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When researchers for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) tested 14 brands of common household air fresheners in 2007, they found that 86 percent of scented sprays, gels and plug-in fresheners tested contained phthalates, even those bearing "all-natural" and "unscented" labels. Phthalates are hazardous chemicals known to cause hormonal abnormalities, birth defects and reproductive problems. When people use air fresheners, the phthalates are released into the air where they may be inhaled or may land on the skin and be absorbed. Once these chemicals enter the bloodstream, they can alter hormone levels and cause other health problems like allergic symptoms and asthma.You might be able to use pure, organic essential oils to mask nasty odors in the short-term. But do not burn them (as in candles) because they are highly flammable and the smoke from burning essential oils may contain potential car- cinogens, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). A good way to use essential oils is to vaporize them. This is commonly done with an oil burner, where a few drops of essential oil are placed in a container of water, then heated with a small candle. Although you could avoid the problems with paraffin, by burning a soy, beeswax or hemp tea light, there are better ways, such as using a diffuser that heats the oil with a low wattage light bulb or other electrical element. Or add a few drops of essential oil to a shallow saucer of water and place the saucer on a radiator or in a sunny window.Even exposure to pure, organic essential oils can cause breathing problems for children and for some people with asthma or other respiratory problems or sensitivities. Some essential oils are actually suspected of causing allergies; they include aniseed, bay, cardamom, citronella, jasmine, bay laurel, orange, pine and verbena. The use of essential oils during pregnancy is controversial among aromatherapists. Most sources say that pregnant women should avoid the essential oils

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