The Toxic Danger of Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets
Many people will remember a famous TV ad where a woman races to her washing machine, fabric softener in hand, only to arrive just as the wash ends. This woman who “forgot to ad the fabric softener” was actually doing herself and her family a favor.
Although they may make your clothes feel soft and smell fresh, fabric softener and dryer sheets are some of the most toxic products around. And chances are that the staggering 99.8 percent of Americans who use common commercial detergents, fabric softeners, bleaches, and stain removers would think twice if they knew they contained chemicals that could cause cancer and brain damage.
Fabric softeners and dryer sheets with scents like April Fresh and Summer Orchard add toxic chemicals to your laundry and, consequently, your body.
Here is a list of just some of the chemicals found in fabric softeners and dryer sheets:
· Benzyl acetate: Linked to pancreatic cancer
· Benzyl Alcohol: Upper respiratory tract irritant
· Ethanol: On the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) 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 damage
· Ethyl Acetate: A narcotic on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste list
· Camphor: Causes central nervous system disorders
· Chloroform: Neurotoxic, anesthetic and carcinogenic
· Linalool: A narcotic that causes central nervous system disorders
· Pentane: A chemical known to be harmful if inhaled
So how could products with pretty names like Soft Ocean Mist, Summer Orchard and April Fresh be so dangerous?
The chemicals in fabric softeners are pungent and strong smelling — so strong that they require the use of these heavy fragrances (think 50 times as much fragrance) just to cover up the smells. Furthermore, synthetic fabrics, which are the reason fabric softeners were created in the first place, do not smell good either when heated in a dryer or heated by our bodies … hence the need for even more hefty fragrances – I like what Humancure said about chemicals in their post titled “Chemicals Everywhere – One Solution” about the approach to chemicals and affecting the environment.
In other words, remove all the added fragrance that endears people to fabric softeners and — like the cliché wolf in sheep’s clothing — the real smells of the chemical-laced fabric softener and the synthetic fabrics they were designed around may prompt people to shoot their laundry machines and be done with it.
Are “Soft” Clothes Worth It?
Fabric softeners are made to stay in your clothing for long periods of time. As such, chemicals are slowly released either into the air for you to inhale or onto your skin for you to absorb. Dryer sheets are particularly noxious because they are heated in the dryer and the chemicals are released through dryer vents and out into the environment. Health effects from being exposed to the chemicals in fabric softeners include:
- Central nervous system disorders
- Blood pressure reduction
Chemicals found in fabric softeners by U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)by Julia Kendall
Compiled by Julia Kendall*, Co-Chair, Citizens for a Toxic-Free Marin. Phone: (415) 485-6870. Reference: Lance Wallace, Environmental Protection Agency; Phone (703) 341-7509 Excerpts from “Health Hazard Information.” References: Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Provided with permission by Barbara Wilkie firstname.lastname@example.org of the Environmental Health Network (of California). [*NOTE: Julia Kendall died July 12, 1997 from Multiple Chemical Sensitivities and Leukemia caused by pesticide poisoning.]Principal chemicals found in Fabric Softeners/Dryer Sheets are:Symptoms of exposure are taken from industry-generated Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS)ALPHA-TERPINEOLCauses CNS (central nervous system) disorders… “highly irritating to mucous membranes” …”Aspiration into the lungs can produce pneumonitis or even fatal edema.” Can also cause “excitement, ataxia (loss of muscular coordination), hypothermia, CNS and respiratory depression, and headache.” “Prevent repeated or prolonged skin contact.”BENZYL ACETATECarconigenic (linked to pancreatic cancer). “From vapors: irritating to eyes and respiratory passages, exciting cough.” “In mice: hyperanemia of the lungs.” “Can be absorbed through the skin causing systemic effects.” “Do not flush to sewer.”BENZYL ALCOHOLCauses CNS disorders …”irritating to the upper respiratory tract” …”headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drop in blood pressure, CNS depression, and death in severe cases due to respiratory failure.”CAMPHORCauses CNS disorders. On EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. Symptoms: “local irritant and CNS stimulant” …”readily absorbed through body tissues” …”irritation of eyes, nose, and throat” …”dizziness, confusion, nausea, twitching muscles and convulsions”. “Avoid inhalation of vapors.”CHLOROFORMNeurotoxic. Anesthetic. Carcinogenic. on EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. “Avoid contact with eyes, skin, clothing. Do not breathe vapors …Inhalation of vapors may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, irritation of respiratory tract and loss of consciousness.” “Inhalation can be fatal.” “Chronic effects of overexposure may include kidney and/or liver damage.” “Medical conditions generally aggravated by exposure: kidney disorders, liver disorders, heart disorders, skin disorders.” “Conditions to avoid: Heat…” Listed on California’s Proposition 65.ETHYL ACETATENarcotic. On EPA’s Hazardous Waste list. “…Irritating to the eyes and respiratory tract” …”may cause headache and narcosis (stupor)” …”may cause anemia with leukocytosis and damage to liver and kidneys”. “Wash thoroughly after handling.”LIMONENECarcinogenic. “Prevent its contact with skin or eyes because it is an irritant and sensitizer.” “Always wash thoroughly after using this material and before eating, drinking …applying cosmetics. Do not inhale limonene vapor.”LINALOOLNarcotic. Causes CNS disorders. …”respiratory disturbances” …”Attracts bees.” “In animal tests: ataxic gait, reduced spontaneous motor activity and depression …depressed heart activity …development of respiratory disturbances leading to death.”PENTANE“Danger – Harmful if inhaled …Avoid breathing vapor.” “Inhalation of vapors may cause headache, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, drowsiness, irritation of respiratory tract and loss of consciousness. Repeated inhalation of vapors may cause CNS depression. Contact can cause eye irritation. Prolonged exposure may cause dermatitis (skin rash).”Relevant Facts:
- CNS = Central Nervous System, your brain and spine.
- CNS disorders include: Alzheimer’s Disease, Attention Deficit Disorder, Dementia, Multiple Chemical Sensitivity, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s Disease, Seizures, Strokes, Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
- CNS exposure symptoms include: aphasia, blurred vision, disorientation, dizziness, headaches, hunger, memory loss, numbness in face, pain in neck and spine.