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.
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.
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.
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.
- U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission: Recall of Glade® Extra Outlet Scented Oil Air Fresheners
- “Indoor Air”; Cleaning Products and Air Fresheners: Emissions and Resulting Concentrations of Glycol Ethers and Terpenoids; B. C. Singer, et al; June 2006
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Household Products Database
- Electrical Safety Foundation International: Electrical Products and Appliances