Just the Facts – Laundry Products


Do you know what’s hiding in your laundry?

The majority of chemicals in laundry detergents, shampoos, and other consumer products have not been tested or proven to be safe.[i]

Some of the chemicals found in fragranced laundry products are on the EPA hazardous waste list.[ii]

The National Institutes of Health has stated hazardous chemicals come out of laundry dryer vents.[x]  In independent tests of dryer vent emissions from a top selling brand of laundry detergent and dryer sheet, 29 VOCs were identified with seven classified as hazardous air pollutants by the EPA.[xi]

A strong association exists between synthetic fragrance and compromised respiratory symptoms.[iii]

One in three people in the US report health problems, such as migraine headaches and respiratory difficulties, when exposed to fragranced products.[xii]

Your skin is the largest human organ and absorbs anything you put on it. In a scientific peer-reviewed study it was shown the skin has a 100% absorption rate for fragranced ingredients.[iv]

One in 10 people have irritation caused by scented laundry products vented outside.[v]

A few examples of the chemicals in laundry products:

  • diethanolamine: Found in detergents and linked to liver and kidney tumors, as well as developmental and reproductive toxicity in animal studies.[vi]
  • nonylphenol ethoxylate: Found in detergents and dry cleaning aids. Known hormone disruptor.[vii]
  • Quaternium-15: Found in detergents. Releases formaldehyde, a known carcinogen that causes rashes and skin inflammation.[viii]
  • Ethylenediaminetetraacetic: Found in fabric softeners.  Known for reproductive and developmental effects in animal studies.[ix]




[i] Urbina, I. (2013, April 13). Think Those Chemicals Have Been Tested? The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/14/sunday-review/think-those-chemicals-have-been-tested.html?_r=0
[ii] Steinemann AC. Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients.  Environ Impact Asses Rev (2008), doi:10.1016/j.eiar.2008.05.002.
[iii] Eberling, J., Linneberg, A., Dirkson, A., Johansen, D., Frolund, L., Madsen, F., Nielsen, N., osbech, H. (2005). “Mucosal Symptoms Elicited by Fragrance Products in a Population-based Sample in Relation to Atopy and Bronchial Hyper-reactivity.” Clinical and Experimental Allergy, Vol. 35: 75-81.
[iv] Robinson, M. K., Gerberick, G. F., Ryan, C. A., McNamee, P., White, I. R., & Basketter, D. A. (2000). The importance of exposure estimation in the assessment of skin sensitization risk. Contact dermatitis, 42(5), 251-259. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10789838\nhttp://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/store/10.1034/j.1600-0536.2000.042005251.x/asset/j.1600-0536.2000.042005251.x.pdf?v=1&t=i38wblgd&s=d018527ec6fad6def1339040915c0280a67c8f22
[v] Caress, S. M., & Steinemann, A. C. (2009). Prevalence of fragrance sensitivity in the American population. Journal of environmental health, 71, 46-50.
[vi] Diethanolamine. (2000, January). EPA Technology Transfer Network http://www3.epa.gov/airtoxics/hlthef/diethano.html
[vii] Lee Ferguson, P. and Brownawell, B. J. (2003), Degradation of nonylphenol ethoxylates in estuarine sediment under aerobic and anaerobic conditions. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 22: 1189–1199. doi:10.1002/etc.5620220602
[viii] Jacob, S. E., Yang, A., Herro, E., & Zhang, C. (2010). Contact Allergens in a Pediatric Population: Association with Atopic Dermatitis and Comparison with Other North American Referral Centers. The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology, 3(10), 29–35.
[ix] Caliman, F. A. and Gavrilescu, M. (2009), Pharmaceuticals, Personal Care Products and Endocrine Disrupting Agents in the Environment – A Review. Clean Soil Air Water, 37: 277–303. doi: 10.1002/clen.200900038
[x] Kessler R. (2011).  Dryer Vents: An Overlooked Source of Pollution? Environmental Health Perspectives. 119(11):a474-a475. http://doi.org/10.1289/ehp.119-a474a
[xi] Steinemann AC., Gallagher L.G., Davis, A.L., et al. (2013, March). Chemical emissions from residential dryer vents during use of fragranced laundry products.  Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health .  6(1).  151-156.  doi:10.1007/s11869-011-0156-1
[xii]Steinemann, A. (2016). Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions. Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health, 9(8), 861-866. doi:10.1007/s11869-016-0442-z