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What’s in That Car Air Freshener?

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What’s in That Car Air Freshener?

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…

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Michelle Schoffro Cook

Michelle Schoffro Cook, MSc, RNCP, ROHP, DNM, PhD is an international best-selling and 15-time book author and doctor of traditional natural medicine, whose works include: 60 Seconds to Slim, Weekend Wonder Detox, Healing Recipes, The Vitality Diet, Allergy-Proof, Arthritis-Proof, Total Body Detox, The Life Force Diet, The Ultimate pH Solution, The 4-Week Ultimate Body Detox Plan, and The Phytozyme Cure. Subscribe to her free e-magazine World's Healthiest News at to receive monthly health news, tips, recipes and more. Follow her on Twitter @mschoffrocook and Facebook.


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3:08AM PDT on Aug 1, 2014

Thank you

4:09AM PDT on Jun 17, 2014

Your contents is really forcing out your readers to give the nice service

9:57PM PST on Jan 6, 2014

I would never use any kind of commercial air freshener, they are really bad for the environment and also for people with allergies and asthma, like me. I use peppermint oil and water in a spray bottle for the house, and spray the car with it periodically.

9:46PM PST on Jan 6, 2014


10:36PM PDT on Oct 31, 2013


8:11PM PDT on Oct 14, 2013

Yes Cheryl M. Chemically sensitive people like us are truly the canaries in the coal mine and we want to warn and protect others from these horrible chemicals. I missed my cousin's viewing tonight because of those stinking TREES in my brothers' car. My heart started pounding within 2 minutes of getting into his car. I felt like I was having a severe asthma and panic attack. I got dropped back off to my car,attempting to follow him to viewing. By then I could hardly drive felt so neurologically impaired and confused and had to pull over,eventually drove home and missed the viewing(after having to pop a couple of prednisone,pills)which is not the greatest option.
For more information people, you can go to

6:05PM PDT on Oct 6, 2013


11:37PM PDT on Sep 3, 2013

Thanks for his article and all valuable information.

1:15PM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

GGma Sheila D.,

I hate artificial smells (and gel sanitizers/hand and Etc. cleaners- I REALLY HATE, WHERE IS THE SIMPLE BARS OF SOAP- HAIRS ARE NOT GOING TO POISON ME!) too before I ever knew that they are damaging to the our species bodies. In recent years, I really hate them; but discovering them everywhere, and really no control to stop them from being omitted into the air I experience (even at the local campus' computer lab both are present- at least I do not have to use gel sanitizers/hand and Etc. cleaners while in the lab, but of course, have to wash my hands after using bathroom and no choice. Now, that thinking about it what typing this, I should just bring a bar of soap with me; Thank You, for facilitating my coming to this conclusion.

11:45AM PDT on Aug 28, 2013

Could never stand those car air fresheners. Within 5 minutes of being enclosed with just about any kind my sinuses would get congested, my eyes start tearing and then the half box of tissues I'd use on the way to where ever. Hate them; now I have even more reason to avoid them.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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