In a small study, researchers at the University of Washington set out to discover what chemicals are emitted by laundry products, through the dryer vent. (1)
Researchers found more than 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from dryer vents, with highest concentrations of acetaldehyde, acetone, and ethanol. Seven of these VOCs are classified as hazardous air pollutants, and two as carcinogenic (acetaldehyde and benzene) with no safe exposure level, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
Adding to the problem is the fact that we are never exposed to single chemicals but rather to complex mixtures of chemicals whose side effects have never been studied. If some of these chemicals are dangerous on their own, what happens when they are combined with other toxic chemicals?
This group of researchers investigated volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from 25 common fragranced consumer products—laundry products, personal care products, cleaning supplies, and air fresheners. (2)
They found that a single fragrance in a product can contain a mixture of hundreds of chemicals, some of which (e.g., limonene, a citrus scent) react with ozone in ambient air to form dangerous secondary pollutants, including formaldehyde.
Steinemann and colleagues found the average number of VOCs emitted was 17. Each product emitted 1–8 toxic or hazardous chemicals, and close to half (44%) generated at least 1 of 24 carcinogenic hazardous air pollutants, such as acetaldehyde, 1,4-dioxane, formaldehyde, or methylene chloride. These hazardous air pollutants have no safe exposure level, according to the EPA. Of the 133 VOCs detected, only ethanol was listed on any label (for 2 products), and only ethanol and 2-butoxyethanol were listed on any Material Safety Data Sheet (for 5 products and 1 product, respectively).
Besides VOCs, laundry products leave lingering chemical residues on the clothes that enter the body through the skin. Many of these compounds directly affect the nervous system and endocrine system and can contribute to the development of chronic illness.
The good news is: there is a better alternative to soften your clothes and get rid of static cling: wool balls.
Wool dryer balls don’t contain any toxic chemicals and one set will last for thousands of loads. And, not only do they leave your clothes wrinkle and static cling-free, they actually cut down on drying time, saving you loads of money over time on electricity also (pun intended).
Add a drop of your favorite essential oil to each ball and your laundry will smell great! From the oils I tried, peppermint and lavender are my favorite.
So what are you waiting for?
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