Quantcast

That 'Fresh' Smell Coming From Your Laundry Is Hazardous Chemicals

Health + Wellness

The warm, scented air drifting from your washer and clothes dryer may give a comforting impression of freshly washed clothes. But it's really serving up a brew of toxic chemicals.

One study analyzed captured gases from washers and dryers using scented detergents and dryer sheets and found more than 25 volatile organic compounds—including seven hazardous air pollutants—coming out of the vents.

Products used to make our clothes clean can contain nasty chemicals. Photo credit:
Shutterstock

Of those, two chemicals, acetaldehyde and benzene, are classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens for which the agency has established no safe exposure level.

"This is an interesting source of pollution because emissions from dryer vents are essentially unregulated and unmonitored," said Anne Steinemann, a University of Washington professor of civil and environmental engineering and lead author of the study. "If they're coming out of a smokestack or tail pipe, they're regulated, but if they're coming out of a dryer vent, they're not.

"These products can affect not only personal health, but also public and environmental health. The chemicals can go into the air, down the drain and into water bodies."

The researchers estimate that in the Seattle area, where the study was conducted, acetaldehyde emissions from this brand of laundry detergent would be equivalent to 3 percent of the total acetaldehyde emissions coming from automobiles. Emissions from the top five brands, they estimate, would constitute about 6 percent of automobiles' acetaldehyde emissions.

"We focus a lot of attention on how to reduce emissions of pollutants from automobiles," Steinemann said. "And here's one source of pollutants that could be reduced."

Here are five ways to reduce the toxic load in your laundry, from the Washington Toxics Coalition:

1. Buy from companies that disclose their ingredients. Many brands don’t disclose what chemicals are in their products, so it’s impossible to know what you could be pouring all over your clothes. Just because something says natural on the label doesn’t mean it’s free of concerning chemicals. Check out Seventh Generation, Country Save and Ecover laundry detergents.

2. Steer clear of artificial fragrances. Often loaded with phthalates and other unknown compounds, give a wide berth to all chemical-based fragrances. Even fragrance-free versions of some brands still contain these, which is again why it’s important to buy from a brand that lists their ingredients. Try air-drying your laundry outside for the freshest scent of all.

3. If you need bleach, use oxygen bleaches. Chlorine is a lung and eye irritant, so use oxygen-based bleaches like hydrogen peroxide to brighten instead.

4. Choose tried-and-true stain removal and prevention methods. Your first line of defense for everyday stains like fatty foods and chocolate is a concentrated solution of dishsoap. See Consumer Reports’ How to Clean Practically Anything for specific solutions for every imaginable stain.

5. Who needs fabric softener? Fabric softener is made to counteract static cling on synthetic fabrics, and has no effect on natural ones. While companies like Seventh Generation make less-toxic versions, there are other ways to reduce static cling. Dryer balls or discs are reusable, easy to leave in your dryer, and they help shorten the total dry cycle by fluffing the clothes, which saves you energy and money.

Visit EcoWatch’s HEALTH page for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By Jennifer Molidor, PhD

Climate change, habitat loss and pollution are overwhelming our planet. Thankfully, these enormous threats are being met by a bold new wave of environmental activism.

Read More Show Less

President Donald Trump mocked water-efficiency standards in new constructions last week. Trump said, "People are flushing toilets 10 times, 15 times, as opposed to once. They end up using more water. So, EPA is looking at that very strongly, at my suggestion." Trump asked the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for a federal review of those standards since, he claimed with no evidence, that they are making bathrooms unusable and wasting water, as NBC News reported.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
(L) Rushing waters of Victoria Falls at Mosi-oa-Tunya National Park, Zimbabwe pictured in January 2018. Edwin Remsberg / VW PICS / UIG / Getty Images (R) Stark contrast of Victory Falls is seen on Nov. 13, 2019 after drought has caused a decline. ZINYANGE AUNTONY / AFP / Getty Images

The climate crisis is already threatening the Great Barrier Reef. Now, another of the seven natural wonders of the world may be in its crosshairs — Southern Africa's iconic Victoria Falls.

Read More Show Less

Monsanto's former chairman and CEO Hugh Grant speaks about "The Coming Agricultural Revolution" on May 17, 2016. Fortune Brainstorm E / Flickr

By Carey Gillam

Former Monsanto Chairman and CEO Hugh Grant will have to testify in person at a St. Louis-area trial set for January in litigation brought by a cancer-stricken woman who claims her disease was caused by exposure to the company's Roundup herbicide and that Monsanto covered up the risks instead of warning consumers.

Read More Show Less
A volcano erupts on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island on Dec. 9, 2019. Michael Schade / Twitter

A powerful volcano on Monday rocked an uninhabited island frequented by tourists about 30 miles off New Zealand's coast. Authorities have confirmed that five people died. They expect that number to rise as some are missing and police officials issued a statement that flights around the islands revealed "no signs of life had been seen at any point,", as The Guardian reported.

"Based on the information we have, we do not believe there are any survivors on the island," the police said in their official statement. "Police is working urgently to confirm the exact number of those who have died, further to the five confirmed deceased already."

The eruption happened on New Zealand's Whakaari/White Island, an islet jutting out of the Bay of Plenty, off the country's North Island. The island is privately owned and is typically visited for day-trips by thousands of tourists every year, according to The New York Times.

Michael Schade / Twitter

At the time of the eruption on Monday, about 50 passengers from the Ovation of Seas were on the island, including more than 30 who were part of a Royal Caribbean cruise trip, according to CNN. Twenty-three people, including the five dead, were evacuated from the island.

The eruption occurred at 2:11 pm local time on Monday, as footage from a crater camera owned and operated by GeoNet, New Zealand's geological hazards agency, shows. The camera also shows dozens of people walking near the rim as white smoke billows just before the eruption, according to Reuters.

Police were unable to reach the island because searing white ash posed imminent danger to rescue workers, said John Tims, New Zealand's deputy police commissioner, as he stood next to Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern in a press conference, as The New York Times reported. Tims said rescue workers would assess the safety of approaching the island on Tuesday morning. "We know the urgency to go back to the island," he told reporters.

"The physical environment is unsafe for us to return to the island," Tims added, as CNN reported. "It's important that we consider the health and safety of rescuers, so we're taking advice from experts going forward."

Authorities have had no communication with anyone on the island. They are frantically working to identify how many people remain and who they are, according to CNN.

Geologists said the eruption is not unexpected and some questioned why the island is open to tourism.

"The volcano has been restless for a few weeks, resulting in the raising of the alert level, so that this eruption is not really a surprise," said Bill McGuire, emeritus professor of geophysical and climate hazards at University College London, as The Guardian reported.

"White Island has been a disaster waiting to happen for many years," said Raymond Cas, emeritus professor at Monash University's school of earth, atmosphere and environment, as The Guardian reported. "Having visited it twice, I have always felt that it was too dangerous to allow the daily tour groups that visit the uninhabited island volcano by boat and helicopter."

The prime minister arrived Monday night in Whakatane, the town closest to the eruption, where day boats visiting the island are docked. Whakatane has a large Maori population.

Ardern met with local council leaders on Monday. She is scheduled to meet with search and rescue teams and will speak to the media at 7 a.m. local time (1 p.m. EST), after drones survey the island, as CNN reported.