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article imageFresh smell of scented laundry found to contain toxic chemicals

By Lynn Herrmann     Aug 25, 2011 in Health
Seattle - While enjoying the fresh smell of newly washed laundry, it's likely the smell we're enjoying contains toxic chemicals not listed on product labels, with nearly a one in four chance the chemicals are toxic or hazardous, a study on scented products reveals.
Results of a new study show the scents emitted from household laundry vents may contain hazardous chemicals, including acetaldehyde and benzene, both classified as carcinogens.
The study used the top-selling liquid laundry detergent and scented dryer sheet.
“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 of public affairs, as well as lead author of the study, according to a news release. “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.”
The study, published this week in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, was based on tests using the regular laundry cycle, conducted at two different homes, and analyzed gases captured 15 minutes into the drying cycle. Analysis of these gases discovered more than 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from the vents. Of this number, seven were hazardous air pollutants, including acetaldehyde and benzene.
“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,” Steinemann added.
In an earlier study (pdf), Steinemann and her team discovered common fragranced consumer items such as laundry products, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, and personal care products emit 133 different VOCs, averaging 17 VOCs per product. Of the 133 VOCs found, 24 are classified as hazardous or toxic under US federal laws, according to the Environmental Impact Assessment Review [PDF].
Prior to the research, little was known about the composition of these products, which are pervasive throughout society. Many of these widely-used fragranced products, including some calling themselves “green,” give off chemicals not listed on the labels.
Manufacturers of cleaning supplies, laundry products, or air fresheners are not required to disclose product ingredients, instead relying on regulations of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Although a single “fragrance” can be a mixture of several hundred ingredients, these products, along with personal care products, all regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, do not require listing of their ingredients.
Steinemann suggests consumers wanting to avoid these chemicals should instead use basing cleaning ingredients like vinegar and baking soda, using non-scented products, and opening house windows for ventilation.
The news comes at the same time new research shows many leading brands of clothing are using toxic chemicals with "persistent and hormone-disrupting properties" in the manufacture of their products.
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