[The following is an exact transcript of this podcast.]
Laundry detergents and air fresheners have long promised to keep your house and clothes smelling sunshine fresh and rain shower clean. But what they haven't said is what exactly you're sniffing when you snuggle up in your just-washed sheets. After hearing from people who said strong scents made them sick, University of Washington researcher Anne Steinemann scratched the surface and found almost a hundred chemicals that weren't listed on the labels. According to her report in the journal Environmental Impact Assessment Review, plug-in air fresheners, scented sprays, dryer sheets and detergents all contained a mixture of volatile organic compounds.
Since manufacturers aren't required to list their ingredients for such consumer products, the boxes only admitted to containing a "mixture of perfume oils." But five out of the six products Steinemann tested emitted one or more so-called hazardous air pollutants, which are carcinogens determined to have no safe exposure level by the EPA. While the study did not test for any human health risk from exposure to these chemicals, Steinemenn says the next time the air in the house smells stale, maybe you just open a window.