Volatile chemical emissions from car air fresheners


Air fresheners, used in a variety of indoor environments, emit a range of volatile chemicals, including some classified as hazardous. However, little is known about the emissions from air fresheners designed for use in cars. This study investigates the volatile organic compounds emitted from car air fresheners, identifies potentially hazardous compounds, compares emissions between so-called natural and regular versions, and assesses whether ingredients are disclosed. Using gas chromatography/mass spectrometry, 12 car air fresheners were analyzed for their volatile emissions. Air freshener types included car vent clips, wraps, hanging ornaments, cans, and spray. Results reveal that the air fresheners collectively emitted 546 VOCs with 30 VOCs classified as potentially hazardous. All air freshener types emitted one or more potentially hazardous compounds. Comparing regular air fresheners with so-called natural or green air fresheners, no significant difference was found in the emissions of hazardous compounds. Notably, all products emitted at least one VOC classified as potentially hazardous. Among all of the 546 compounds emitted, fewer than 2% of all VOCs, and none of the potentially hazardous VOCs, were disclosed on any product label or safety data sheet. This study reveals that car air fresheners can be a source of exposure to numerous volatile compounds, including potentially hazardous VOCs, most of which are undisclosed. Of particular concern for human exposure is the small and enclosed breathing space within vehicles, as well as involuntary exposure in commercial vehicles such as taxi cabs and rideshares.

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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; and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). We also thank the anonymous reviewers of this paper.

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Correspondence to Anne Steinemann.

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Steinemann, A., Nematollahi, N., Weinberg, J.L. et al. Volatile chemical emissions from car air fresheners. Air Qual Atmos Health 13, 1329–1334 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-020-00886-8

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  • Car air freshener
  • Fragrance
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Emissions