“Fresh Scent” Toxins in Your Home

Scented laundry and personal products release carcinogens, study finds. … Studies suggests scented laundry items contain carcinogens that waft through vents, potentially raising cancer risk.  Scented products increase health risk through touch and inhalation.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission, which regulates cleaning supplies, air fresheners, and laundry products, currently does not require manufacturers to disclose any ingredients on the label, including fragrances in these products.4 The same is true for fragrances in personal care items, which are overseen by the Food and Drug Administration.5 The Household Product Labeling Act, currently under review in the U.S. Senate, would require manufacturers to label consumer products with all ingredients, including fragrance mixtures.6 “Disclosing all ingredients could be a first step to understanding potential toxicity and health effects,” says Anne Steinemann, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and public affairs at the University of Washington, Seattle.

A survey of selected scented consumer goods showed the products emitted more than 100 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including some that are classified as toxic or hazardous by federal laws.1 Even products advertised as “green,” “natural,” or “organic” emitted as many hazardous chemicals as standard ones.

Health Hazards Found In Scented Consumer Goods

Dr. Steinemann’s group has investigated the VOCs in fragranced cleaning and personal care products. A 2009 study looked at 25 products, including air fresheners, detergents, cleaning supplies, and personal care soaps. The investigation yielded 421 occurrences of VOCs among the 25 products, with all products having at least six toxic VOCs.

The study also looked at 11 “green” products. Surprise! Surprise! All of those, unfortunately, also contained VOCs. Some of the green products emitted only two toxic VOCs, which, while two too many, is nevertheless only a third of the number contained in the best of the non-green products. On the other hand, four of the green products also contained carcinogenic ingredients, which goes to show that just because it says it’s healthy doesn’t mean it actually is.


Danger Lurks in Scented Laundry Detergents

CBS reported that the researchers ran a regular laundry cycle for three scenarios in each home: once without any detergent, once with a scented liquid laundry detergent, and the last with both scented detergent and a leading brand of scented dryer sheets.

Their analysis found more than 25 “volatile” air pollutants – including the carcinogens acetaldehyde and benzene. Benzene causes leukemia and other blood cancers, according to the American Cancer Society. Acetaldehyde has been shown to cause nasal and throat cancer in animal studies.

Fox News reported, “Your detergent removes stains — and may leave behind a toxic chemical. In 2011, an environmental group discovered 1,4-dioxane lurking in laundry detergent. The chemical isn’t a proven cancer causer in humans, but it has triggered liver and nasal tumors in rats. Worse, you won’t find 1,4-dioxane on labels because it’s an impurity, not an ingredient, says Sonya Lunder, M.P.H., of the Environmental Working Group.”

Toxic to Touch & Inhalation

Keep in mind, fumes from the dryer comprise only one problem caused by laundry products. Earlier studies have confirmed that most laundry detergents and dryer sheets contain poisons that leave residue on the clothing you wear, the bedding you sleep in, and everything else you put through the wash. A 2008 study conducted by the same Dr. Steinemann examined six top-selling laundry products and found that all of them contained at least one highly toxic substance. The toxins identified in the products included acetone, which is the active ingredient in paint thinner and nail-polish remover; as well as bleach, which is a major source of accidental home poisoning; phenols, which can damage the heart, lungs, kidneys, and liver; brighteners, which have been known to cause cellular mutations; and fragrances, which as already mentioned, contain all manner of chemicals.

None of the toxins were listed on the labels, and all can cause health problems ranging from rashes to cancer through skin exposure and inhaling the scent.

This research strongly suggests that we need to find unscented alternatives for cleaning our homes, laundry, and ourselves,” says Claudia Miller, an allergist and immunologist at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. An expert in chemical sensitivity, or toxicant-induced loss of tolerance, Miller created the Quick Environmental Exposure and Sensitivity Inventory,9 a screening tool for chemical intolerance.

According to Miller, products intended to keep homes smelling fresh can set people up for a lifetime of chemically induced illness, and repeated exposure to small amounts of household chemicals can trigger symptoms to previously tolerated chemicals.10 “The best smell is no smell,” Miller says.


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