Sep 10, 2013

    Danger lurks in air fresheners

    THE air fresheners in our cars or at home may smell sweet, but they could be doing us more harm than we realise.

    Six commonly used household air-fresheners found at shops and supermarkets in Malaysia were tested by a consumer group for four dangerous chemicals - toluene, benzene, formaldehyde and phthalates.

    All were found to contain relatively high levels of at least one of the chemicals, with phthalates - which are endocrine-disrupting substances (EDS) - found in four of the six products.

    Long-term exposure to EDS can lead to irreversible damage to the immune system and the brain.

    "It can also stunt the development of vital organs and cause miscarriage. The extent of damage, however, depends on the individual, with pregnant women and children at higher risk," said Ms Ratna Devi Nadarajan, the chief executive of the Malaysian Association of Standards Users, which conducted the test.

    "At the very least, these chemicals can cause headaches, nausea and depression," she added.

    Ms Ratna said the association was waiting for data on the limitation and regulation of air fresheners from Malaysian regulators, as well as other countries, to do a comparison.

    Consumers should avoid using air fresheners too often and, instead, opt for natural ventilation and hygiene at home, she said, suggesting natural alternatives such as pandan leaves, lemongrass and charcoal.