Evaluating air quality with and without air fresheners


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.

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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.

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Correspondence to Nigel Goodman.

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

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Goodman, N., Nematollahi, N., Agosti, G. et al. Evaluating air quality with and without air fresheners. Air Qual Atmos Health 13, 1–4 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-019-00759-9

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