Have you ever wondered what’s in that bottle of detergent or softener you pour into your washing machine, or on that fragrant dry 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 dry sheets that sit on our supermarket shelves, like Proctor and Gamble’s popular original Tide, and fragrance-free Tide Free and Clear contain high levels of 1,4-Dioxane, a carcinogenic pollutant. Lesser amounts of the same contaminant were detected in Bounce Free and Clear. It’s no wonder that this toxic carcinogenic contaminant has been found in 39 Long Island water districts, many of them located in the town of East Hampton. It’s a shame and a disgrace that Proctor and Gamble has consciously chosen not to reformulate these toxic products that people use every day.
Neither the state, nor the federal Environmental Protection Agency, regulate dioxane in drinking water. According to the Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment, an organization that empowers communities and advocates solutions, “Once this chemical flows down your drain, it travels into our groundwater through our septic tanks and cesspools, which then flows outward into our surface waters or downward into our aquifers, which is 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. The Citizen’s Campaign for the Environment reports that, “Approximately 46% 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 ladened with a multitude of toxic ingredients.” Why would you expose your largest pore, your skin, to such dangerous contaminants? If you look on the box of those dryer sheets, you’d discover that none of the toxic ingredients are listed. Why, you ask? Well, the current United States Consumer Product Safety Commission doesn’t require it.
Dr. Anne Steinemann, an internationally recognized expert on pollutant exposures and associated health effects, including topics of indoor air quality, consumer product testing and evaluation, exposure assessment, and healthy homes and communities, has studied the chemicals that spew out of people’s dryer vents, into the air and then into our lungs. She is currently a professor of civil engineering, and Chair of Sustainable Cities at the University of Melbourne, Australia. What she found was that “there are seven dangerous air contaminants and twenty-five volatile organic compounds (VOCs) 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, 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 neighbor’s 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 Proctor and Gamble, the company responsible for producing these products, touts these products as “being ideal for newborns and babies.”
What can you do as a concerned citizen?
It’s easy! Just 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. There are several eco-friendly companies that have created healthy products for people to use. One such company is Seventh Generation. This eco-friendly company has formulated effective cleaning and laundry products that are safe for future generations.
The not-for-profit organization Earth Justice recently asked residents of New York State to contact Governor 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 stance for your health and for the health of our environment!