JUST BREATHE: There are plenty of ways to avoid using chemical based cleaning products.
JUST BREATHE: There are plenty of ways to avoid using chemical based cleaning products. Sebastian Duda

Thanks for not using air fresheners

MAYBE your breathing feels a little odd as you stride through the cleaning product aisle of the supermarket, drive in a freshly detailed car, or visit a friend who habitually uses air fresheners.

These are the places with high concentrations of artificial (synthetic) fragrances, and research around its ill-effects is growing.

There's a wide range of artificial chemicals in the products we use to make ourselves and our environments smell nice, but they could be having more of an impact on your hormones than you thought.

Many of those chemicals like volatile organic compounds are now classified as endocrine disrupters; because research has found they could be contributing to hormonal problems like poly-cystic ovary syndrome, thyroid problems and acne.

The problem with some of the chemicals contained in artificial fragrances is that their molecules look so much like hormone molecules your body can't tell the difference. So they can latch on to cell receptors, blocking your real hormones.

This is suspected to contribute to hormone disorders in women. Since hormones affect mood, your emotions could be affected too. It's also possible that the chemicals in these products could affect the nervous system, and research continues to find out for sure.

Like the recent litigation around the use of glyphosphate as a herbicide, we might soon decide that substances we thought were safe to use weren't so good for us after all.

Our bodies have in-built detoxification systems to manage small doses of chemicals, but can only handle so much for us. Indoor air pollution is definitely a thing, with some folk reacting to over-exposure to synthetic fragrances with breathing problems, sneezing, sometimes burning eyes or even a headache.

If you're worried you or your home will smell bad, consider using essential oils and natural (certified organic) products. There's a multitude of natural grooming products on the market.

But a word to the wise: even natural essential oils can be so concentrated that they can cause hormone problems themselves.

Many people are switching to natural cleaning products like bicarb and vinegar, adding a few drops of (natural) essential oil. Letting in fresh air helps too.

Many more sensitive manufactured products are available now that don't contain fragrance chemicals.

Plants are natural air fresheners, and more air cleaning appliances are being produced now to remove these problem chemicals from the air. But it's easier to just not use them in the first place.

Olwen Anderson is a naturopath and counsellor. www.olwenanderson.com.au



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