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Fresh Laundry Scent is Damaging to Air Quality

Posted on March 13, 2014
by Wendy Stackhouse


Air quality alert: Do you have a particular clean laundry scent that you love? I know I do! In fact, although my favorite brand has added three or four more choices, I still stay with Original Scent. I hope they never discontinue it!

But I shouldn’t.

Researchers including Anne Steinemann, a professor of civil and environmental engineering and public affairs at the University of Washington, Seattle, studied scented consumer product to see what they were emitting and they made some very interesting discoveries:

One fragrance can be made up of hundreds of chemicals. Some of those chemicals can react with ozone to form other dangerous pollutants, including formaldehyde, a known carcinogen. This was true of citrus scents and others.

133 different volatile organic compounds were detected in the products, including pinene (in pine scented cleaners), ethanol, and acetone (the chemical in nail polish remover).

Every product tested gave off between 1 and 8 toxic or hazardous compounds and almost half emitted at least one carcinogen.

The bottom line is, if you can smell it, it is polluting your air. The scents in cleaning products are certainly more attractive and easier to live with than the smelly things they are cleaning up–teenage gym clothes are no picnic–but there is a cost to that benefit and that cost is your indoor air quality.

What can you do?

  • Choose unscented products when you can and when they are available.
  • Put smelly things outside in the sun and let the smells disperse into the outside air.
  • Use baking soda or white vinegar in place of more cleaning products.
  • Resist the urge to make everything smell like flowers or lemons or clean laundry.

I guess I’ll have to give up my addiction to Original Scent. But it will be hard!

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