Is Your Laundry Room Making You Sick?
Ah! The smell of newly washed clothes. They smell as fresh as a spring morning. Did you know that conventional laundry-care products often contain chemicals with negative health effects ranging from skin and throat irritation to carcinogenicity? In fact, the laundry room may be one of the more toxic areas in your home.
Researchers have found that dryer vents can emit more than 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) when scented laundry detergent and dryer sheets are used, including seven VOCs classified as hazardous air pollutants. This is particularly concerning when dryers don’t vent outside or are blocked, causing indoor air pollution.
Manufacturers are not required to list all laundry detergent ingredients on packaging, making it difficult for consumers to make informed choices. The term “fragrance” alone may refer to a combination of several hundred laundry chemicals including many that are hazardous. Laundry detergents are often derived from petrochemicals and contain synthetic fragrances, even when advertised as “fragrance-free.” Most companies add optical brighteners to detergent formulas—additives that emit blue light, making whites appear whiter by tricking the eye.
Even if not all laundry detergent ingredients are disclosed on product packaging, it is still possible to gain useful information from laundry product labels. To protect your health and the environment, choose vegetable-based laundry products. Or make your own homemade laundry soaps from safe ingredients such as castile soap and washing soda. It’s also wise to avoid conventional dry cleaning, which relies on the chemical perchlorethylene (perc). Instead, opt for a “green” dry cleaner, or reduce dry-cleaning needs using the tips listed later in this article.
Tomorrow we will share a recipe for homemade washing powder and stain remover.