Is Your Neighbor Polluting Your Air?

scented-products-dangersWhen the neighbor’s dryer vent blows aromas your way do you inhale deeply and enjoy the experience? Or do you wrinkle your nose and slam the windows shut? Recent research suggests you may want to do the latter, as scented laundry detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets contain hazardous chemicals, some of them known carcinogens and gender benders.

Anne Steinemann of the University of Washington established a few years back that what’s in those scented products is hazardous to your health. She and her team then analyzed the fumes coming out of dryer vents and found more than 25 volatile organic compounds, including seven hazardous air pollutants. Two of them, acetaldehyde and benzene are known carcinogens. Benzene damages the bone marrow and is an established cause of acute leukemias.

Another toxin in fragranced products is phthalates, substances added to make the fragrance stay around longer, often through repeated washings. 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.

Steinemann published a survey in 2009 showing that a significant portion of the population reacts badly to fragranced products, “… 30.5 % of the general population reported scented products on others irritating, 19% reported adverse health effects from air fresheners, and 10.9% reported irritation by scented laundry products vented outside.” When children suffer from asthma, allergies and eczema, one of the prime suspects should be scented products, including laundry products, air fresheners, perfumes, personal care products, dry cleaning and cat litter.

Make the Switch to Unscented Laundry Products

Using scented laundry products means that you and your children are exposed to these toxins 24/7. You’re wearing them, toweling off with them and sleeping with them. There are clearly multiple benefits to switching to fragrance-free laundry products: it makes you a good neighbor, helps prevent leukemia, and will help your little boy grow into a normal man… just for starters.

More Info  on Fragranced Products and Phthalates

Ban Phthalates from Your Life

Scented Products aka Fake Fragrances (Fakegrances) are Not Safe

Health Risks Can be Skin Deep


Caress SM, Steinemann AC, “Prevalence of fragrance sensitivity in the American population,” J Environ Health. 2009 Mar;71(7):46-50.

Nardelli1 A, Carbonez A, Ottoy W et al, “Frequency of and trends in fragrance allergy over a 15-year period,” Contact Dermatitis, Vol 58, Is 3, pp 134–141, March 2008.

Steinemann AC, Gallagher LG, Davis AL, MacGregor IC, “Chemical Emissions from Residential Dryer Vents During Use of Fragranced Laundry Products,” Air Quality, Atmosphere and Health 2011: Url:

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4 Responses to "Is Your Neighbor Polluting Your Air?"

  1. shelley kramer   October 2, 2011 at 9:57 am

    My next door neighbor sprays with malathion each and every month to control ticks and fleas in her yard. She does not believe it is carcinogenic. We lost our 3 dogs to cancer, and she lost 5 dogs to cancer, but still does not see the coincidence. I do not know how to get through to her how dangerous this chemical is and is a known carcinogen. I have no dogs and she has one left.
    what to do?

  2. Virginia Hopkins   October 2, 2011 at 12:04 pm

    Food Grade Diatomaceous Earth is a good solution for safely killing fleas and ticks in the yard. I believe Sears carries it. Maybe buy a 50-lb bag and give it to her as a gift! (With specific info on how to use it…)

  3. Anne Peters   October 2, 2011 at 12:53 pm

    Thanks so much for doing this. Now I will print out this article and slip it into all my neighbors’ mailboxes. It is a horrible form of air pollution when just hanging out in your backyard or walking through the neighborhood.
    Great work you do!
    Anne Steinemann has also done interesting research on chemicals from personal care products’ impact on water and human health… heard her speak at a conference 2 years ago.

  4. Janet Levatin   February 5, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Spraying need oil and garlic oil around the yard also cuts down on ticks and fleas. You can dilute them with water and then spray them around from a sprayer similar to what an exterminator uses (minus the toxic chemicals inside, however). I’m not sure of the dilution factor, but I’m sure it can be found online.