Study: Your Laundry Detergent Could Be Killing You

| by Michael Allen

If you hate doing laundry, you may have a good reason. According to research published in Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, laundry vents can leak dangerous airborne pollutants when popular fragranced laundry detergents are used.

The research found that seven hazardous air pollutants came out of laundry vents when top-selling products were used for cleaning clothes. Two of the pollutants, acetaldehyde and benzene, are classified as ‘carcinogens’ by the Environmental Protection Agency

Anne Steinemann, a University of Washington professor and lead author of the study, said, "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."

"This is an interesting source of pollution because emissions from dryer vents are essentially unregulated and unmonitored. 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."

Almost none of the dangerous chemicals emitted from laundry detergents were listed on the products' labels. Instead, the labels referred to the chemicals in general terms: "biodegradable surfactants," "softeners," or "perfume." U.S. law does not require companies to label the chemicals in mixtures of fragrances.

The study did not analyze health effects on humans, caused by the chemicals emitted from laundry vents, but Steinemann recommends using laundry products without any fragrance or scent.