images.jpgI love to travel and explore with my family. At the same time I dread it—being out of my comfort zone, being away from my kitchen where I prepare meals that nourish our bodies with good food and our souls with tradition, and stepping into the unknown of chemicals and cleaners used at the place where we will rest our heads.

Since we’ve stopped using chemicals and have been eating real food, we notice it, even the kids do. Walking into a shoe or toy store makes our eyes water with all the off-gassing. It’s amazing what we can subject our bodies to, lack of nutrition, bombarding it with chemicals and disease, and our lovely bodies continue to function. Our family, thankfully, is more in tune so we can make better decisions knowing what’s good and not.

We realize this and are more accepting of the outside world when we travel but there is one thing we cannot tolerate. And you shouldn’t either. When you think about it, it’s an amazing invention that never existed and now has become a necessary element in making a house a home.

Sprays, plug-ins, plug-ins that self-spray, odor neutralizers, air sanitizers, and aromatherapy candles in just the right scent are all there, something for everyone. Air fresheners seem to work to help erase the smells in the room and clean the air, but actually they work on us. The chemicals coat our nasal passages with a film that deadens the nerve endings. They mask the problem and fool us into thinking the room is fresh, the smell we have learned to think of as clean.

The ingredients are toxic and may include things like formaldehyde, fragrance, benzyl alcohol, camphor, ethanol, and naphthalene, among others. Aside from causing asthma and allergies, many of these chemicals are known carcinogens that lead to cancer and birth defects. Many attack the central nervous system which can lead to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Multiple Sclerosis, or SIDs in infants. Children are particularly susceptible to poor air quality which can lead to a host of diseases and premature death. Sound clean to you?

Air fresheners and room deodorizers actually create air pollution. When used in a confined area, like our homes, places of work, or cars, they create an intense amount of toxins in a small area. The EPA ranks poor indoor air quality among the top five environmental health risks to the public. Pollution indoors is often worse (up to 500 times worse!) than the pollution outdoors.

Sure, tobacco smoke indoors is a horrible contributor, but aside from that, indoor pollution is primarily the cause of all the things we use to clean our homes and make our homes smell good. In aerosol form the dangers are multiplied because of the micro-particles that are created of the chemicals that can then enter our bloodstream.

Many natural and health food stores sell aromatherapy candles. Traditional candles are made of paraffin wax, a by-product of the gasoline industry, a petrochemical. The fragrance is either artificial, once again a petrochemical and many not suited for combustion, or a pure essential oil which, when burned, no longer offers the therapeutic effect and actually converts into unhealthy byproducts.

Scented paraffin candles usually contain metal or lead core wicks creating unsafe lead concentrations when burned. 100% of the lead that is inhaled when the candle is burned ends up in the bloodstream which can be particularly damaging to—you guessed it—growing children. What is not inhaled immediately attaches to furniture and walls to be inhaled or ingested later. The black soot created from burning traditional, and especially scented, candles is toxic.

According to the American Lung Association— “scented, paraffin candles cause lead poisoning and using slow burning paraffin candles cause poor indoor air quality, and a serious health concern.” Once again, instead of freshening the air, they work to mask the odor while adding poisons to the air we breathe in the comfort of our own homes.

Unplug them, stop spraying them, stop buying them, save your money and instead, really freshen your air:

  • clean instead of masking the odor, use nontoxic cleaners
  • open the windows for real fresh air (if you’re not in a high rise with smokers on the patio above or below you, or up against a busy street, of course)
  • empty the garbage frequently and get rid of rotting meats and vegetables
  • burn 100% pure UNSCENTED beeswax candles with 100% cotton wicks – not only is it the best alternative to traditional paraffin candles, but pure beeswax candles actually do purify and clean the air and add a warm golden glow
  • use the box of open baking soda trick from your fridge in closets and bathrooms or put a half a cup of vinegar in the smelly room to absorb the odor
  • use a drop or two of pure essential oils in a mister filled with distilled water and spritz
  • simmer spices such as cinnamon and cloves in a little water on the stovetop
  • simmer 3 – 5 organic lemons cut in fourths in clean water for 30 minutes to an hour
  • simmer crushed or cut fresh ginger in some water
  • simmer herbs like rosemary or basil
  • boil some water and then add a drop or two of your favorite pure essential oil(s)
  • dab pure organic cotton balls with orange, vanilla, lavender, or lemon extracts or essential oils and place them around the house
  • use organic herbal sachets and potpourri or run your fingers through pots of fresh herbs that you keep in the house to release their scent
  • add potted plants to your room to clear carbon dioxide and other toxins naturally
  • use volcanic rocks to absorb the odors
  • get freshly cut fragrant organic flowers
  • cook or bake, toast up dried spices in a pan, put something in the oven – create a delicious meal and you’ll make the house smell good and fill tummies with something delicious —it’s amazing how aromas of food can fill the air and create memories for our children.

 Author Annie Malka is a mother of four living in the Florida Keys. She writes about cooking, nutrition, organic foods and sustainability at her blog Hip Organic Mama.

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