The People's Chemist

Air Fresheners: The Cause of Infertility and More?

Like many young married couples, Megan and Phil are trying to have kids. For two years, they’ve been at it with no success. Megan’s had four artificial inseminations and she’s been getting progesterone hormone therapy, costing her more than $1,200 a month.

She’s been diagnosed with polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), a reproductive endocrine disorder, which prevents her from having kids.  Meanwhile, her husband Phil has been plagued with low sperm concentration and low testosterone levels.

In desperation, they found my book, Over-The-Counter Natural Cures Expanded.  Then it hit them.  Environmental toxins are suffocating their health courtesy of air-fresheners…as well as pharmafoods, sugar and artificial sweeteners.

Megan is an air freshener freak. Every room has one of those little plug-in scented oil warmers. She sprays Febreze around the house a lot too, especially in the bathroom and there’s all the scented candles from Target,” her husband wrote.

Like most people, Phil and Megan had been completely in the dark about the hazardous chemicals found in air fresheners…and the crippling effects they have on the human reproductive system.

Procter & Gamble, S.C. Johnson & Son, Inc., and Reckitt Benckiser, Inc., are the “Big Three” air freshener manufacturers.  They market these products with pretty labels and cute names like “Gingerbread Playhouse” and ” Cinnabon – Classic Cinnamon Roll.”   Consumers have been misled into believing these products are created from “natural” essential oils extracted from grasses, flowers, wood, spices, fruit, resins, roots, gums or leaves. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Ugly Truth About Chemical Air Fresheners

Fragrance chemists specialize in coming up with new scents derived from toxic sludge. They use petroleum as the molecular foundation for air freshener products. The result is synthetic copycats of natural scents — as well thousands of additional, never-seen-before “Franken-scents” not created by Mother Nature and totally foreign to your body.

REAL fragrance extracts – like essential oils – are far too expensive for greed-driven, profit-hungry companies to place in six dollar oil warmers, sprays, gels and atomizers. So they hunt for cheaper knockoffs in the lab that have devastating health effects.

Through processes known as “catalytic reforming” and “thermal cracking,” air freshener fragrances are inexpensively created out of petrochemical waste compounds such as naptha, ethane, butadiene, toluene, and liquid petroleum gases propane and butane. Think of them simply as the waste from a scrapyard.

To avoid the chemical onslaught, avoid all products that read “fragrance.”

“Fragrance” is the #1 culprit ingredient listed on air freshener packaging. By using the vague word “fragrance,” manufacturers are legally allowed to sneak an array of hundreds of hazardous, synthetic chemicals into your home. They attack you and your unsuspecting family, especially your children whose bodies are still developing. Since most scented plug-in oil warmers are composed of 90-100 percent fragrance, you can be assured you’re getting a heated petro-porridge, rather than a natural fresh scent.

Air Fresheners Travel the Shortest Route Into Your System

There’s a reason why drug addicts snort cocaine rather than eat it — the nose is the fastest and most direct route into the body, especially the brain.

On average, we breathe in and out 20,000 cycles each day. In a room scented with artificial “natural scents,” each breath delivers a chemical onslaught.

In addition to petro-chemical waste products, phthalates pose even more risks.  Phthalates increase diffusion of the “Franken-scents,” by increasing volatility.  In other words, it helps the toxic ghost in your air “hang around” longer. Like gum sticking to a shoe, the synthetic molecules cling to walls, furniture, surfaces, and clothing thanks to phthalates. Eventually, these fragrance molecules also bind to the surfaces of the respiratory system…for a very long time.

During inhalation, sticky odor molecules travel through the nose. They go directly to “receptor sites” in the hypothalamus, hippocampus, and the amygdala — i.e., the parts of the brain that control blood pressure, emotion, breathing, memory, heart rate, and hormone balance.

As you, your family, and your holiday guests merrily breathe in the enticing fake scent of Glade’s Merry Citrus Melody oil, courtesy of warmer plug-ins, hundreds of vaporized fragrance chemicals instantly coat your nose, pharynx, larynx, and trachea, entering your bronchial tubes and penetrating the alveoli sacs in your lungs.

Fucking awesome.


With each breath, petroleum hydrocarbons enter the millions of alveoli (tiny sacs in your lungs), and spread throughout your capillaries into the bloodstream…then finally, into the cells of the body. 

It’s a cancer orgy.

Once inside the cells, phthalates such as DEP, DBP, DIBP, DMP, DIHP and DEHP try to pass themselves off as “real” hormones — only to evoke partial and incorrect cell responses.  Metabolism, brain function, genital formation, central nervous system operation, DNA integrity, and yes, reproductive system function is all thrown out of whack. 

Because phthalates are mostly fat soluble, they dissolve into in the fat cells and tissues, and accumulate, causing them to wreak havoc over time.  If they stay long enough, you eventually get the bonus side effects of liver damage, kidney damage, heart damage, lung damage, as well as blood clotting.

If people knew this, think sales would plummet?

Air Fresheners Turn “Michael Phelps Sperm” Into Losers

It gets worse. Scientists have discovered that even tiny exposures to phthalates in air fresheners can really screw up your plans to have a family. In a study published in the journal Toxicology Letters, Italian researchers found that in couples getting fertility treatments, both men and women had higher levels of phthalates in their urine than the couples with children. The study confirmed earlier research findings of men and women individually who had high phthalate levels associated with their fertility problems.

According to the American Society of Reproductive Medicine, around 10 percent of the U.S. reproductive age population — more than 6 million couples — experience fertility issues, with two-thirds of the cases being ovulation and sperm problems. For these couples, becoming pregnant is hard. When they use air fresheners, they exacerbate the problem…and getting pregnant may be damn near impossible.

A Little Daily Dose of Toxins Won’t Hurt Us, Right?

Air freshener manufacturers defensively argue that chronic daily exposure to small amounts of their toxins is not harmful. This is like arguing, “Just a little bit of poison won’t hurt you?” WTF? Is that a real argument?

Dr. James Miller of the American Academy of Environmental Physicians warns, “Chemicals do their damage to our systems one molecule at a time. Even a limited exposure will cause some cellular damage requiring nutrients, time, and energy to heal. If repeated injuries occur at an interval shorter than that required for complete healing, there will be an accumulation of injury. This will eventually lead to organ malfunction and chronic symptoms.”

Phthalates are Not Your Friend

The Journal of Cellular Biochemistry published a study on animals and found that even low-level exposure to phthalates DBP and BBP and can have devastating effects on developing bones in the young and accelerate deterioration in aging bones. Another study, published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine in 2007, showed that the risk of developing asthma is 30 to 50 percent higher for air freshener users, compared to non-users.

Most scented oil warmers also emit terpene, a volatile organic compound that hooks up with ozone to create an invisible formaldehyde fog in your room. 

With air fresheners, death might be not be that far off anyway — as formaldehyde is technically classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. Other chemical compounds such as ketones, lactones, amines, ethers, and thione also abound in the stinky little wall plug-ins.

Banking on Public Ignorance and Zero Regulation

Big Chemical Companies depend on the masses to stay ignorant, for their continued profits. Don’t expect government or consumer “protection” agencies to do anything about it, either.

The Consumer Products Safety Commission has done a weak job of policing air freshener ingredient disclosure. They allow legions of untested and harmful chemicals to pass into your home, unannounced, inside the so-called “trade secret protected” fragrance ingredient.

The EPA, OSHA, and the FDA also allow this scent secrecy with no requirements for compliance with the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, synergy testing, or disclosure on product labels and material safety data sheets.

If you ask me…having your organs damaged and losing your fertility is a terrible price to pay for having your house smell like fake cupcakes. Big Chemical companies’ desire to imitate or improve upon Mother Nature’s handiwork is costing consumers their health, and sometimes their lives.

Megan and Phil Test Positive for Phthalates

After reading about the many environmental risk factors in my book, Over-The-Counter Natural Cures Expanded, Megan and Phil tested for phthalates. Lab reports showed both of their bodies were loaded with hormone-disrupting chemicals.  The reports showed that Megan and Phil excreted breakdown metabolites of di-ethyl phthalate, di-isobutyl phthalate, di-methyl phthalate and di-isohexyl phthalate in their urine at levels as much as 100 times higher than baseline population phthalate levels. And this was happening even 2 weeks after they had discontinued ALL usage of air freshener plug-ins.

Following the guidelines in my book, they both did my $1.41 cleanse (search for it on YouTube) and supplemented with activated charcoal twice per week.  Combined, this simple detox pulls out all the toxins of chemical air fresheners.

Healthy Home Scents

The caveat is that you cannot keep using air fresheners and continue to add to the ongoing damage…you must STOP using these toxic products altogether, and give your body a chance to heal.

Good news is, you can avoid reproductive and other organ damage by REFUSING TO USE AIR FRESHENERS in the first place. Bad news is, we don’t know if such damages can be reversed after you’ve incurred them… no one does.

For a great smelling, clean home, use TRUCE cleaning products and handmade soaps with essential oils.

About the Author

My name is Shane “The People’s Chemist” Ellison. I hold a master’s degree in organic chemistry and am the author of Over-The-Counter Natural Cures Expanded Edition (SourceBooks). I’ve been quoted by USA Today, Shape, Woman’s World, US News and World Report, as well as Women’s Health and appeared on Fox and NBC as a medicine and health expert. Start protecting yourself and loved ones with my FREE report, 3 Worst Meds.


The People’s Chemist provides these articles for information only. They are not meant to provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment, and do not replace professional medical advice from a medical doctor. I am not a doctor and would only “play doctor” if I was with my wife. In fact, I have not even read Grey’s Anatomy.

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