Is Your Laundry Soap Toxic?

Fresh and Deadly

Is Your Laundry Soap Toxic?

So much for the fresh Spring smell of laundered clothes. Chances are, what you're sniffing is a cornucopia of toxic chemicals not even listed on product labels.

A scary new study, which was recently published in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, revealed that household laundry vents emitted smells containing hazardous chemicals, including acetaldehyde and benzene, both classed as carcinogens.

“[Emissions] coming out of a smokestack or tail pipe, they're regulated, but if they're coming out of a dryer vent, they're not,” said lead author, Anne Steinemann, a University of Washington professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs.

“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,” added Steinemann.

In an earlier study Steinemann found that common fragranced items such as laundry products, air fresheners, cleaning supplies, and personal care products -- even some described as 'green' -- emit at least 24 chemicals classed as hazardous or toxic under US federal laws, according to the Environmental Impact Assessment Review.

Manufacturers of cleaning supplies, laundry products, or air fresheners don't have to disclose product ingredients, instead relying on regulations of the Consumer Product Safety Commission. It is enough for a manufacturer to list “fragrance” as an ingredient, even though it can be a mixture of several hundred ingredients.

Steinemann suggests consumers wanting to avoid these chemicals should use natural cleaning ingredients like vinegar and baking soda and other non-scented products, or at the very least open windows for ventilation.