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