Evaluating air quality with and without air fresheners

  • Nigel GoodmanEmail author
  • Neda Nematollahi
  • Giovanni Agosti
  • Anne Steinemann


Air fresheners emit a range of volatile organic compounds, which can include hazardous air pollutants. Exposure to air fresheners has been associated with health problems such as migraine headaches, respiratory difficulties, and asthma attacks. To reduce pollutant exposures and potential adverse effects, air fresheners can be discontinued from use within indoor environments. However, little is known about how much air quality can be improved and over what time. This study evaluates the effects of air fresheners on air quality with a focus on d-limonene, a prevalent and dominant compound in air fresheners and one that can generate hazardous air pollutants. Using workplace environments, the study analyses and compares d-limonene concentrations in restrooms that use air fresheners, that discontinue the use of air fresheners, and that do not use air fresheners. In restrooms that use air fresheners, d-limonene concentrations averaged 6.78 μg/m3 compared with 0.84 μg/m3 in restrooms that do not use air fresheners. Further, after discontinuing the use of air fresheners, d-limonene concentrations decreased up to 96% within 2 weeks with an average reduction of 81% and an average concentration down to 1.17 μg/m3. These findings suggest that a straightforward strategy, such as ceasing the use of air fresheners, can produce measurable benefits for indoor air quality.


Air fresheners Fragrance Fragrance-free Restrooms Volatile organic compounds Indoor air quality 



We thank the supporters of this study: the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program through the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub, CSIRO Land and Water, the Melbourne School of Engineering Teaching and Learning Infrastructure Fund, and the Australian Government Research Training Program Scholarship through the University of Melbourne. We also thank Kirsten Raynor, Trish Harrison, Behzad Rismanchi, George Fox, and the University of Melbourne Infrastructure Services staff for their generous assistance. Finally, we are grateful to the anonymous reviewers of this paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Ethical approval

This study received ethics approval from The University of Melbourne (application number: 1954006.1).

Supplementary material

11869_2019_759_MOESM1_ESM.docx (29 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 29 kb)


  1. Goodman NB, Steinemann A, Wheeler AJ, Paevere PJ, Cheng M, Brown SK (2017) Volatile organic compounds within indoor environments in Australia. Build Environ 122:116–125. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Goodman NB, Wheeler AJ, Paevere PJ, Agosti G, Nematollahi N, Steinemann A (2019) Emissions from dryer vents during use of fragranced and fragrance-free laundry products. Air Qual Atmos Health 12(3):289–295. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Jo WK, Lee JH, Kim MK (2008) Head-space, small-chamber and in-vehicle tests for volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from air fresheners for the Korean market. Chemosphere 70(10):1827e1834CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Kim S, Hong SH, Bong CK, Cho MH (2015) Characterization of air freshener emission: the potential health effects. J Toxicol Sci 40(5):535–550. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. McDonald BC, de Gouw JA, Gilman JB, Jathar SH, Akherati A, Cappa CD, Jimenez JL, Lee-Taylor J, Hayes PL, McKeen SA, Cui YY (2018) Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions. Science 359(6377):760–764. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Nazaroff WW, Weschler CJ (2004) Cleaning products and air fresheners: exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants. Atmos Environ 38(18):2841–2865. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Nematollahi N, Doronila A, Mornane PJ, Duan A, Kolev SD, Steinemann A (2018) Volatile chemical emissions from fragranced baby products. Air Qual Atmos Health 11(7):785–790. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. SafeWork Australia (SWA) (2018) Hazardous Chemical Information System (HCIS): search hazardous chemicals, Accessed 10 Sept 2018
  9. Steinemann A (2015) Volatile emissions from common consumer products. Air Qual Atmos Health 8(3):273–281. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Steinemann A (2016) Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions. Air Qual Atmos Health 9:861–866. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Steinemann A (2017a) Ten questions concerning air fresheners and indoor built environments. Build Environ 111:279–284. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Steinemann A (2017b) Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products. Prev Med Rep 5:45–47. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Steinemann A (2018a) Fragranced consumer products: sources of emissions, exposures, and health effects in the UK. Air Qual Atmos Health 11(3):253–256. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Steinemann A (2018b) Exposures and effects from fragranced consumer products in Sweden. Air Qual Atmos Health 11(5):485–491. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Steinemann A (2018c) Fragranced consumer products: effects on autistic adults in the United States, Australia, and United Kingdom. Air Qual Atmos Health 11(10):1137–1142CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Steinemann A (2019a) International prevalence of fragrance sensitivity. Air Qual Atmos Health 12:891–897CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Steinemann A (2019b) Ten questions concerning fragrance-free policies and indoor environments. Build Environ 159:106054. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Steinemann A, Goodman N (2019) Fragranced consumer products and effects on asthmatics: an international population-based study. Air Qual Atmos Health 12(6):643–649. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Uhde E, Schulz N (2015) Impact of room fragrance products on indoor air quality. Atmos Environ 106:492–502. CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. US EPA (1999) Compendium method for the determination of toxic organic compounds in ambient air. Compendium method TO-17, Second Edition. Center for Environmental Research Information Office of Research and Development U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Cincinnati, OH 45268.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Infrastructure Engineering, School of EngineeringThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  2. 2.School of ChemistryThe University of MelbourneParkvilleAustralia
  3. 3.Envirolab Group LaboratoriesChatswoodAustralia
  4. 4.College of Science and EngineeringJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

Personalised recommendations