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Beware of Toxic Air Fresheners

If you use synthetic air fresheners in your car and/or living space, you should know that you're likely increasing risk of developing a variety of health problems. Headaches, earaches, depression, an irregular heart beat, and diarrhea in babies are just a few of many health challenges that have been linked to regular use of synthetic air fresheners.

A report that was released in September of 2007 by the Natural Resources Defense Council found that 12 of 14 brands of common household air fresheners contained phthalates. Phthalates are chemicals that are used to prolong the length of time that scented products maintain their fragrance. Regular exposure to phthalates can increase your risk of experiencing endocrine, reproductive, and developmental problems. Amazingly, some of the brands that tested positive for phthalates did not include phthalates on their lists of ingredients; some of these brands were even labeled as being "all-natural" and "unscented."

In response to this study, the National Resources Defense Council produced the following list that indicates the presence or absence of phthalates in common air fresheners:

Highest levels of phthalates:

  • Walgreens Air Freshener Spray (removed from shelves)
  • Walgreens Scented Bouquet Air Fresheners (removed from shelves)
  • Walgreens Solid Air Fresheners (removed from shelves)
  • Ozium Glycolized Air Sanitizer

Medium levels of phthalates:

  • Air Wick Scented Oil
  • Febreze NOTICEables Scented Oil
  • Glade Air Infusions
  • Glade PlugIn Scented Oil
  • Oust Air Sanitizer Spray

Low levels or no phthalates detected:

  • Citrus Magic
  • Febreze Air Effects Air Refresher
  • Lysol Brand II Disinfectant
  • Oust Fan Liquid Refills
  • Renuzit Subtle Effects

Please note that having no phthalates does not make synthetic air fresheners safe to use in your car or home. The vast majority of synthetic air fresheners emit significant amounts of terpene, a volatile organic compound that can react with naturally occurring ozone to create formaldehyde. Ozone, a form of oxygen, exists at some level both indoors and outdoors, so formaldehyde formation is practically inevitable wherever synthetic air fresheners are used. Indoor environments that tend to have elevated levels of ozone include those where photocopiers and ozone-generating air purifiers are used.

Why should you be concerned about exposure to formaldehyde? Formaldehyde is classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.

Given all of the above, it's not surprising that a study that was published in a 2007 issue of the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine indicates that regular use of sprays can increase your risk of developing asthma by 30 to 50 percent. This study was performed by the European Community Respiratory Health Survey, and collected data from 3,500 people in 10 European countries.

Clearly, your health is best served by minimizing exposure to synthetic air fresheners and other synthetic products that are designed to emit a prolonged artificial scent.

Here are some simple and natural ways of keeping your car and living space smelling fresh without using chemical-laden air fresheners:

  1. Open your windows - even just a crack during cold weather - for at least 30 minutes a day. Weather permitting, it's best to keep your windows open all the time, assuming that you don't live in a heavily polluted area.

  2. Sprinkle baking soda on carpets before you vacuum.

  3. Keep a box of baking soda open in the room.

  4. Keep natural (preferably organic) potpourri in a bowl out in the open, or put into little sachets to keep around the house.

  5. Maintain a friendly gathering of indoor plants in your living and work spaces.

  6. Take the garbage and compost out every day.

Please consider sharing this information with friends and family members who use synthetic air fresheners in their cars, homes, and work places. And if you have any other ideas on how to keep these areas smelling fresh without using synthetic chemicals, please consider adding them to the comments section below. Thank you.


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simmer clove and cinnamon in small pot on stove , for a healty natural scent in your home

Many people are allergic to the scent of cinnamon as well. It is very toxic to some. That is why it is used along with cloves as an insect repellent and killer.

My husband was crazy about air fresheners, fragrant dryer sheets, all that yucky chemical stuff. After 3 years of marriage I have finally talked him out of using dryer sheets and he now uses all-natural essential-oil based air fresheners in the house. And don't even get me started on all the fabric-spray products. You can't "clean" fabric by spraying it!! It's like in that movie, "Envy" - where does the smell go?? Whatever dirt and grime that's causing the smell is still there!! That's just gross, in my opinion. I don't spray my house full of fragrant chemicals just because I made fish for dinner - it's dinner and it smells like food - so what?? But if my shoes or my couch smell, they get cleaned and washed, not sprayed with an "odor-neutralizer." Those things just plain scare me.

i'm with you 100%~they are also very dangerous to breathe

I laid my vitamins on the bathroom counter at a friends place, not realizing that the airwick oil diffuser had leaked on to the counter. About 5 min later, I picked all of them up and swallowed them together, stupid I know, but the burning sensation and disgusting taste in my mouth made me realize what I had done. I had diarrhea for over a week and only stopped it with Imodium. I have been unwell for nearly a month now and am about to take blood tests to see what it affected. When I called the 1 800 number on the airwick container (they don't give ingredients,) they wouldn't give me any information and when I said that I would take further, The woman said "tell your doctor to call us". Very dangerous!

If you get no satisfaction from manufacturer's toll free, call Poison Control number. In fact, call poison control first; they are trained for these types of calls and much more efficient.

Hi there. I know this post is super old,
But am wondering if U ever got to feeling better again?
Those type chemicals CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS.
DiD u find u became sensitive to other chemicals ? Particularly airborn chemicals? Like perfumes, cleaning stuff, scented laundry productsYard chemicals ?
I’m not referring to skin sensitivity., tho that happens too, but stomach, or feeling dizzy shaky when u get around these chemicals, in the air? I developed chemical sensitivity about 8 yrs ago.
Certain chemicals now make me super dizzy and will make my muscles feel instantly weak when exposed from breathing thrm in the air .
My Face, skin, esophagus and lungs hurt, burn - almost feel bruised when I’m in a room where these r being used. Scented Laundry products used by OTHER people, the fragrance emitting from their clothes, or scented lotions really affects me.
Lotions and perfumes use many of the same products as scented room deodorizers.
Products with pics of pretty flowers on them, depicting the smell u might expect, r made with EVERYTHING BUT, those flowers. It’s frightening what these chemicals can do to us. Especially children.
Don’t worry. I’m not selling anything. Or buying anything either lol, I was just curious if u were still having issues or had developed any other weird symptoms after that day.
Hope ur ok. But if ur not and having hard time, read about symptoms related to MCS.
Multiple chemical sensitivity.
Airborn chemicals can also cause symptoms of GERD.
I was misdiagnosed with GERD.
Even my esophagus was red and inflamed. A sure sign of GERD said my GI doc.
I was pretty sure he was wrong.
He was.
For me it’s fragrance. Mostly chemical based.
That causes my GERD.
I began to notice when a certain BFF came to visit, I’d get heartburn!!
it wasn’t stress. We always had a blast together. Laughter.
It wasn’t food. She had food allergies. Was too hard to feed her lol. Or cook for her.
20 - 30 mins after she’d leave, my GERD would leave too!
What the heck! ?
Anyway, turns out million of people develop MCS for one reason or another.
Just the smallest exposure to essential oils, can leave me weak, dizzy, shaky and burning skin.
MCS ( multiple chemical sensitivity)
Affects ur cognitive skills too.
MCS is recognized as a disability by SSDI! Yet drs know nothing about MCS.
They Certainly couldnt recognize a patient presenting with mcs symptoms.
I write all this in hope it might help u or anyone that has a variety of symptoms,,(there r more than what I mention ) and r unable to get a diagnosis.
It took me 2 years to get diagnosed and the next 2 were learning how to live in this toxic chemical soup world.
No Magic potion, pill or chemical helps really.
Avoidance. Isolation from people and places is better than a reaction from perfume or cleaning products.
I hope u r healthy.
If not or u have other symptoms u wonder might be related please ask.
Nothing is to weird lol.
I never believed that products the FDA or EPA allowed on the market could make us sick.
They wouldn’t let people sell it or buy it if they r dangerous - RIGHT ?? But, they did. do.
Still do.
They’re protecting us, RIGHT ?!
I don’t really know what they r doing when it comes to household type chemicals.
I’m not one of tho conspiracy thinkers either lol.
There r 50 MILLION people that have chemical sensitivity to various degrees.
Sometimes from one big exposure , like a chemical spill at work. Others from small normal, daily exposures- like to windex bleach, pinesol , perfumes , lotions.... normal “ stuff”.
But. Our bodies r like buckets. One day they get full.
Those reactions r the overflow.
Maybe Ull think about this for a few days after reading it. Or not v
K. Promise. I’m done. Lol
Take care,
Sharin Bradshaw.
Excuse any spelling and other grammatical goofs.
My brain is challenged these days lol.

I'd love to watch you try and explain this to my grandma. Her dogs have peed so much on her floor that it has soaked into the hardwood underneath the carpet. She is constantly going through bottle after bottle of this stuff cause it "always smells". All the while she never wants to open the windows or leave the door open, let alone REPLACE THE CARPET.

She has sprayed so much in one use that it stayed in the air long enough to travel across the house to my room. Chemicals like these, as well as laundry sheets ( they literally make my skin itchy all over if put in my clothes while in the dryer). Can make me feel ill and give me nasty headaches I have to wait out because meds won't work. If these make me feel this bad, I feel horrible for her two small dogs who have to be down on that carpet less than a foot away from it.

Not to be a jerk but this situation sounds like the dogs cannot be properly cared for and should be taken away. Atleast bring in a professional and get the house trained. Most dogs pee inside out of necessity it is common for elderly folks to not be able to handle the responsibility of fido.

I use a product called UNIQUE that I found on Ebay. It is a pet stain, feces, urine, vomit remover that works with live active enzymes that "eat" the proteins in these odors and completely eliminates them - this is not a cover up and it has no toxic perfumey smell. It saved my brand new office that my male cat had sprayed repeatedly. It is called UNIQUE PET ODOR & STAIN ELIMINATOR. This product is a God-send. Also works for human incontinence. I have used this product for over 10 years.

Please tell me where I can but this product I need it for my car ASAP thanks

Dog pees on the carpet stop it up with paper towels until they come up dry then pour as much vinegar as the P half a cup full cup wait a minute and then stop that up until it's dry it's a very natural way to clean kill the OTA and vinegar is used for many other cleaning options it does have some kind of antiseptic properties of vinegar is the way to go not all these chemical products don't use them at all

An open bowl of vinegar will absorb odors.

How about putting a few drops of pure essential oil in a spritz bottle and using that to refresh a room?

Simmer dried citrus peel (orange, grapefruit, tangerine, lemon and or lime) or you can crush the fresh citrus peel in your insinkerator (food waste disposer).

Another idea is to use 100% pure essential oils, (not those with synthetic oils added). You can put a few drops in an atomizer with water, and mist it throughout your house. You can also add a drop or two to your potpourri.

I like the use of pure essential oils. You can also use this idea for your car. Simply put some on cotton and you can stash it in air vents or in little nooks. Fresh mint crush up and put in a little sachet is also a good room freshener and bonus, rodents hate mint!

I take 1 part white vinegar and 4 parts water and put in a spray bottle (fine mist setting). It works great for me. You could always add a couple drops of essential oil in there too but I just use it as is.

try a couple of drops of Lavender oil or Tea Tree oil on a light bulb, bulb must be on of course. It will smoke slightly as it burns away.

I just buy lavender extract and put a couple of drops in a spray bottle with water. Works better than anything else I've tried. You could also do peppermint, rose or other scents you like that come in extracts at the health food store.

Don't heat essential oils! It's not as bad as the synthetic fragrances but still......
" Additionally, the heat may alter or destroy certain constituents of the oils and thus the therapeutic benefit may not be as optimal as using cold-air diffusion methods." -aroma web
Use a cold mist diffuser or similar! Place on a cotton ball and tape to the ceiling fan and run it!

I'm so glad you've written this. Marketing is so good at getting people to buy a product without giving the consumer the full story of how the product can affect their health. One of the things I do besides open a window is diffuse essential oils. Diffusing just a few minutes makes a big difference inside my home. Once you enjoy the aromas of essential oils, those aerosol cans and scented candles smell fake to me. I diffuse therapeutic grade essential oils, to be sure about what I'm inhaling- there are lesser quality essential oils out there, the bottle may have a few drops of quality oil, but adulterated with lesser and/or synthetic oil as well. Thanks for article. K

I found this webpage while searching for something else and wanted to tell you how much I appreciate the information being disseminated here. I
I would like to add the comment that while essential oils may be natural and/or organic, they can be problematic for people with environmental illness like Multiple Chemical Sensitivities (MCS)or respiratory illnesses such as asthma or COPD. I personally suffer greatly with MCS and am very adversely affected by anything like this natural or otherwise. There is a person who works in my building that uses essential oils at times and they are very potent and strong and affect the whole building for quite a while and cause me great distress at times causing me to have to leave. A person can choose to use these things in their own home, but as a person who suffers greatly from this, I appeal to people to consider carefully what kinds of things they use like this if there is a possiblity that someone could be affected in a negative way by them. Thank You.

Barbara, I'm glad you brought this issue up.

I personally know a number of people who are allergic to lavender. It causes sinus inflammation and sneezing.

Just because a substance is "natural" does not mean it is hypoallergenic.

That said, there's some evidence that if you EAT something, you probably won't develop a contact or respiratory allergy to it. (On that note, let me mention that in France, lavender is used as a cooking spice.)

I have multiple respiratory allergies (and years of sinusitis have made me very sensitive), but I am looking into using citrus oils. I eat plenty of citrus fruit and have used orange oil and lemon juice as cleaner and the smell has never bothered me. (Certainly can't say that of chlorine bleach--or of the majority of "air fresheners" on the market.)

Btw, something to consider: most "air fresheners" are just powerful scents. This whole page has a lot of useful tips for eliminating odors. (I would add baking soda and for really strong odors, charcoal.) Another thing to consider would be commercially available odor eliminators such as XO. XO is available without fragrance. It's supposed to work by glomming onto odor-causing chemicals in the air, causing them to fall to the floor where they can be vacuumed up.

Another alternative is a appliance. Air purifiers work by sucking air through a capacitor which is supposed to trap ionized particles, or by sucking air through a filter, which will capture particles in the air down to a certain size. Dust is full of allergens.


I've enjoyed all the comments on how to reduce the toxicity of our air around us, but still be able to enjoy pleasant scents. Lately I've been trying to get the inside of my car to smell better. It has a musty smell. I tried using various sprays, and the type that hangs in your window. But then I became concerned about what was actually in those little hang ups. So I gave those up, and started looking into an Ozone Generator. Detail shops use these to remove odors from cars during their detailing and I thought well why shouldn't I ? I haven't bought one yet, but have been searching and learning. They can even be used in the home, and actually just anyplace to remove odors. Sounds safer than using so called "air fresheners".

Ozone generators are meant to be used in buildings when not populated.They must be turned off one hour before people are expected to be in the building. This is another type of toxicity for people. And yes, they can be used in the home if no one is home.

I wish people WOULD take other's into consideration. I'm a college freshman with a roommate who bought an Air Wick freshener.. The first time he started using it, it was pleasant. But it ran out of fragrance, and he went and got one of the "Glade" refills.. That was a month ago, he still has yet to put together that ever since he bought the refill I've been coughing nonstop, and he can't figure out why I keep turning it off, and hasn't noticed that I cough *less* when I turn it off. I have a 2 hour shift in the mornings from 8-10,and last week he moved it closer to my bed and put it on full blast, and I've been coughing all night long, and I've found myself waking up at 9:30, barely enough time to get ready for my 10 o'clock class. When I wake up, its normally because I went into another coughing fit, and not my alarm that goes off at 6:30 in the morning, which I've realized HE has been turning off. I'm on the verge of losing my job if I miss another shift, and the next time he turns it back on I'm just going to take out the batteries and glue the thing shut.

I once worked in an office where our work stations were in close proximity to each other. A co-worker, single mother, was only able to afford a less expensive fragrance. I had 0 tolerance to Avon for whatever reason and would go into sneezing fits once she arrived at her desk. Finally one day I asked her if she was wearing an Avon. Curious, she asked why. My reply explaining my sensitivity to Avon perfumes was accepted with good grace and she did stop wearing that fragrance - and I stopped sneezing. The soap aisle in the grocery store could trigger a sneezing fit in the days of powder detergents. Most are now liquid and I don't experience the sneezing fits anymore. PS. In time she saved enough for a higher end product with no repercussions from my end :)

Not much of a room mate is he? Presumably you've tried explaining just what this does to you and your poor lungs. He's obviously not taking it seriously. Point out that if boot were on the other foot how we he feel. Perhaps he has an achilles heel. Seriously you have to get through to this thickie just how horrendous it makes you feel. Otherwise change room mates - if you can. At least you know at your young age what is making you ill. Many people go through years and years of not knowing completely oblivious to whats around them and wonder why they are ill. Good luck, persevere and very best wishes for your future.

People should know by themselves, imo, that constantly breathing in chemicals is bad for their health. I'm actually amazed that so many people still think breathing in chemicals; having their BABIES breathe in chemicals, for hours at a time, is harmless. Did they learn nothing from the great cigarette debacle? And - surprise surprise - the medical profession does NOTHING to stop these air fresheners. Bad enough if they stayed in the houses/cars of those using them, but of course they don't - they leak out into the air, and taint it. It's getting harder and harder to find fresh air, thanks to those eejits who use these plug-in air fresheners. Open your windows, and get a breath of all the car airfresheners/your neighbours' plug in air fresheners. I'm so sorry for the babies; young children who're brought up with these things; who will have no idea that fresh air is different to the carcinogenic, chemically tainted stuff we're all having to breathe in now. Plug-in air fresheners should be illegal. They're making this world more and more unlivable. When even the air you breathe is mostly chemical crap, how on Earth are people supposed to stay healthy and sane?! Maybe in twenty or thirty years, we'll have the whole cigarette debate again - airwick and co can sponsor trials 'proving' the air 'fresheners' are completely harmless, and all those now dying of nasal/throat/lung.stomach cancers are NOTHING to do with the air fresheners. And then, ten or twenty years later, they'll finally prove what a lot of us have known from the start - that breathing in chemicals for hours a day is, surprise surprise, harmful for your health. Of course, by then millions of people will have been badly effected by these things which make cigarettes look positively healthy by comparison, but hey, the corporations made billions and a lot of people didn't have to smell the insides of their own homes and cars, so where's the problem? I cannot believe how stupid so many people are about this. It's not as if fresh air is, after all, essential to life here, or anything ...

Dear Beth - Could not have said it better myself - at present I am trying to convince the Aged Care Management where my Mum is to DITCH the air fresheners they have installed in the corridors - I myself have many allergies to chemicals after being exposed to a deadly varnish whilst doing Reception relief when I was temping - another lady I worked with at the time ended up on life support as she had no ventilation in her office nor a window - I at least had a window in the reception area which I had opened wide - the minimum effect from this dreadful air freshener they have installed is a nose bleed and I just would not like to imagine how it is affecting these dear elderly folk who already have compromised immune systems and many have breathing difficulties!!!!! It is A M A Z I N G they have banned cigarette smoking E V E R Y W H E R E unyet allow chemicals to be pumped into the atmosphere in public toilets and other public areas!!! More people need to speak up and more research needs to be done urgent - all these cases of increased cancer especially in children HAS to be coming from somewhere!!!!!!!!!!

I thought this was a very interesting article, and many of the comments were also very enlightening.
I can endorse what was said by a few about lavender - boy do I react to it! - and would add a similar caveat about citrus skins - they get me too and I know some others who react to them. allergies are such personal things!
But on the fresh air subject I would like to add another reason for opeing windows: research carried out in sweden in the 70's found that opeing windows - all your windows! - for ten minuteseach days actually reduces you heating bills and makes the house feel warmer. What they found was that opening windows for 10 minutes cooled the air but not the walls, and letting fresh air in removed the moisture that accumulates from our breathing, so the overall result is an increase in heat when the windows are closed again. I myself tend to open the windows for short periods rather more than once a day and find that this increases my feeling of wellbeing.
As for "air fresheners" I detest them, feel extremely uncomfortable and sometimes quite ill when they are around and would love to see them banned. Failing that, I refuse to enter a taxi in which my nose can detect the things. Some drivers understand and remove them and open windows, others get offended, but that is fine by me, I just go to the next car in the rank...
Keep up the good work, Dr Kimj!

I have learned to use essential oils in a diffuser. So many benefits!

I went to my nieces essential oil party tonight where she had a diffuser turn on misting the room which made me start coughing and my eyes were bothered by it...I didn't seam to noticed no one else was bothered by the smell or coughing ..I woke up coughing and my lungs feeling tight and wanted to find out if any one else has had this experience and same reaction smelling this oil being misting in the air..I am really uncomfortable right now and feeling some bronchitis coming on

My husband is a chronic migraine sufferer and can't tolerate any of the essential oils either. The key here is to be considerate to those around you and be mindful that whilst you might not be sensitive to smells that other people are, often with debilitating consequences.

Kathy, I had the same problem; everybody in my office uses/sells a brand of essential oil, and burn them all the time. One made me nauseous several weeks ago, but the one they burned last week made me feel very ill; pounding head and heart palpitations, couldn't think or move quickly by the end of the day and when I got home it was so bad I was up half the night because I felt like I had heaviness on my chest and trouble breathing. I didn't know whether to go to the emergency room or not but since we can't afford it I took my chances and did not go. It's a week later and I still have the occasional palpitations and breathing trouble. SO Yes, I would say they are toxic, from my experience. It's a workspace, so I don't know if OSHA should get involved or not. They own it so they don't seem to care how it affects others.

The problem is, that there are a few essential oils (good quality oils) that are safe to diffuse and there are some that can affect people differently. Peppermint, for one, is a great oil and can help with a multitude of issues, but it should not be diffused because it can irritate the lungs and even stop breathing in babies and people who have issues such as asthma. I think diffusers in an office or public place, unless that is the nature of what you are selling, should be reconsidered. It is similar to the old tactic department stores used in the past in which they would randomly squirt perfume at you as you walked by to try to sell it. If you want to use it, you will try it on your own. The diffusers need to stay at home not to offend people who may have a bad reaction to a particular oil.

A diffuser with essential oil is all you need to keep the air clean and fresh. There are diffusers for the automobile that plug into the cigarette lighter that work well. Enjoy the benefits of aromatherapy.

How about pets and small children and infants who are indoors for long periods of time-or in the case of some cats-never allowed outdoors to escape the air fresheners.

Below you'll find a list of just some of the 87 chemicals found by the EWG in Febreze Air Effects, listed in order of their toxicity to humans: BHT - Known as a neurotoxin, endocrine disruptor, immunotoxicity, non-reproductive organ system toxicity, skin eye and lung irritator Acetaldehyde - Known to cause cancer, toxic to reproduction and development, immunotoxin, non-reproductive organ system toxin, skin, eye and lung irritator "Fragrance" - One of the three ingredients actually disclosed, it's a neurotoxin, immunotoxin and allergen Propylene Glycol - Causes cancer, allergies, toxic to immune system, accumulates in the system, non-reproductive organ system toxin, is classified with "enhanced skin absorption" and irritates the skin, eye and lung 1,3-Dichloro-2-propanol - Carcinogenic (causes cancer) Limonene - Allergen, immunotoxin and skin, eyes and lung irritator Methyl pyrrolidone - Toxin to reproduction and development, allergen and immunotoxin, non-reproductive organ system toxin and skin, eyes and lung irritator Alcohol denatured - Also disclosed in the ingredients of Febreze, it's linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive toxicity, organ system toxicity and skin, eyes and lung irritator Butylphenyl methylpropion al - allergen, immunotoxin and and skin, eyes and lung irritator Ethyl acetate - linked to developmental/reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, organic system toxicity and and skin, eyes and lung irritator Geraniol - Linked to allergies, immunotoxicity, organi system toxicity and and skin, eyes and lung irritation Linalool - allergen, immunotoxin, and and skin, eyes and lung irritator Benzaldehyde - neurotoxin, and skin, eyes and lung irritator Diethylene glycol monoethyl ether - non-reproductive organ system toxicity Ethylhezanol - developmental and reproductive toxin and skin, eyes and lung irritator Hexyl cinnamal - allergen, immunotoxin and skin, eyes and lung irritator And way too many more....

How abut a petition to the CDC who has already banned the use of toxic fragrances in it's offices, see and to prohibit the use of Febcrap products in any health establishment in the U.S. especially with children!

Never use the Government for your advice, ALWAYS find independent peer reviewed research. In case you didn't know Propylene Glycol is Fatally toxic to animals (humans) Read the warning labels, or call your vet if you wish to verify. The government allows toxic substances to be sprayed on our foods! They approve drugs that lead to death and severe health issues! Do you really think they are a fact-based organization?

Shaklee's cleaners and concentrates made into a spray are safe, effective, good for the environment and economical. Basic H is a corn and coconut based product.