Who doesn’t love the smell and feel of freshly laundered and dried clothes?
Unfortunately, there could be mayhem lurking in that good-smelling bundle of clothes and towels. If you use typical fabric softeners and dryer sheets, however, then you’ll want to know this: the fresh, soft results come at a cost—toxins.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) have listed dangerous petrochemicals found in many fragrant but dangerous fabric softeners. Here are some of them:
- Benzyl Acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer, this is also a potential eye and respiratory irritant. It is absorbed through the skin and can also cause coughing.
- Benzyl Alcohol: An upper respiratory tract irritant, benzyl alcohol can result in central nervous system problems, headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness and dramatic blood pressure plummeting.
- Ethyl Acetate: On the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list, ethyl acetate is listed as a narcotic. It can damage the liver and kidneys, is an eye and respiratory tract irritant, and can spark headaches as well as anemia with leukocytosis.
- Limonene: This one’s a known carcinogen that can also irritate the eyes and skin.
- A-Terpineol: Lungs can take a beating with this one. If breathed in, it can produce respiratory depression, pneumonia or fatal swelling of the lungs. It can cause central nervous system disorders and is a mucous membrane irritant.
- Camphor: Also on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list, camphor is easily absorbed through bodily tissues, can cause central nervous system problems, nausea, convulsions, dizziness, and irritation of the eyes, nose and throat.
- Linalool: This one’s a narcotic that can cause central nervous system disorders and respiratory problems, which have led to death in animal testing.
- Chloroform: Joining the ranks of the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list, chloroform is a carcinogen and anesthetic that can cause headaches, nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, loss of consciousness and respiratory tract irritation. It’s especially a problem when it’s heated up.
- Phthalates: These are used in scented products to prolong the scent, but they’ve been implicated in breast cancer, allergies and reproductive system difficulties.
As if that news weren’t bad enough, the effects of most of these chemicals are worse when heated in clothes dryers—making dryer sheets more threatening than liquid softeners under those circumstances. Fabric softeners are also built to last—staying in your clothing and other items—so that the chemicals are released slowly for lasting fragrance and onto your skin to absorb.
The young, older individuals and those whose health is compromised can be especially at risk from these chemicals, and the damage done can affect them throughout life.
Why expose yourself to these toxins? You can go a more natural route. Here are a few suggestions:
- Check out your local stores for natural alternatives that don’t use chemicals.
- Throw in ¼ cup of baking soda to your wash cycle to soften your laundry.
- Add ¼ cup of white vinegar to your wash or rinse cycle to soften your clothes.
- Use an outdoor clothesline (or string one up inside) to dry your clothes.
- Install a water softener if you don’t have one.
That way you can avoid the fragrant yet dangerous effects of most fabric softeners on the market.