Volatile organic compounds, or VOC’s were found in 6 top selling laundry and air freshener products that were not listed on the ingredient label. Even the usually reliable Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for the products in question only listed “a mixture of scented oils” in their ingredient description. Anne Steinemann, a professor of Civil and Environmental engineering at the University of Washington was inspired to investigate toxins in these scented products due to a large number of complaints being made that they cause allergies and asthma. The method used to measure VOC’s was to leave an amount of the product sitting in the open lab, and measuring the concentrations and indentities of the VOC’s in the surrounding air. She found the following chemicals: acetone (nail polish remover ingredient), limonene, a molecule with a citrus scent; and acetaldehyde, chloromethane and 1,4-dioxane.
Acetone – toxic by inhalation, ingestion or absorption through skin.
Limonene – used to impart a citrus odour is a known skin irritant and sensitizer. It is used in cosmetics, which begs the question; why use a known skin irritant in a product for the skin?
Acetaldehyde – is toxic when applied externally, is an irritant and a possible carcinogen.
Chloromethane – causes central nervous system effects (altered state), difficulty breathing, paralysis, seizures and coma. It also causes birth defects. This chemical used to be used as a refrigerant, but is no longer used due to its toxicity, so what is it doing in our laundry and freshener products?
1,4 Dioxane – listed by the CDC as causing eye, ear, nose and throat irritation, drowsiness, headache, nausea, vomiting, liver damage, kidney failure and possibly a carcinogen. Wow, this product is both hazardous in the air and in our laundry!
Unfortunately, the study did not reveal the brand names of these 6 products, but the idea is to stay away from scented laundry products and air fresheners whose ingredients are totally transparent.
The full press release can be found at Eureka Alert.
Click here to find the University of Washington website.