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Hazards of plug-in air fresheners

Updated April 17, 2017

Each year 53,000 home fires occur due to the malfunction of electrical appliances and systems. It is important to understand the risks associated with all appliances brought into the home, including plug-in air fresheners.

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Fire Hazards

Like any electronic appliance, plug-in air fresheners come with an inherent possibility of fire. According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, about 2.5 million plug-in air fresheners were recalled in 2002 due to manufacturer error. Avoid leaving plug-in air fresheners unattended. Plug-in air fresheners contain a small heating element, and their oils have a moderate flammability rating on the Household Materials Identification System (HMIS), so fire is possible.

Air Pollutants

A study at the University of California found that plug-in air fresheners release compounds that, in the presence of elevated ozone, can form hazardous air pollutants. The ingredients can irritate the respiratory tract, particularly in sensitive individuals. To mitigate your risk, use plug-in air fresheners in a well-ventilated area away from ozone-producing air purifiers.

Skin and Eye Irritation

The fragrance refills for plug-in air fresheners contain a mix of oils and other chemicals that can irritate the skin and eyes. The scented oil refills for plug-in air fresheners are rated by HMIS as posing a “moderate” health risk. This indicates a slight potential for toxic chemicals and irritation. Sensitive individuals have a greater chance of irritation, so they should avoid handling plug-in air freshener refills and oils.

Electrical Hazards

Being an electronic appliance, plug-in air fresheners can pose a risk of electrocution if used incorrectly. Place the air freshener in a location away from sinks and bathtubs. Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) outlets are a perfect way to mitigate this hazard, as GFCI outlets lower the risk of electrocution.

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About the Author

Nathan Belcik began writing professionally in 2006, with his work focusing on educational and research materials He is a contributing writer for eHow and Answerbag. Belcik holds a Bachelor of Arts in linguistics and a minor in sociology from the University of Texas at Austin.

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