Getting that fresh, clean scent in your home and clothes may be dangerous. According to a new study published online in Environmental Impact Assessment Review, fragranced laundry products and air fresheners emit chemicals that are toxic or hazardous under federal law.
Anne C. Steinemann, PhD, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and public affairs at the University of Washington, Seattle, conducted the study after receiving hundreds of consumer complaints about side effects from exposure to the products. Steinemann examined the air surrounding each product for volatile organic compounds (VOCs), molecules released by the products into the air, and found nearly 100 VOCs. Of these, 10 are deemed toxic or hazardous by federal law and three of the 10 – acetaldehyde, chloromethane, and 1,4 dioxane – are believed to be dangerous air pollutants.
According to Steinemann, the VOCs were all found at concentrations above 300 micrograms per cubic meter, a threshold considered high enough to lead to problems. Federal law does not require manufacturers to list the dangerous chemicals on product labels, however. To prevent exposure to the potentially harmful chemicals, Steinemann suggests buying unscented laundry products and using natural air fresheners, like baking soda.