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Ahh... The Air is Filled With Smells of the Season... and Dryers Sheets (Part 1)
Alternatives to the Toxic Components of Fabric Softener and Dryer Sheets
by Mark Jeantheau
Editor's Note from Zorica Denton: Part 1 of this article gives good info to readers regarding the harm of dryers sheets and fabric softeners. Part 2 discusses alternatives.
Our rich Aunt Regina's clothes were always the latest things from the top fashion designers. She explained her philosophy as follows: "If it's expensive and ugly, it's for me."
Most of us poorer folk wear more normal clothes, and whether they're a sight to make eyes sore or not, when we're done wearing them, they get washed and dried. We put the clothes in the washer, then we put the clothes in the dryer, then we throw a dryer sheet in after them. It's the way it's done. Some people also use liquid fabric softener in the wash cycle. All this softening and sweetening is part of Better Living Through Chemistry. Or is it?
Problems with Dryer Sheets and Fabric Softener
Your supposedly non-toxic fabric softener or dryer sheets likely include some of the following not-so-snuggly ingredients: alpha-terpineol, benzyl acetate, camphor, benzyl alcohol, limonene, ethyl acetate, pentane, and chloroform. According to the manufacturers' Material Safety Data Sheets, these chemicals have the potential to do things to you such as:
* cause central nervous system disorders, headaches, and loss of muscle coordination;
* irritate mucous membranes and impair respiratory function;
* cause nausea, vomiting, dizziness, or drowsiness;
* cause liver or kidney damage;
* cause skin disorders and allergic reactions;
* cause cancer.
One of these chemicals even contains the warning "Do not flush into sewer system" (which, unfortunately, happens every time fabric softener with this particular chemical gets used). Another of the fabric softener chemicals appears on the Environmental Protection Agency's hazardous waste list.
People are exposed to the chemicals by breathing the aromatic molecules in the air near the clothes or by absorbing them through the skin via direct contact with the clothes (which, by design, retain some of the fabric softener/dryer sheet molecules).
You may now be thinking of several "buts" to our suggestion that dryer sheets and fabric softeners are not safe. Let's explore them:
BUT #1: "If the product is allowed to be sold, it must be safe."
RESPONSE: You'd think so, but it's just not so. Most chemicals used in household products have not undergone in-depth testing to determine their effects on people, particularly long-term effects.
BUT #2: "I don't feel ill when I use these products; in fact, I LIKE the smell."
RESPONSE: Chronic chemical exposure usually takes years to catch up with you, and the negative effects are often subtle and emerge slowly. The connection between chronic chemical exposure and an emerging health situation may not be obvious. Further, the chemicals used in fragrant products can induce a narcotic effect in humans, enticing you to crave more exposure at the same time you're suffering the overall negative effects of the exposure.
BUT #3: "The static cling! Aeeieieee!"
RESPONSE: Yes, while people may be willing to give up the cozy smell that dryer sheets impart to their clothes, static electricity in clothes that come out of the dryer is a problem. Some solutions are listed below.
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About the Author
Mark Jeantheau is a writer, financial analyst, progressive thinker, web developer, and, as necessary chef and janitor. Mark's website, Grinning Planet, is an expression of his enthusiasm for all things humorous, green, and truth, as well as a psychotic desire to work himself to death. Hobbies include music, healthy eating, getting frustrated over politics, and occasionally lecturing the TV set on how uncreative it is. Mark lives in Kentucky in the USA.