals is also easier.  The same goes for non-toxic household cleaners.  Environmentally friendly dry cleaners and organic lawn care companies now exist.

Alternative health care – acupuncture, homeopathy, massage therapy, chiropractics – and emphasis on disease prevention with food and exercise are much more mainstream (though unfortunately not usually covered by insurance). You can now find homeopathic cold and flu remedies even at CVS!

Awareness about saving energy and fuel has risen and more people are making a concerted effort to drive less, carpool more, use public transportation, switch to CFL light bulbs, watch out for vampire energy, etc., all of which lessen our carbon emissions and help with climate change.

These changes benefit the air, the water, the soil and our health.  It’s easier to lead a greener lifestyle today; in fact, it’s almost a fad.  But we still have a long way to go.  On Earth Day, add one more change to your lifestyle that benefits the earth – simple steps really do make a difference.

Some information compiled from the Organic Trade Association,