Bad Air "Fresheners"

Submitted by Charles Frost on Sun, 12/09/2007 - 08:02.

Detox Your Home: Freshen Your Space Naturally


Your air freshener may be primed to whisk you off to an alpine meadow in springtime or a verdant oasis after a rain shower, but it could also be blasting a raft of toxic contaminants all around you.


In 2006, a study conducted by scientists at University of California, Berkeley for the California Air Resources Board revealed that terpenes—a class of chemicals found in pine, lemon, and orange oils, but themselves are not considered harmful—can react with indoor ozone to create formaldehyde, which the researchers dubbed a "respiratory irritant classified as a group one carcinogen."


But terpenes are not the only ingredients under investigation. Naphthalene, dichlorobenzene (specifically 1,4 DCB), along with synthetic musks and "parfums" have all raised red flags in other studies, as well as by activist groups such as Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund.


Air fresheners and aerosols are also a common source of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). In 2004, a long-running study by the University of Bristol, which has followed the growth and development of 14,000 children since before birth, noted that 32 percent more babies developed diarrhea in homes where air fresheners—whether they were sticks, sprays, or aerosols—were used on a daily basis, compared with homes where they were used once a week or less. The babies also suffered significantly higher incidences of earache.


If that's not nearly bad enough, a recent investigation of 14 common air fresheners by the National Resources Defense Council uncovered pthalates, which are known to cause birth defects, as well as interfere with the production of testosterone, in 12 of them—even products marketed as "all-natural" and "unscented."


Instead of squirting synthetic air fresheners, here are some ways to freshen your home without the toxins:


1. Throw open the windows and ventilate your home when the air outside is clean.


2. Remove the source of the offending odor, whether it's the contents of your garbage or a poopy litter box.


3. For an all-natural fragrant spray, fill a mister bottle with filtered water, then add a few drops of your favorite essential oil


4. Place sachets of organic herbs (such as lavender) in drawers and closets


5. Simmer some organic apple cider—with a couple of sticks of cinnamon and several whole cloves—over low heat for three to four hours for a delectable air freshener you can also drink


6. Burn a soy candle or use a diffuser with pure, preferably organic, essential oils


7. Alternate baking soda and vinegar to neutralize odors


Difficulty level: Easy





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Pollution 'may boost asthma risk'

Traffic pollution may boost the risk of children getting asthma - if they have genes which make them vulnerable, a study says.


University of
Southern California team studied the health records and genetic profiles of 3,000 children.


Those with a gene variation were slightly more at risk but if they lived near a main road, the risk rose more, the Thorax journal reported.


UK asthma experts said the link remained unclear.


Scientists exploring how respiratory diseases, including asthma, develop have highlighted the importance of genes which control key body chemicals linked to "clean-up" functions in the body.


Enzymes called EPHX1 and a gene called GSTP1 appear to have some responsibility for getting rid of harmful chemicals which we breathe in.


Roadside risk


The researchers found that those who had high levels of EPHX1 were 1.5 times as likely to have been diagnosed with asthma, while those who also had variations in GSTP1 as well were four times as likely to have asthma.


However, living close to a main road appeared to make this effect even greater.


Children with very active EPHX1 who lived within 75 metres of a road had a doubled risk of asthma compared with those who had low EPHX1 levels.


Having active EPHX1, variations in the gene, and a home near a road meant a risk nine times greater.


Their conclusion was that while children with the wrong genes and enzyme activity were more prone to having asthma, living near a road seemed to compound that risk.


There has been a long-running dispute about a link between asthma and exhaust fumes.


And Leanne Male, Asthma
UK's assistant director of research, said more work was needed.


"This study is very promising as it is one of the first to look specifically at how genetic susceptibility to respiratory disease and environmental traffic fumes can cause childhood asthma.


"People with asthma tell us that traffic fumes make their asthma worse and although this research only looks at individuals with a certain genetic make-up, we await further robust research in this new and exciting area to help us find better ways to treat asthma."





Diesel traffic makes asthma worse

A spot of Christmas shopping in a busy town centre may damage your health as well as your bank balance.


Air pollution from diesel traffic can worsen lung function in people with asthma, a team of international researchers has said.


The first "real-life" study showed lung function was worse in patients who spent two hours on London's
Oxford Street

compared with nearby
Hyde Park.


The results are published in the New England Journal of Medicine.


Study leader Dr Paul Cullinan said previous studies had looked at the effects of pollution on a population level, for example comparing air quality with admissions to hospital, or in a laboratory, but not in a real-life scenario.


A total of 60 adults, half of with mild asthma and half with moderate asthma, walked for two hours along Oxford Street, where only buses and taxis are allowed, and then on a separate occasion walked for two hours in traffic-free Hyde Park.


Lung function tests done before and after the walks showed a greater reduction in lung capacity after participants had been exposed to diesel traffic than in the park and more inflammation in the lungs.


The negative effects were greater in those with worse asthma to start with.




Diesel engines can generate more than 100 times more particles than petrol engines, said the researchers.


The smaller the particle, the deeper it can be inhaled into the lungs and very small particles may even be absorbed into the bloodstream.


Researchers found three times as many ultra-fine particles (less than 0.1 microns in diameter) on
Oxford Street

compared with
Hyde Park.


Oxford Street

also had more than three times more nitrogen dioxide in the air and six times as much elemental carbon.


Dr Cullinan, honorary consultant in respiratory medicine at
Royal Brompton Hospital in
London, said the results were applicable to other urban environments.


"However, we don't know if you would find the same effects with petrol traffic or in people without asthma," he said.


"The real message is not for individuals with asthma but for people who plan traffic and build engines.


"With over five million people in the
UK suffering from asthma, it is important that we that we urgently consider practical ways to reduce harmful emissions from diesel vehicles."


Dr Keith Prowse, chairman of the British Lung Foundation: "It very clearly and vividly demonstrates the negative impact diesel fumes have on lung health, especially in asthmatics."


Leanne Male, assistant director of research at Asthma
UK said it was already known that living near a busy road was associated with worsening of asthma symptoms but it was unclear which chemicals were to blame.


"Further research like this will provide the answers to help us improve the lives of the millions of people with asthma in the
UK who are affected by traffic fumes every day."