All posts by HeleneForst

The Poison in Your Laundry



The Poison in Your Laundry

 By Helene Forst

Have you ever wondered what’s in that bottle of detergent or softener you pour into your washing machine, or on that fragrant dryer sheet you throw into your dryer? Well, it’s time you did, because the truth about your laundry products might make you change your laundry routine forever.

Many of the common laundry detergents, softeners, and dryer sheets that sit on our supermarket shelves, like Procter & Gamble’s popular original Tide, and fragrance-free Tide Free and Gentle, contain high levels of 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogenic pollutant. Lesser amounts of the same contaminant were detected in Bounce, both original and Free and Gentle. It’s no wonder that this carcinogenic contaminant has been found in 39 Long Island water districts, many of them in the Town of East Hampton. It’s a shame and a disgrace that Procter & Gamble has consciously chosen not to reformulate these toxic products that people use every day.

Neither New York State nor the federal Environmental Protection Agency regulates dioxane in drinking water. According to Citizens Campaign for the Environment, “Once this chemical flows down your drain, it travels into our groundwater through our septic tanks and cesspools,” before flowing “outward into our surface waters or downward into our aquifers, which are the sole source of Long Island’s drinking water. Removing it is a difficult problem once it hits the groundwater and soil.”

Not only is this toxic chemical found in laundry detergents and soaps, it’s also found in shampoos and body washes. Citizens Campaign for the Environment reports that “approximately 46 percent of personal care products, including detergents, dishwashing soaps, shampoos, cosmetics, deodorants, and body lotions, contain 1,4-dioxane.” In addition, dryer sheets, a common part of many people’s laundry routine, are laden with a multitude of toxic ingredients.

Why would you expose your skin to such dangerous contaminants? If you look on the box of those dryer sheets, you’ll discover that none of the toxic ingredients are listed. Why not, you ask? Well, the current U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn’t require it.

Dr. Anne Steinemann, an expert on pollutants and human health at the University of Melbourne in Australia, has studied the chemicals that discharge from people’s dryer vents into the air and then into our lungs and found that “there are seven dangerous air contaminants and 25 volatile organic compounds that are emitted into the air from fabric softeners and dryer sheets, such as acetaldehyde and benzene. These contaminants are not safe at any level; they are the same pollutants that are emitted from the tailpipes of automobiles. Acetaldehyde is a common ingredient used in fake fragrance blends. It’s potentially carcinogenic to humans and adversely impacts the kidneys and nervous and respiratory systems.”

Just take a bike ride or a walk through any neighborhood in East Hampton and you can smell these noxious chemicals being blown out of your neighbors’ dryer vents.

In 2016, Dr. Steinemann conducted a study that found that “12.5 percent of people blamed scented laundry products spewing from dryer vents for health issues. These included migraines, respiratory issues, skin issues, asthma attacks, and gastrointestinal symptoms.” The scary thing is that Procter & Gamble, the company responsible for most of these products, touts them as being “ideal for newborns and babies.”

What can you do? Stop buying these contaminated products. Each of us as individuals, working together as a community of concerned citizens, can make a difference. All you need to do is say no to the use of these products and purchase eco-friendly detergents instead. There are several companies, such as Seventh Generation, that have come out with healthy but effective cleaning and laundry products.

In addition, the not-for-profit organization Earthjustice recently asked residents of New York to contact Gov. Andrew Cuomo because “he promised to make protecting the public and the environment from chemical contamination a top priority.” For your health, and the health of the environment, “tell Governor Cuomo to require disclosure of all cleaning product ingredients — not just those products the manufacturers add intentionally.”

We should be holding the governor to his promise. Let him know who you are, where you live, and that you’d like transparency for everything that’s being put into cleaning products, shampoos, and body washes that are being sold in New York State.

Remember, it’s never too late to take a stand for your health and for the health of our environment.

Helene Forst is a teacher, environmental activist, and the author of two young-adult novels, “The Journey of Hannah Woods” and “Stoked — 1969.” She lives in East Hampton.

East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Red Devil Swim 2017


August 23, 2017     Page A 16
Conditions Lead To Fast Finishes In Eighth Annual Red Devil Swim

“Aidan Forst, left, won the half-mile and Ethan McCormac won the quarter-mile races at the Red Devil Open Water Swim on Saturday at Atlantic Avenue Beach in Amagansett. The PEACE beach towel blankets were donated to EHVOR by Natural Life.”       Photo by Helene Forst.

Article by Drew Budd

“A heavy west to east sweep along the south shore of the East End, coupled with a decent breeze, helped swimmers finish the eighth annual Red Devil Swim in Amagansett quickly on Saturday.

Since the open water swim is a fundraiser for East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue, specific times aren’t that big of a deal, but EHVOR chief T.J. Calabrese said that with the first race beginning around 5:15 p.m., the final competitor of all three races was in by no later than 6 p.m. Usually the three races on the day are set apart by 20 minutes, but because they were getting done so fast, there was a 15-minute break between the first and second race and a 10-minute break between the second and third. 

“The first person out of the water of the mile race was in under 20 minutes. That’s unbelievable,” Calabrese said.

Amagansett’s own Tom McGlade won the first race, which was the mile, while Aidan Forst won the half mile race and Ethan McCormac won the quarter mile race. There were 70 swimmers total; 22 in both the mile and half mile, 26 in the quarter. All races began at Indian Wells Beach and wrapped up at Atlantic Avenue Beach.

Calabrese said that even though the races were done quickly there were some challenging conditions with some rough surf and crowded beaches. With EHVOR running the show there were plenty of lifeguards on hand assisting with the race. There were guards on jet skis setting up the buoys along the beach, guards on paddleboards and a number of guards in the water along with the swimmers for assistance.”





On Saturday, October 15th, 2017, Surfers Healing, an organization that travels around the United States offering children with special needs, specifically those with autism, the opportunity to experience the wonders and magic of surfing in the ocean, will visit our East End at Ditch Plains in Montauk.

Members of East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue will be in force to volunteer their time for this amazing event. From 8 am to 2:30 pm, they will assist the children onto surfboards or transport them by jet ski out to some of the most talented surfers waiting to take them for the ride of their life.

Surfers Healing is making a difference in the lives of families and kids living with autism and other special needs.

Thinking in ones is where an effective change takes place.

One day at the beach, making a difference, one ride at a time!


On Saturday, July 22nd, there will be an open water swim at Ditch Plains Beach.  This event offers a rare opportunity to swim in an ocean open-water race on the beautiful East End of Long Island. There will be three distance categories to ensure that swimmers of all ages and abilities can participate. The race is organized by members from East Hampton Volunteer Ocean Rescue Squad.  All proceeds benefit the Montauk Playhouse Community Center Foundation.

Distance Categories:

1/2 mile – $25 (in advance) $40 (day of)

1 mile – $40 (in advance) $55 (day of)

5K – $55 (in advance) $70 (day of)

The top fundraiser will win an Xterra wetsuit!!!!

Start time – 7 am

Register in advance at: Keyword Montauk Playhouse

EHVOR is comprised of volunteer Suffolk County Certified Ocean Lifeguards who respond to 911 dispatched emergencies year-round in East Hampton