skip to Main Content

Hidden Hazards

It may surprise you to know that the air in your home holds hazards to your health!

Common Indoor Air Pollutants

Today’s energy efficient homes, modern building materials, and chemicals in everyday household products, all combine to create unhealthy air in our homes. Even ordinary activities such as cooking, cleaning, personal hygiene & beauty care, redecorating, heating, cooling, printing and photocopying can cause the release and spread of common indoor pollutants. So much so, that studies have shown that indoor air can be at least 2 to 5 times more polluted than outside air.

Particle Pollutants

We’re generally familiar with dust, pet dander and pollen, which can cause irritation and trigger allergies or asthma, and submicron size particles like bacteria and viruses which cause disease.

Chemical Pollutants

What we’re not so familiar with is the chemicals in our indoor air that can cause health problems from minor irritation to serious chronic illness. The list of chemicals that we’re exposed to daily is very long. In fact, perfumes and other scented personal care and cleaning products can contain dozens of chemicals. Many of these are known to be toxic; others have not been tested for toxicity.

And you won’t necessarily see them on product labels — manufacturers are not required to disclose a complete list of ingredients. Even the toxic chemicals! It is considered CBI – confidential business information!!! See Dr. Paula Baillie-Hamilton’s book, Toxic Overload, p. 74.

Who would have thought that our perfumes, carpets, furniture, and clothing could be compromising our health on a daily basis?!?

Dr. Claudia Miller says, “After World War II, people began using a broad range of synthetic organic chemicals in their homes and work. From cleaning fluids and fragrances to construction materials and pesticides, many of these chemicals are novel—having been “invented” within the past 70 years. … Chemical exposures can harm mental and physical health in a variety of ways. … Surprisingly, “indoor air” is the most common source of chemical exposures in many people’s lives.” TILT, p 2

Pesticides, air fresheners, cleaning chemicals, scented laundry products (fabric softener, soap, dryer sheets), personal care products (powders, sprays, perfume/cologne, cosmetics, lotions, fragranced hair and bath products, deodorants, nail polish and remover), furniture and drapes with ‘easy care, stain resistant’ treatment, renovations (paint, caulking, glues), building materials (plywood, particle board), and flooring (vinyl, carpet, adhesives) are all examples of common sources of chemical pollution that we breathe in regularly.


Dr. Anne Steinemann says, “Air fresheners, even ones called green and organic, can emit potentially hazardous chemicals. Fewer than 10% of air freshener ingredients are typically disclosed to the public..”

“Air freshener exposures, even at low levels, have been associated with a range of adverse health effects, which include migraine headaches, asthma attacks, breathing difficulties, respiratory difficulties, mucosal symptoms, dermatitis, infant diarrhea and earache, neurological problems, and ventricular fibrillation.”  See Ten Questions About Air Fresheners.


The ingredient ‘fragrance’ on a product label can be composed of many chemicals which the manufacturer does not need to name. Some are known to be toxic, others have not been tested. In fact, some perfumes contain the same chemicals as those found in cigarette smoke and gasoline, such as formaldehyde and benzene! These chemicals vaporize and attach themselves to hair, clothing, and our surroundings.

The Canadian Lung Association recommends that if you use perfumes or other scented products, don’t keep them in your bedroom; wear a lighter fragrance (or no fragrance at all) during warm weather, since fragrance intensifies with heat; and make sure you wear only a reasonable amount of fragrance—no one more than an arm’s length away from you should be able to smell your fragrance. “What we wear is in the air we share!”


Formaldehyde is a common indoor air pollutant. Typically, formaldehyde levels are higher indoors than outdoors due to the many indoor sources. The California Air Resources Board has identified formaldehyde as a Toxic Air Contaminant, based on its potential to contribute to cancer risk. Removing or reducing the formaldehyde sources in your home will reduce the risks to your health.  The first place you can reduce the formaldehyde in your home is by unplugging and discarding your air ‘fresheners.’

Major indoor sources of formaldehyde include: air fresheners, perfumes, fragranced products, baby care products, personal care products (nail polish, hair and skin care products), furniture, cabinets, walls and floors made with manufactured wood, permanent press fabrics (clothing, linens, draperies), combustion appliances (wood stoves, heaters & stoves fueled by gas, kerosene, or propane), cigarettes and cigars.


Benzene is a, a widespread urban air pollutant and again, indoor air generally contains levels of benzene higher than those in outdoor air. Benzene is so toxic it can cause extreme health problems from simple drowsiness to dizziness, to death. It is the largest contributor to total cancer risk from air pollutants, especially leukemia. Benzene is a common ingredient in fragrances!

Benzene has a sweet odour, is highly flammable and evaporates into the air very quickly. The benzene in indoor air comes from air fresheners, perfumes, fragranced products, glues, paints, furniture wax, and detergents.  It’s found in the smoke and ash from volcanoes and forest fires; in crude oil, gasoline, and vehicle exhaust; and in tobacco smoke.  It‘s used to make some types of lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, pesticides, plastics, resins, and nylon and synthetic fibers.


Acetone is found indoors in cologne, dishwashing liquid and detergent, nail enamel remover, tobacco, and printer toner and ink.  At room temperature the chemical becomes airborne and is then inhaled into our lungs. Inhalation can cause dryness of the mouth and throat, dizziness, nausea, lack of coordination, slurred speech, drowsiness, and, in severe exposures, coma. It acts primarily as a central nervous system depressant, which means it can cause decreased rate of breathing, decreased heart rate, and decreased mental capacity.


Also known as Toluol, Methylbenzene, Phenylmethane.  In homes, toluene vapours are often found indoors in paint thinners, paint brush cleaners, nail polish, glues, inks, stain removers and fragrances! Toluene is also found in car exhaust and the smoke from cigarettes. It’s a colourless liquid with a sweet smell and taste. It evaporates quickly. Toluene is a central nervous system depressant which means it can cause decreased rate of breathing, decreased heart rate, and decreased mental capacity.

Hybrid’ Pollutants

These pollutants are composed of both particles and chemicals. Wildfires, smog, mould, tobacco smoke, wood smoke, candles, cooking, copier toner, carpet fresheners, air ‘freshener’ sprays, and hair sprays are common examples of sources of ‘hybrid’ air pollution.

WILDFIRE smoke particles are irritating enough, but they also carry chemicals that are seriously hazardous to our health. And of course, wildfire smoke enters our homes as well. Canada’s Department of Environmental and Natural Resources department, says, “Smoke from forest fires or grass fires is one of the most serious air quality problems for Canadians. All provinces and territories can be affected.” See wildfire smoke.

SMOG is mostly composed of particulate matter and ozone – a greenhouse gas that forms when nitrogen oxides and volatile organic compounds produced by cars and industrial plants react together in the presence of sunlight. And its impact on human health and the environment can be severe.

Back To Top