Environmentalists Put Clean Laundry on Their Silly Hit List

clothes dryerA new study finds that air vented through dryer vents of machines using top-selling detergents and dryer sheets may contain hazardous chemicals. Researchers from the University of Washington tested not just one, but two machines to determine that scented laundry soap contains as many as 25 volatile organic compounds

The machines were cleaned with vinegar before being tested. Small canisters in the vents captured and measured the exhaust. Of the 25 volatile organic compounds detected, two have been classified as carcinogens: acetaldehyde and benzene.


Acetaldehyde is oxidized ethanol (whatever that is) and should totally be banned because, according to Wikipedia, it might be the cause of hangovers. Everyone knows hangovers are evil. Who knew dryer sheets caused them?

Benzene is a solvent, so it makes sense that it be used in detergent, because we moms really enjoy detergent that dissolves stains. We have enough chores already -- we don’t want to run grass-stained jeans through the washer eight times in a futile attempt to get them clean again.

Professor Anne Steinemann, the main researcher for the study, said she was prompted to research the matter when she was contacted by many people reporting adverse effects when standing too close to the dryer vent.

Duh. I get a headache when I stand too close to the dryer vent too. Mostly because it reminds of Mt. Washmore that needs laundering, folding, and putting away. And that reminds me of the dishwasher that needs to be unloaded, and the floor that needs to be vacuumed, and oh man, I’m getting a headache right now! 

Once upon a time, companies making dishwasher detergent were banned from including phosphates in their products. The result was dishwashers that never got the dishes very clean, and left a filmy residue behind. If Professor Steinemann has her way, laundry detergents will no longer include the ingredients that actually get clothes clean.

Here’s a more practical solution: Don’t stand under the dryer vent

Leave my clean clothes alone.


Image via seishin17/Flickr

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