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Laundry Vents Emit Hazardous Fumes from Scented Products [Updated]

Commercial clothes dryers (


Researchers at University of Washington in Seattle and Battelle Memorial Institute in Columbus, Ohio have found the air vented from machines using scented liquid laundry detergents and dryer sheets contains hazardous chemicals. Their findings appear online in the journal Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health (paid subscription required).

A team led by UW engineering professor Anne Steinemann analyzed the exhaust emitted from dryer vents during the use of fragranced laundry detergents and dryer sheets. They used washers and dryers in two Seattle-area homes, which they cleaned with vinegar and ran with full cycles using only water to remove any residues. Also for the experiment, the researchers purchased and pre-rinsed new, organic cotton towels.

Steinemann’s team ran the experiment under three conditions: (1) with none of the products, (2) with the leading brand of scented liquid laundry detergent, and (3) with both the detergent and a leading brand of scented dryer sheets. They placed a canister inside the dryer vent opening to capture the exhaust after 15 minutes into the drying cycle.

The results showed more than 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs) were emitted from dryer vents, with the highest concentrations found of acetaldehyde, acetone, and ethanol. Seven of these VOCs are classified as hazardous air pollutants and two of the compounds — acetaldehyde and benzene — are classified as carcinogenic with no safe exposure level, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

“These products can affect not only personal health, but also public and environmental health,” says Steinemann. “The chemicals can go into the air, down the drain and into water bodies.”

Steinemann reported last October that 25 commonly used scented products emit an average of 17 chemicals each, including some toxic substances. Only in a few instances were the potentially dangerous chemicals disclosed on the product labels.

Read more.

UPDATE, 26 August. The American Cleaning Institute and three other industry groups respond to Steinemann’s research.

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1 comment to Laundry Vents Emit Hazardous Fumes from Scented Products [Updated]

  • dennis delore

    i have long avoided the detergents aisle at markets, except when actually buying such a product.