Nix the Dryer Sheets. Reduce Chemical Exposure

By Jane Hammond
By Jane Hammond, PA-C

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Nix the Dryer Sheets. Reduce Chemical Exposure
Reusable wool dryer balls are easy to find online.
Lilies and Linen,”” Outdoor Fresh,” “Super Fresh!” When I walk down my little street here in Topanga there are so many scents wafting out onto the street, I know it’s laundry day. I can smell it. Even though these products have fresh names, many of them contain harmful chemicals. Have you ever wondered what is in all these scented products? Scientists have actually studied the air that comes out of dryer vents and have found many hazardous chemicals. Even though many of the chemical fragrances in dryer sheets and other laundry products have been “shown to be safe,” exposure to some of these products has been shown to cause irritation of the eyes and airways, skin problems, as well as headaches and asthma attacks, particularly in sensitive individuals. In one study, researchers at the University of Washington tested the air that came out of dryer vents and identified at least 29 volatile organic compounds (VOC’s). Seven of these chemicals have been classified by the EPA as “possible human carcinogens.” These include acetaldehyde, benzene, ethylbenzene, methanol, xylene, and toluene. That doesn’t smell Outdoor Fresh to me. Products like dryer sheets, that may contain fragrance ingredients but are not applied to the body, are regulated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Even though these products are “not applied to the skin” they are still all over our clothes and sheets which are against the skin all day and night. The Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn’t require manufacturers to disclose the ingredients used in their products on the label. Typically, dryer sheet manufacturers list only some of the ingredients on the box, but others don’t list any ingredients at all. If you want more information, check the manufacturers’ websites. There is little research to confirm whether exposure to chemicals from dryer vent emissions has any adverse health effects. Larger, controlled studies are needed to prove that the dryer sheets themselves are producing VOCs in high enough concentrations to harm human health. Even if the concentrations are “within safe limits,” we know that chemical exposure is cumulative in the body. Reducing any exposure possible can help reduce the toxic load in the body. NON TOXIC ALTERNATIVES Since the amount of acetaldehyde coming from the dryer vent is about 3 percent of what’s commonly released from automobiles, you can do your part to clean the air in your neighborhood. There are several alternatives to dryer sheets that can help with static cling without risking your health and safety. These are less expensive than dryer sheets and can be reused for many years. Here are some options: • Reusable wool dryer balls. Easy to find online. • White vinegar. Vinegar on a washcloth and added to the dryer, or 1/4 cup of vinegar added to your washer’s rinse cycle. • Baking soda. Add a little W baking soda to your laundry during the wash cycle. • Aluminum foil. Crumple the foil into a ball about the size of a baseball and toss it in the dryer with your laundry to reduce static. • Air-drying. Hang your laundry on a clothesline rather than putting it in the dryer. There are scent-free dryer sheets that meet the requirements for the EPA’s Safer Choice label. Remember, even fragranced dryer sheets and laundry products that are labeled “green,” “ecofriendly,” “all-natural,” or “organic” can release hazardous compounds. Dryer sheets aren’t really needed to keep clothes clean; they produce waste and add harmful chemicals into the air and onto your clothes. Use one of the natural alternatives suggested here. Then, take a walk down your street and smell the real “After Rain” and “Outdoor Fresh” Topanga air and not manufactured chemicals from your neighbor’s laundry. References 1. article/10.1007/s11869-018- 0643-8#:~:text=Fragranced%20 laundry%20products%20emit%20 a,asthma%20attacks%20and%20 migraine%20headaches. 2. 3. pmc3226517/

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February 5, 2021

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