Source: Annie B. Bond, author of Better Basics for the Home
(Three Rivers Press, 1999).
You know if you are one of
those sensitive to dryer sheets and fabric softeners. (I
think this is the No. 2 consumer complaint behind perfume.)
You are sad that you don't like to walk in your neighborhood
on Saturday mornings because of the offense smell wafting
from neighbors' dryer vents. If someone uses them in your
home you may have a nightmare of burning skin, respiratory
irritation, anxiety attacks and irritability. I have one
friend who became so sensitive to the fumes that he had to
sleep in a chair until he could get new bedding! What is the
problem with these laundry products? Plenty.
SOLUTION: How I would love to have full disclosure
of ingredients in consumer products. Given how many people
complain about getting sick from dryer sheets and liquid
fabric softener, it is disturbing that there is so little
research available for the general public about the
ingredients in the products. Dry sheets and fabric softeners
actually waterproof your clothes to make them feel softer!
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
(EPA) and industry-generated Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)
from the 1990s, the following is a list of chemicals in
fabric softener products, most in untested combinations.
Liquid fabric softeners additionally may contain
To hide the chemical smell, companies load dryer sheets full
of chemical fragrances, which are potentially carcinogenic.
- Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer.
- Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract
- Ethanol: On the EPA's Hazardous Waste list
and can cause central nervous system disorders.
- Limonene: Known carcinogen.
- A-Terpineol: Can cause respiratory problems,
including fatal edema, and central nervous system
- Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA's
Hazardous Waste list.
- Camphor: Causes central nervous system
- Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and
- Linalool: A narcotic that causes central
nervous system disorders.
- Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if
Dryer sheets are designed to stay on clothing for a long
period of time and slowly release their chemicals throughout
the day, which leads to prolonged exposure to toxic
The toxins in dryer sheets and their chemical fragrances
enter the body both through inhalation or are absorbed
through the skin.
Some of the symptoms experienced from prolonged exposure
to the chemicals in dryer sheets include headaches, nausea,
vomiting , dizziness, central nervous system disorders,
blood pressure reduction, fatigue, difficulty breathing,
skin irritation, difficulty concentrating and remembering,
cancer, irritation to skin, mucus membranes and respiratory
tract, and liver damage.
Alternatives point to successfully substituting vinegar
in the rinse water of the laundry cycle. We've received
quite a few comments from our readers finding this approach
works well. There are also a number of alternative products
on the market.
Fabric softeners are static cling busters, mostly. One
easy way to avoid using them is to use natural fibers.