“Essential oils are aromatic liquids extracted from flowers, grasses, fruits, leaves, roots, and trees. There are hundreds of essential oils, and they are used for everything from insect repellents to aromatherapy and fragrance” − according to Annie Bond in her book, Better Basics for the Home: Simple Solutions for Less Toxic Living.
These oils are increasingly being considered for “aromatherapy” use in commercial facilities such as school classrooms and hotel rooms. Are they useful? Safe?
The Healthy Facilities Institute (HFI) has reviewed the info, and believes essential oils are helpful in some cases, but cautions that chemically-sensitive persons are often bothered by these concentrated substances, so maintains essential oils should not be routinely added to classrooms or hotel rooms.
According to Dr. David Mudarri: "Many naturally occurring substances are potentially harmful, e.g., certain types of fungi or mold; asbestos; and other natural substances that may be concentrated beyond what occurs naturally. With respect to essential oils, such oils contain terpenes, and ozone in the air reacts with these terpenes to produce formaldehyde and other toxic volatile organic compounds."
Still, essential oils can be useful and may be preferable to synthetic chemical formulations, but caution is needed as with any strong preparation, natural or man-made. Natural does not always mean “safe”.