Can’t smell the forest for the tree air freshener hanging from the rear-view mirror? That’s the concern of more and more people who report headaches, dizziness, and other negative symptoms from the “air fresheners” that hang in vehicles to mask odors.
It has been my concern since I bought a small used pickup truck a few years back. It came complete with manual transmission, CD player, canopy, and the classic cardboard tree hanging from the rear-view mirror. Almost immediately I had a severe headache from the scent emanating from the truck. I assumed that once I chopped that tree from the windshield the truck would lose its awful scent and the headache would be gone. A year later after cleaning the upholstery with a home-made, all-natural brew and keeping the windows down every day to air it out, I still couldn’t drive that truck without feeling nauseous and getting a headache. Now, I’m not suggesting it was due to a single scented cardboard tree as I’m sure it had been sprayed with other “air fresheners” too but it raises the question, “just what is in that tree?”
A consumer relations specialist at Car-Freshner Corporation in Watertown, New York, the official manufacturer of scented trees products for cars, said in a recent newspaper article: “I can’t tell you what’s in them because it’s proprietary information.”
This is a legal loophole that many companies exploit in the name of “trade secrets.” And Car Freshner (that’s no typo, that’s actually the spelling) even claims on its website that “we are so vigilant about protecting our trademarks.” While a combination of ingredients is actually a patent or trade secret, not a trademark, I have no doubt that the company is vigilant about protecting the blend of ingredients it uses in its products. After all, it has been in business for 59 years and consumers still have no idea what they are breathing when they hang a tree in their vehicle.
According to the corporate website, the company founder Julius Sämann had lived in the Canadian pine forests extracting aromatic oils before inventing the hanging “air freshener.” Having lived in pine forests all over Canada I can say with some degree of confidence that I’ve never smelled one that made me nauseous, gave me headaches, made me dizzy, or made it hard to breathe. Actually, my regular walks in the Canadian pine forests have always eliminated headaches, helped me to feel clearer, and helped deepen my breathing.
I can’t speak to what Car-Freshner’s little trees contain and maybe we’ll never know thanks to regulators that allow trade secrets to take priority over public health and consumers’ right to know what they are buying and breathing. I can, however, tell you that my research found that the number and severity of toxic ingredients in common air fresheners is shocking and disturbing. Here’s a sampling:
Keep reading to discover the shocking ingredients in many air fresheners…