Is Your Dryer Giving You Cancer?


Who doesn’t love the fresh clean smell of laundry drying?

But you might want to hold off on taking your next whiff. New research is pointing a finger at dryer sheets and laundry detergents as being bearers of a heck of a lot more than just April freshness.

In fact, University of Washington researchers have pinpointed 25 volatile organic compounds…including seven hazardous air pollutants and two carcinogens…wafting out of dryer vents.

The study—published in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health—focused on three different scenarios: dryer-vent fumes from a load of pre-rinsed organic-cotton towels washed with no products, one washed with a leading brand of scented liquid laundry detergent, and finally one both washed with the detergent and later dried with a leading brand of scented dryer sheets.

The researchers placed a special canister inside the dryer vent to capture the exhaust 15 minutes into each of the three drying cycles. They were able to easily identify a number of hazardous chemicals…including the cancer-causing compounds acetaldehyde and benzene…in the scented air of both of the loads that were treated with the laundry products.

And those chemicals aren’t just bad for us they’re bad news for the environment too. The UW scientists estimate that in the Seattle area alone the acetaldehyde emissions from the one leading brand of laundry detergent they tested would be equal to about 3 percent of the total acetaldehyde emissions from cars.

Even worse, when they crunched the numbers for the top five brands that number jumped to 6 percent of cars’ acetaldehyde emissions.

Now, let’s face it. Neither of us is very likely going to be heading down to the nearest stream to wash our clothes the old-fashioned way…by beating them on rocks. So what’s a clean-laundry lover supposed to do?

Your best bet is to make the switch to unscented natural laundry products.

You also might want to skip dryer sheets altogether and opt for a greener method of handling static cling and softening of clothing like adding a dash of vinegar to the rinse cycle or even using a classic clothesline. If you’re pressed for time, you may want to combat static cling by tossing your load into the dryer for a partial cycle and then hanging the damp clothes to air-dry the rest of the way.

Oh, and if you plan on using your dryer but find yourself still craving a little fragrance, try a drop of an essential oil on a dishcloth or give a sachet of fresh herbs a try. Mint and lavender, for example, both smell delicious.

You know I never imagined that I would be adding my dryer to the laundry list of things that might kill me.


Related articles of interest:

Top 9 Personal Care Products Safer Shopping Tips

Spray Cleaner Health Hazards

The Habit That Could Give You Alzheimer’s



“Chemical emissions from residential dryer vents during use of fragranced laundry products,” Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 2011; DOI

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Alice Wessendorf

An enthusiastic believer in the power of natural healing, Alice has spent virtually her entire 17-year career in the natural-health publishing field helping to spread the word.

She is an advocate of self-education and is passionate about the power of group knowledge sharing, like the kind found right here on  Alice loves to share her views on holistic and natural healing as well as her, sometimes contentious, thoughts on the profit-driven inner workings of traditional medicine.

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  1. says

    Artificially scented products contain pthalates – the same stuff in plastic products (BPAs) that made so many headlines. That should be reason enough to avoid them: air freshener, scented candles, scented soaps, detergents, laundry soap, fabric softener, even scented lotions, shampoos, conditioner, the list is endless.

    It exhausts into the environment via the dryer vent, after that it stays in your immediate surroundings. You dress in it, you sleep in it, you bathe in it, you put it directly on your skin and wear it all day, you breathe it in your home, you just can’t get away from it unless you stop using it.

    Don’t trust labels that say ‘organic’ or ‘natural’. Unless the label specifically reads ‘pthalate free’ or ‘fragrance from essential oils’ a scented product is most likely to contain pthalates.

  2. Boomer12k says

    Duh, it is chemical products that are toxic to us. That “NEW CAR SMELL”? That new carpet you just had installed. Even that new Projector Screen? They are all de-gassing chemical fumes, from glue, to other things…. welcome to the 21st century….fortunately with more people becoming sick, Obamacare will be employing more people!!! Death creates jobs!!! YEA!!! (sarcasm much?)
    But we don’t live in a hermetically sealed house, with all green technology. About the only thing you can do is DETOX, DETOX, DETOX, and go as green as you can….but that “can” of totally organic cleaner???? THEY MADE SOME POLLUTION MAKING THE CAN!!!!
    The only alternative is for the whole planet to go back to the stone age and live in caves with no manufactured materials!!!!!!!! Can’t even live like the Amish, because you cut down trees when you build a BARN!!!!! Because cutting down trees isn’t “NATURAL”….
    Good luck with that…..

    Moving to Mars is looking better and better….

    Be well and happy.

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