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Air Fresheners May Affect Breathing

Q. For years now, I have woken up in the middle of the night unable to breathe through my nose. This disrupted a good night’s sleep, as I would have to get up and sit for 20 to 30 minutes waiting for my sinuses to drain.

I blamed it on lack of humidity since it never happened while I was vacationing at the beach twice a year.

I recently read that home air fresheners contain formaldehyde and petroleum distillates, aerosol propellants and p-dichlorobenzene (PDB) that can irritate nasal passages. I immediately unplugged all my air fresheners and after one day I was amazed with the results.

I have now slept straight through the night for about two solid weeks. Who would imagine that plug-ins could cause such sinus misery?

A. Air fresheners contain a variety of chemicals that may irritate the respiratory tract. PDB, found in mothballs as well as air fresheners, could result in reduced pulmonary function (Environmental Health Perspectives, Aug. 2006).

Other compounds found in air fresheners include phthalates. These are often used to carry fragrance in consumer products. Phthalates are also used to make plastic products pliable. These chemicals are controversial because they are hormone disruptors and potential carcinogens.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies..
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