Americans are obsessed with odors. Just look at the thousands of scented products lining store shelves--air fresheners, scented laundry soaps and dryer sheets, scented body washes and perfumes—the list goes on and on. The problem is, these efforts to manipulate odors are increasing indoor air pollution, contributing to chemical sensitivity, and worse—releasing cancer-causing chemicals into the air.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that people spend 90% of their time indoors, but indoor air quality can be two to five times more polluted than outdoor air. Ironically, many of the scented products we use to “improve” the air around us are actually adding to indoor air pollution as these products are loaded with undisclosed chemicals.
A study led by the University of Washington discovered that 25 commonly used scented products emit an average of 17 chemicals each. Of the 133 different chemicals detected, nearly a quarter are classified as toxic or hazardous under at least one federal law. Only one emitted compound was listed on a product label, and only two were publicly disclosed anywhere. Research is finding that many of these scented products interfere with our hormones, which regulate how our bodily systems function. This can increase the risk of diabetes, some cancers, obesity, thyroid disease, and all sorts of ailments.
In another study, researchers found that toxic chemicals typically found in vehicle exhaust are being released from household dryer vents when consumers use popular scented laundry detergents and dryer sheets. The dryer loads emitted seven hazardous air pollutants, including benzene and acetaldehyde—two compounds the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency lists as carcinogens. (There's no safe exposure level for these air pollutants.)
Fresh air without the toxic fumes
Fortunately there are safer alternatives to these chemical fragrances. Here are a few tips and strategies to keep your indoor world smelling fresh:
With colder days just around the corner, the quality of the air in your home will be even more critical to your health. Discover more tips for improving indoor air quality here.
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