Skip to main content

Natural Awakenings

Washday Woes: Scented Products Pollute the Air

Some scents make no sense for personal or planetary health. Using scented laundry products can release harmful—even carcinogenic—pollutants into the air, report University of Washington researchers. Their findings, published online in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, show that air vented from machines using the top-selling, scented, liquid laundry detergent and dryer sheet contains hazardous chemicals.

When researchers analyzed captured gases from dryer vent fumes after participating households ran regular laundry cycles using liquid laundry detergent and a leading brand of scented dryer sheets, they found more than 25 volatile organic compounds, including seven dangerous air pollutants. Of those, two chemicals— acetaldehyde and benzene—are classified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as carcinogens, with no established safe exposure level. Benzene is linked to leukemia and other blood cancers, according to the American Cancer Society, and studies have shown that acetaldehyde can cause nasal and throat cancer in animals.

“This is an interesting source of pollution, because emissions from dryer vents are essentially unregulated,” says lead author Anne Steinemann, Ph.D., professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs. “If they are coming out of a smokestack or tail pipe, they are regulated—but if they’re coming out of a dryer vent, they are not.”

Subscribe to our national newsletter!

* indicates required
Interests
Global Brief
Health Brief