I like to walk first thing in the morning when there is a minimum of traffic and usually go through several neighborhoods and a wooded park area. More frequently than not, as I pass by houses, I am very conscious of the strong fragrances coming out of clothes dryer vents. This is worth a conversation because it is not only interfering with my plan to fill my lungs with the freshest air possible, but the use of artificial fragrances in petroleum-based laundry detergents and dryer sheets come with some serious health and safety consequences.
Researchers from the University of Washington studied dryer vent exhaust and their analysis found over 25 volatile organic compounds (VOCs), several of which the EPA considers hazardous air pollutants: acetaldehyde, benzene, ethyl benzene, methanol, xylene and toluene. Two of those, acetaldehyde and benzene, are known to cause cancer and are unsafe at any level of exposure. Many of the chemicals are found in the fragrances, which can cause asthma attacks, neurological symptoms and skin and eye irritation. Liquid laundry detergents and dryer sheets are the worst offenders. Aside from the toxic chemicals in dryer sheets, the waxy, oily film that coats your clothes to make them feel soft also interferes with the function of the dryer and has been shown to cause fires.
The cleanest and safest way to clean clothes is with an unscented or naturally scented bio-based powdered detergent, adding a cup of white vinegar to the wash water to make your clothes clean, soft and static free. Note: cotton and other plant-based fabrics are naturally static-free!