Dryer Vents - an overlooked source of a SEVERE environmental pollution
It’s easy to recognize when your neighbors are doing the laundry – just sniff the outdoor air for the scent of laundry products and it shocks and insults your senses. The dryer emissions are now classified as hazardous air pollutants and are known carcinogens.
Toxicological studies have documented that even ingredients that are labeled as safe at the concentrations used in consumer products do continue to cause harm and irritation of the eyes and airways, contact dermatitis, migraines, and asthmatic reactions, psychological disorders and autoimmune reactions. However, the lack of awareness that the exposure to these chemicals in the context of dryer-vent emissions has adverse health effects created a global laundry detergent pollution crisis that needs to be fully recognized and addressed.
On the other hand, these chemical compounds do affect every single living organism, including every single person. It is the inability of individuals to recognize and connect the symptoms they’re having with the constant exposure to chemicals in their environment. As a matter of the fact, many people who consider to be affected by multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) are simply those who have learned to connect their symptoms to health hazards from bursts of chemicals entering their environment and body. Whereas the other side of population would still have the most common symptoms of chemical poisoning, yet they would never connect their health condition to the chemical exposures they encounter daily.
The common symptoms of chemical poisoning from dryer vents and clothing that was washed in these chemicals are headaches, irritation of mucus membranes, fatigue, loss of energy, breathing problems including asthma attacks, seasonal allergies triggered by overloaded detoxification pathways and digestive symptoms such as inability to digest food, diarrhea or constipation.
It is a common misconception that unscented laundry detergents are harmless A variety of studies for different spectrums of chemicals that are present in the dryer vents have identified hundreds of unique volatile compounds in their emissions. These not only cause transitional health hazards but are known to affect the core of every organic living organism – the genetics.
A professor of civil and environmental engineering and public affairs at the University of Washington, and his colleagues have identified many toxic compounds in a top-selling brand each of laundry detergent and dryer sheet by conducting gas chromatography/mass spectrometry (GC/MS) headspace analysis. The three VOCs present at the highest concentrations were acetaldehyde at a maximum of 47 µg/m3 (0.03 ppm), acetone at a maximum of 36 µg/m3 (0.02 ppm), and ethanol at a maximum of 50 µg/m3 (0.03 ppm). These values exceeded average annual ambient concentrations for the local area by more than 10 times for acetone and more than 25 times for acetaldehyde. And the concentrations were based on just a single dryer vent exhaust operation, which is simply overwhelming considering that millions of these exhausts are in operation daily.
Are your neighbors polluting the environment you live in?
When the neighbor’s dryer vent blows aromas your way do you inhale deeply and enjoy the experience? Or do you cover your nose and close the windows shut? By the time you have realized that the toxic pollution has entered your living space, it might be too late. The most troublesome fact is that most of these toxins are always produced on a base of petroleum distillates, which makes them stick to fibers and surfaces around us. And even though an hour after a laundry wash it may seem like the odor has been gone, the actual toxins and chemicals are still present on the surfaces of our environment, including our trees, grass, buildings, our hair, clothing and inside our home. We simply stop sensing these chemicals when they’re in abundance in our environment rendering our noses “blind” due to the effect known as “olfactory adaptation”.
“Olfactory adaptation“, also known as odor fatigue, olfactory adaptation, and nose-blindness, is the temporary, normal inability to distinguish a particular odor after a prolonged exposure to that airborne compound.
Among chemicals exhausted through the laundry vents are phthalates block androgens, or male hormones, and can interfere with normal genital development in boys. These toxic substances have been banned in Europe as reproductive toxins and because they can cause kidney and liver toxicity.
What other people are saying about dryer vents that pollute their environment and affect their health?
Below are examples of what some people are experience with being exposed to their neighbors laundry dryer vents
John’s comments – “These products are made from hundreds of chemicals. When they are heated in the dryer at high temperatures, they become extremely volatile and hazardous. The scented products are more of a concern as some scents are derived from more than 300 chemicals. Some are carcinogenic and neurotoxic”.
Vickie wrote – “I have this problem too…the neighbor is aware that it bothers me and does it anyway out of spite…so that does happen. My eyes and throat burn and even with the windows shut I can still smell it in my house. Like others I cannot enjoy my yard or porch, and have to go to a beach or park to breath fresh air.”
Cathleen wrote – “I am also surrounded by neighbors who are using highly toxic laundry products for a few years now. These products have & continue to cause me to have severe asthma & allergy attacks, and other MCS related medical issues. On most days, I can not use the yards outside of my home in any way. The siding & windows/screens of my home are becoming saturated with the scented residues of these products. My car is also absorbing these toxins, and I have to have my cabin filters & air filters changed every by my mechanic. I would be more than willing to campaign against companies who make these products, as my neighbors could care less, how these products affect me & others. ”
Madelynn said – “Been suffering from neighbors vented laundry and air freshener chemical fragrances back on them. I am developing MCS. The above causes immediate serious reactions. Normally, don’t even get seasonal colds or flu, but about two years ago I suffered bronchitis, into pneumonia, into shingles, and am still on paid meds for nerve damage from shingles. Overall, was in bed four months and went into emergency twice over the outside vented fragrances. To date, I have made twelve appeals on the subject and my personal health reaction. I live in a mobile home park and submitted both written and vocal complaints to the park owner, manager, assistant manager, immediate neighbor involved in the fragrance venting, and Mobile Home California State Dept.”
Anonymous wrote – “so glad I found this site! I live in a suburb of Portland, OR and I’m in a 3rd floor small apt. There is a small (only 4 washers and 4 dryers) laundry at the first floor. I’ve been breaking out in facial hives all over my face since I’ve been here! The smell of the perfumes laundry product is sickening if I dare to open a window or the sliding glass! It’s disgusting and selfish. There’s are not homes spaced apart ! There are 3 story Apts with 575 sq feet all squished together. It’s horrible! No one should invade other peoples air by using the strongly scented crap in a public area . Please tell me there something I can do legally please”
Chris wrote – “I had been pondering writing a letter to my local paper asking whether anyone was feeling as nostalgic as I am for the scent of clean crisp air during the spring and fall. I can’t go outside without inhaling someone’s perfumed laundry anymore. It’s thoroughly depressing me.
I had been putting it off until one day I heard one of the detergent makers advertise that their product would stay in your fabrics for up to something like 12 weeks??? Has anyone else heard that ad? Anyway…I’m wondering whether there’s something we could do to influence the companies themselves.”
Peter wrote – “My girl and I live on an acre in South Jersey and our neighbors dryer vent stinks of chemicals. It blows right into our organic garden. It happens at least two or three times a week. I have had enough. The smell is making us both sick and angry. We try to live a holistic and toxic free life. My neighbor seems very ignorant and I don’t know how he is going to handle us talking to him about this”
Anonymous wrote – “We have the same issue where the neighbors dryer vents directly at our house and the exhaust of the scented dryer sheets has cause five sever anaphylactic attacks for my wife. After the first two attacks we finally discovered that it was the scent from the dryer sheets. For several months they used unscented sheets which we provided, however after assuring us my email that they were doing “everything possible” to avoid harming my wife and were open to any suggestions, they suddenly went back to using scented sheets. When asked why, they said that they have to go on with their lives and that they don’t care what happens to my wife, even if she dies! Each of the five attacks that she has suffered requires three EPI pen injections before getting to the hospital. Here’s a video of her last attack.”
Elena wrote – “I have MCS and also find that I can smell fragrance when in my yard and walking in the neighbourhood. When my neighbours moved in next door I took over some laundry products like Nature Clean and Borax and asked her to try them. They did until they ran out and then started using the fragrant brands again.
Another neighbour 2 doors down has their dryer vent in the front of the house and it blows into our front door area and lingers there seeping into our house. (depending on which way the wind is blowing) Our solution to that was to seal up the front door and windows so that a limited amount of the toxins could enter the house. We also run air purifiers in the house. We also bought a carbon furnace filter that helps a tiny bit.
I am in the process of writing our Federal Government to protest against the air pollution these fragrant products are producing and the water pollution.”
Jane said – “There are local ordinances against toxic odors, and if there aren’t they can be instituted. No one should have to go to the extremes that you or anyone of us has gone to in order to keep out these extremely toxic smells and particulates. The stuff stays on plants for hours even after heavy rains – you would think that would tell people something. (So much for “organic” growing). This is a multi-billion dollar industry and dedicated ignorance we’re dealing with here.
The fumes are a major contributor to climate change. They consist of all kinds of nonbiodegradable VOC’s, phthalates, terpenes, benzene, petroleum distillates, coal tar derivitives and lots of other offending, endocrine disruptors and neurotoxins. They are all carbon compounds. After high efficiency detergents started in the early 90’s, autism, ADHD and Alzheimer skyrocketed. Is it any wonder why kids today can’t focus as they receive chronic exposure 24/7 to these destructive compounds.”
Karl wrote – “These products are made to be very volatile. In fact, increase in potency with the heat of the dryer. It’s like second hand smoke. The out-gassing from the vents is more harmful than what is deposited on clothes (although that is extremely harmful too). Fragrance beads in liquid fabric softeners also have a particular action: the beads are microscopic, attach to clothing fiber (cellular structure of anything it comes in contact with), then are augmented in the drying process. These beads never, ever are removed from clothing, but accumulate with additional use of these toxic products. These toxins are also harmful to clothing; it’s an illusion created by the industry (that spends millions on commercials but pennies on the actual product) that the stuff makes clothes last longer. Bunk. Synthetic fragrances are commonly known in the industry as “penetrators” because they attach or penetrate the cellular structure of everything (fiber, hair, skin, etc). These penetrating substances are not just used in laundry products, but commonly used in anything with fragrance such as cosmetics, hair products, air fresheners, perfumes, etc.”
Susan wrote – “I have a similar issue. The homes in our subdivision are on a zero lot line meaning that our neighbors wall of their home is the boundary for our backyard. The issue is that their dry vents directly into our yard and this about 20 feet from our doors and windows. I cannot work from home because I cannot focus at all when she does laundry it’s as if she uses 4 boxes of dryer sheets at a time. My entire yard is consumed. I have to keep all doors and windows shut which is not necessary in CA, and I get a kind of drunkeness with a lack of focus because i am sure that it seeps into door and window cracks so I may not smell it but I am certainly affected by it. We rescue many pets and throughout the years I cannot leave them out for any period of time because they get sick, have breathing issues and get fatty tumors.”
Wendy commented – “I’m not allergic but sensitive to any thing petro chemical! All types of these toxins. These neurotoxins are nasty! My husbands suits are often airing out in the garage ergo more perfume that sticks to our hair & clothing! We bought a steamer for our clothing. We will try to keep our clothing free of 2nd hand chemicals that keep on polluting us! Why aren’t there any laws to protect us from other people’s harmful fumes?! Our air exchanger is closed. It still reeks in the house of this chemical filth!”
Nancy said – “I’ve just decided to write to the federal government myself. Thanks for the information on the environmental agencies.
I would love to see the “sticky” chemicals banned. Lately, I’ve found that I can’t sit down in any public place because the scent chemicals stick to my clothes and are either extremely difficult or impossible to remove. Not only do they not wash out, they transfer to other clothes in the load that they washed with. Then the chemicals don’t wash out of those clothes either. It’s insane. I feel like I can’t go anywhere anymore. Worse yet, the scent chemicals seem to have started sticking to my clothes just from being around scents.
I find Proctor and Gamble products have the most staying power and they are making my life a nightmare. I contacted them and found them, at best, to be very unhelpful, and at worst, downright rude.”
Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health
Air Quality, Atmosphere, and Health is a multidisciplinary journal which, by its very name, illustrates the broad range of work it publishes and which focuses on atmospheric consequences of human activities and their implications for human and ecological health
UW News office
Scented laundry products emit hazardous chemicals through dryer vents
Dryer Vents: An Overlooked Source of Pollution?
Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Nov; 119(11): a474–a475.
Published online 2011 Nov 1. doi: 10.1289/ehp.119-a474a
News | Forum, Air Pollution, Indoor Air Quality, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)