car air freshener mounted on ventilation panel

The hidden dangers of car air fresheners

Working Americans spend an average of 3 to 4 hours a day in their cars. So, it’s not surprising that the car segment of the U.S. market for air freshener sales is the second-largest and growing. If you’re spending this much time in your vehicle, it’s like your home and away from home and you probably want your “home” to smell good, but are you aware of the hidden dangers of car air fresheners?

Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)

The majority of home and car air fresheners contain VOCs, which are synthetic chemicals that turn into a vapor or gas that stays suspended in the air you breathe. According to research, these chemicals could potentially cause adverse side effects such as headaches, sneezing, nausea, respiratory reactions, liver, kidney, and central nervous system damage, and even cancer. 


This naturally occurring organic compound is also a known carcinogen. Formaldehyde is a colorless gas that is used in many household products, including a significant number of home and car air fresheners. Long-term low-level exposure can cause asthma-like respiratory problems such as wheezing, bronchitis, eye, nose, and throat issues, and even cancer.


This group of chemicals, often called plasticizers, are used in many household products including air fresheners. When phthalates are released into the air where they may be inhaled or land on the skin, they can cause birth defects and other reproductive problems in both men and women, as well as other health problems. They are also known to cause liver cancer in mice. 

Other Potential Dangers of Car Air Fresheners

In addition to the dangerous chemicals that manufacturers use in the production of air fresheners, there are other reasons why you should avoid using car air fresheners. Here are three more reasons to avoid these smelly additions, including drivers that suffered a personal injury

The Air Freshener Could Distract You or Obstruct Your View

One of the most obvious reasons not to hang an air freshener from your rearview window or place it on your dashboard is that it could block your view while driving. Considering that most accidents happen in a split second, all it takes is a moment for the air freshener to get in your way to cause you to have a costly or potentially deadly distraction.

The Air Freshener Could Break and Fall 

Most car air fresheners are attached to your rearview mirror by nothing more than a thin string, or if placed on a dashboard they’re attached by nothing more than some light adhesive. If the string breaks or the adhesive comes loose, the air freshener could fall and cause you to panic and become distracted, potentially causing an accident.

You Could Get a Citation

Different states have different laws when it comes to hanging things from your rearview window, so it’s best to know the law where you’re driving. You might not think something as simple as an air freshener could get you in trouble with the law, but if a police officer believes it’s getting in the way of your line of vision, he could give you a costly fine.