Characterization of air freshener emission: the potential health effects

J Toxicol Sci. 2015;40(5):535-50. doi: 10.2131/jts.40.535.


Air freshener could be one of the multiple sources that release volatile organic compounds (VOCs) into the indoor environment. The use of these products may be associated with an increase in the measured level of terpene, such as xylene and other volatile air freshener components, including aldehydes, and esters. Air freshener is usually used indoors, and thus some compounds emitted from air freshener may have potentially harmful health impacts, including sensory irritation, respiratory symptoms, and dysfunction of the lungs. The constituents of air fresheners can react with ozone to produce secondary pollutants such as formaldehyde, secondary organic aerosol (SOA), oxidative product, and ultrafine particles. These pollutants then adversely affect human health, in many ways such as damage to the central nervous system, alteration of hormone levels, etc. In particular, the ultrafine particles may induce severe adverse effects on diverse organs, including the pulmonary and cardiovascular systems. Although the indoor use of air freshener is increasing, deleterious effects do not manifest for many years, making it difficult to identify air freshener-associated symptoms. In addition, risk assessment recognizes the association between air fresheners and adverse health effects, but the distinct causal relationship remains unclear. In this review, the emitted components of air freshener, including benzene, phthalate, and limonene, were described. Moreover, we focused on the health effects of these chemicals and secondary pollutants formed by the reaction with ozone. In conclusion, scientific guidelines on emission and exposure as well as risk characterization of air freshener need to be established.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aerosols / adverse effects*
  • Aerosols / chemistry
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / adverse effects*
  • Air Pollution, Indoor / analysis
  • Aldehydes / adverse effects
  • Aldehydes / analysis
  • Benzene
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology
  • Cyclohexenes
  • Esters / adverse effects
  • Esters / analysis
  • Household Products / adverse effects*
  • Household Products / analysis
  • Humans
  • Inhalation Exposure / adverse effects
  • Inhalation Exposure / analysis
  • Limonene
  • Oxidation-Reduction
  • Ozone
  • Particle Size
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology
  • Terpenes
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / adverse effects*
  • Volatile Organic Compounds / analysis
  • Xylenes / adverse effects
  • Xylenes / analysis


  • Aerosols
  • Aldehydes
  • Cyclohexenes
  • Esters
  • Phthalic Acids
  • Terpenes
  • Volatile Organic Compounds
  • Xylenes
  • Ozone
  • phthalic acid
  • Limonene
  • Benzene