Even “natural” laundry can be toxic

The next time you walk down the laundry products aisle in your supermarket, notice the intense smells wafting your way. From the best known “tried and true” that we grew up with to the more recent “all natural” selections,  there’s so much heavy fragrance coming at you, it’s hard to miss.

But there’s more to it than just smell.

Recently the University of Washington tested the top 25 best-selling national brand laundry detergents, including some labeled “natural”. Every one of them emitted at least one carcinogen along with several other hazardous air pollutants.

Published last month in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, this study focuses on emissions from dryer vents, which oddly enough are unregulated and unmonitored by any agency. According to the report, captured gases contained more than 25 volatile organic compounds, including seven hazardous air pollutants. And all that is wafting through your home, around your family.

“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,” said Anne Steinemann, a University of Washington professor of civil and environmental engineering and of public affairs.

“We focus a lot of attention on how to reduce emissions of pollutants from automobiles,” Steinemann said. “Here’s one source of pollutants that could be reduced.”

So you may like the detergent you’ve been using for years. But an educated consumer means asking questions, then making smart choices. The next time you drive out of your garage and head to the store to buy laundry detergent, you might want to let your nose help you decide. Or try another option.  If you have a smart phone, you can download apps like GoodGuide. It scans a product’s barcode and quickly pulls up its health and environmental ratings, to help consumers make informed decisions concerning which brand of laundry detergent winds in their cart.

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2 Responses

  1. If all the people who do laundry, choose carefully the detergents and fabric softeners much pollution could be avoided, for us but also for the environment. But I wonder, how is it possible that there are “natural” products on the market, which have carcinogenic substances?

    • Amana:

      The answer is that unfortunately, big business has jumped on the “green” bandwagon and steadily helped dilute what “natural” has come to actually be in the marketplace. it’s another case of the importance of being an educated consumer, to read labels and see what the ingredients are in products before you buy them.

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