Industry Associations React to Negative Study on Scented Laundry Products

Industry associations such as the American Cleaning Institute, Consumer Specialty Products Association, International Fragrance Association North America and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, Inc. have reiterated the safety and effectiveness of scented laundry products, which recently came under attack via a paper by University of Washington professor Anne Steinemann. The associations say the paper makes unsubstantiated claims about emissions from dryer vents after using certain laundry products and that the study fails to meet the basic principles of scientific investigation. “Consumers should not be swayed by the sensationalist headlines that may come across the Internet related to this so-called research,” the groups said. “Fragranced fabric care products are safe when used as directed.  The safe and responsible manufacture and use of cleaning products is an absolute top priority within our industry.”

The associations expressed disappointment that the paper’s authors exploited their findings of volatile organic compounds emanating from dryer vents based on a dataset of limited size and plagued by the confounding effects of their study design. Among the problems they noted with the study was a lack of information on:

  • the brands and models of the washers and dryers used;
  • the operational settings of the washers and dryers used for the study, and;
  • if the dryers used were gas or electric (if a gas dryer was used, exhaust from the combustion of the gas would be in the dryer vent emissions).

Additionally, the associations noted that in the study, the highest concentrations of four of the seven hazardous air pollutants detected were found when no laundry products were included, and the number of controls used in the study was limited. The associations note that non-fragranced products, as well as using detergent or dryer sheets alone, should have been factors in the study.

The associations also commented on the study's finding on benzene, noting that the study's own data shows no benzene was found in dryer emission samples at one household, with and without products, and that benzene was found in the emissions from another dryer when product was not used, as well as when both laundry and dryer products were used. Also, no benzene emissions were detected when using just laundry detergent, the data shows that benzene levels were actually lowered when clothes were washed with detergents and dried using a dryer sheet for the second dryer.

Finally, regarding trace elements of acetaldehyde found during the study, the association commented that acetaldehyde is emitted from a wide range of natural sources, including apples and people's breath. In regard to the amounts found in the study, they noted, the acetaldehyde concentrations from using no products were similar or even higher than the results they obtained when products were used.

More in Regulatory & Research