Is Your Dryer Vent Making Your Neighbors Sick?

We were so busy with parties, concerts and shopping during the holidays that I sort of slacked off a little on the laundry. I usually try to keep on top of it so it doesn’t pile up…

…but that week everyone’s hamper was overflowing.  That is, until Dylan gave me a reality check.  He looked at me and, very seriously, said, “Mommy, I think you’re a little behind on the laundry.” He then proceeded to show me how he couldn’t even fit another sock in his hamper.  That’s when Daniella popped her head out of her bedroom and asked if her favorite white leggings were clean.  I grabbed their hampers and headed for the laundry room…all while muttering something about how I did my own laundry at 6-years-old before walking 5 miles to school…in the snow…uphill both ways!

Until now, my biggest concern, when it came to the laundry, was whether the kids would each have a clean pair of underwear and socks to wear to school in the morning.  I’ll never forget my mom’s advice to always wear clean underwear in case you get in an accident and have to go to the hospital.  Lord knows Dylan would rat me out and tell the doctor that his mom is a little behind on the laundry!

But there are bigger concerns than just clean underwear now!  My friend Lynn Colwell, who founded the fabulous website with her daughter Corey Colwell Lipson, posted a link to an article that really got me thinking.  The article is called “Is Your Dryer Vent Making Your Neighbors Sick?”  I worry about the food my kids eat, if there’s arsenic in their apple juice and hormones in their milk…







…but I never stopped to think that when I wash and dry their clothes I could be hurting my neighbors and my own family too, for that matter!

Who knew that their could be carcinogenic chemical and pollutants in the air blowing out of your dryer vent and into the neighborhood.

Fumes from washing machines and dryers release harmful chemicals, such as acetaldehyde, into the atmosphere. You know what else is scary?  Those chemicals are on your kids clothes…and yours too!

Below is the article from by Lesley Ciarula Taylor.  It has the details of the study conducted by a University of Washington Engineering Professor and her team.  Let me know if it changes your mind about the products you use to clean your clothes.

I know two things for sure:  1. I’m going shopping for new laundry products 2. I’d like to apologize to my neighbors!



By: Lesley Ciarula Taylor

Air pumping from a clothes dryer is soaked with carcinogenic chemicals and pollutants, a U.S. study by an activist against fragrance chemicals has found.

“People are getting sick from the air from dryer vents,” Dr. Anne Steinemann told the Star. “A dryer vent is like a tail pipe sticking out.”

Steinemann, who has done previously published studies on the undisclosed volatile organic compounds in cleaners, air fresheners and cosmetic products with fragrance, concentrated this time on scented laundry detergent and dryer sheets.

“Little is known about chemicals in laundry products because their labels are not required to list any or all ingredients,” the study said. While some, such as acetaldehyde, are naturally occurring, Steinemann, a board member of the Chemical Sensitivity Foundation, argued that chemicals in fragrance are synthetic and react differently, particularly when heated.

Tests found 21 volatile organic compounds in the dryer vent air from laundry washed in scented detergent and 25 VOCs in the same laundry also dried with a scented dryer sheet. The highest concentrations, the study said, were of acetaldehyde, acetone and ethanol.

In previous studies, Steinemann reported that 10.9 per cent of the general population had reported headaches, nausea or other maladies from exposure to dryer-vent air.

To test the air, the University of Washington engineering professor and her team cleaned machines in two Seattle households with vinegar and unbleached paper towels, then laundered dye-free organic cotton bath towels with no products, with a name-brand detergent and with the detergent and dryer sheets.

The dryer air from one of the no-product launderings produced the least chemicals, although acetaldehyde and acetone levels were high in the other no-product laundering.

Steinemann, who washes her own laundry in vinegar and baking soda, contended tests need to be done to determine how long the fragrance chemicals linger on clothes or in machines, a particular concern to apartment dwellers who use common machines.

The American Cleaning Institute, the lobby group for the $30 billion U.S. cleaning market, dismissed the study as “shoddy science” for its small sample size and lack of tests with non-fragranced products.

“Their own data could equally support the conclusion that most of the trace compounds could come from sources other than laundry products,” said institute spokesman Brian Sansoni.

8 Responses to “Is Your Dryer Vent Making Your Neighbors Sick?”

  1. Susan Williams says:

    This certainly makes one think…There are so many dangers in everything we do and use. I am one of those apartment-dwellers of whom the writer spoke. It’s just the two of us, though, and we don’t do a lot of laundry. When we had a house, the dryer vented to a large open space. At our present home the dryer vents face an open space between buildings, at the side of the neighboring building that has no windows. I am thinking that the danger is negligible.

  2. LoriAnn says:

    Wow! I did not know that and am glad to have this information, which I will definitely pass along to my sister, mom, and all my friends.

  3. Mfitz says:

    I always knew there was something up with your dryer vent! (I will clean mine – I promise)

  4. Susan Williams: You may want to reconsider that conclusion. I speak from excruciating experience, thanks to numerous neighbors whose behavior ranges from inconsiderate to provably malevolent, when I say those fumes can travel farther than those not sensitized to them might think.

    Typically, my wife and I can smell (and get headaches and other unpleasant reactions to) home dryers at a distance of at least one house away from the source. As for commercial laundromats, they are quite perceptible from two blocks away if we’re downwind from them, and up to half a block otherwise.

  5. Gloria Doi says:

    I got to this article because my neighbor’s vent is next to my bedroom window, I was sitting at my desk the other day and got so dizzy and nauseated I had to shut the window and lay down for a while. Now I close the window when I hear her dryer going. I decided to research and see if I was imagining things but I see here I’m not. Thanks for the posting!

  6. Jane says:

    The FDA must stop approving the use of many chemicals that are considered by the FDA as “safe for human use or consumption.” Where did I read that the cleaning industry profits number over $30 billion dollars annually. That’s a lot of pull.

    Tonight, with a gentle rain after a hot and humid day, all windows had to be closed because the neighbor was doing her usual, heavily-scented wash and dry. The scent enveloped the house like a posse, essentially making us prisoners. What is particularly ironic here is that men who would never wear a pink shirt, for example, (and that’s silly given how flattering that color is), will happily walk around smelling like a bad whorehouse.

    Headaches, nausea…from these scented products. The toxins also remain on the skin. The FDA thinks that’s fine. The off-gases from the dryer sit on otherwise organic vegetable plants – not only altering the purity of the vegetables, but the stench – must be VOCs, is apparent even hours after a rain, right on the leaves.

    The neighbors must use the scented products because they do not read labels or care about chemicals, and there is no dissuading them. There need to be laws.

  7. stephanie says:

    My apartment’s community landry’s vent blows directly into my apartment window. Are their health codes out there to protect a tenant from this?

  8. stephanie says:

    oops “Are there…”

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