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Is that a hazardous chemical in my air freshener?

Using a conventional air freshener is almost as silly as the advertisements used to sell them. Case in point: chemical-based Air Wick's new National Park scents.

I recently saw a curious TV ad for a brand of air fresheners called Air Wick.

In the commercial, we see a rugged and outdoorsy guy mosey through a meadow of purple wildflowers flanked by gorgeous snow-topped mountains. He kneels down with a pensive look, removes a glass bottle from his leather satchel, and sweeps it through the air to lock in the “smell” of the meadow with a stopper. Next, our brawny protagonist paddles in a canoe through a glacial lake. He runs his hands through the crystalline water, takes out another glass container and “bottles” the fresh scent of the air. He holds the bottle up to the sun, admiring the invisible aroma of the great outdoors.

Meet Air Wick’s new Limited Edition National Park Collection of room fresheners, where you can “bring home the vibrant scents of nature,” according to the website. Users of Air Wick can make their homes “smell like” Glacier Bay Serene Waters, Hawai’i Tropical Sunset, Yellowstone Wildflower Valley, and Virgin Islands Paradise Flowers. A portion of the proceeds from each purchase will be donated to the National Park Foundation, the official charity of America's national parks.

Take a gander:

While I appreciate the eye candy of the handsome scent-hunting man, the commercial is one of the silliest things I’ve ever seen. I understand that the cornerstone of advertising focuses on figurative imagery and fostering emotional connections—but the commercial’s caricature of a Technicolor natural world is preposterous, considering the product being sold is classified as a “Hazardous Chemical” by the Occupational Safety & Health Administration 1910.1200, according to the Material Safety Data Sheet (December, 2010), available on Air Wick’s website.

It’s certainly inspiring when companies can collaborate with organizations such as the National Park Foundation to fundraise. But this philanthropic act is diluted when you discover Air Wick is owned by the international mega-corporation Reckitt Benckiser (the same folks who manage brands like Woolite and Lysol). With its bevy of chemical-based products, is the company truly supporting the environment as it's commercials suggest?

Natural air freshener options

As natural retailers expand their offerings to include household items, it’s easier than ever to seek natural air fresheners rather than allergy-causing and irritating sprays. Soy candles with added essential oils or natural incense are great options.

Or pick up a Moso Bag—a cool product that recently came across my desk. Made from bamboo charcoal, this pillow-like bag removes impurities such as formaldehyde, ammonia, benzene, and chloroform gases from the air for up to two years. It also dehumidifies to prevent the growth of mold and mildew. Don't smell anything? That means it's working. And there's nothing more natural than that.

Discuss this Blog Entry 4

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 25, 2012

Thanks for your article. These "air fresheners" have been polluting consumers' minds and bodies for years. It's ultimately just more greenwashing on top of air pollution, and whoever responsible at the National Parks Service for the decision to align with these hazardous chemicals should be forced to live with them for a few weeks--perhaps one refreshing scent in each room of their home.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Apr 25, 2012

I use air fresheners from Earth-Kind, they have zeolite in them to filter and purify the air and don't have any phtalates or carcinogens :-)

But I do agree about appreciating "the eye candy of the handsome scent-hunting man"

on Aug 26, 2012

I too, agree with your appreciation of "the eye candy of the handsome scent-hunting man". In the latest commercial, he travels to the far north in a hot-air balloon to capture the scent of the forest. I do love these commercials, but I have the same reservations that you do about the actual product. I volunteer in a National Park, which is why these ads originally caught my eye. The National Park that I work in is located on the edge of a big city. It borders on a high-traffic road and two busy restaurants--so it doesn't smell that great. I bought the Airwick product to try it out, and I admit I like it. Would I rather have a more environmentally friendly product that isn't made by huge corporation? Yes. Still, I like the product, and I LOVE the commercials. However, in the future, I will opt for more environmentally-friendly products.

on Jul 19, 2013

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