Fragranced Laundry Products: “Non-Scents”

WASHINGTON, D.C., August 25, 2011 – Groups representing laundry product and fragrance manufacturers sharply rebutted seriously flawed statements regarding fragrances in laundry products based on a study that fails to meet the basic principles of scientific investigation.

The American Cleaning Institute, Consumer Specialty Products Association, International Fragrance Association-North America, and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials, Inc. reiterated the safety and effectiveness of scented laundry products that are attacked by University of Washington professor Anne Steinemann in her latest paper and press release.  The paper makes unsubstantiated claims about emissions from dryer vents after using certain laundry products.

“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 manufacturer groups expressed disappointment that the paper’s authors exploited their findings of volatile organic compounds emanating from dryer vents based on a dataset of such limited size and plagued by the confounding effects of their study design.  Their own data could equally support the conclusion that most of the trace compounds could come from sources other than laundry products.

“Shoddy Science”

The industry groups noted that the information provided in the paper is far short of being detailed enough to replicate the study – a standard measure of any truly scientific study – let alone judge the applicability of the findings to how consumers use the products investigated in the study.  The information is lacking a number of factors that could impact the fate of the ingredients in the products studied:

  • The brands and models of the washers and dryers used in the study.
  • The operational settings of the washers and dryers during the study e.g., load size setting, agitator setting, wash/rinse and dryer temperature setting, number of wash/rinse cycles and their duration.
  • The types of dryers – gas vs. electric (note: if a gas dryer were used, exhaust from the combustion of the gas would be in the dryer vent emissions).
  • The highest concentrations of 4 of the 7 hazardous air pollutants detected were found when no laundry products were included.
  • The number of controls used in the study is limited.  They should include non-fragranced products as well as using detergent or dryer sheets alone.

Regarding the special attention that was given to the findings on benzene, the authors have stretched beyond the limits of imagination and speculation.  Benzene is naturally present in various foods and constantly present in both indoor and outdoor air.  It is not used in fragranced products.  The author’s conclusions are completely unsupported by their own data.  No benzene was found in dryer emission samples at one household, with and without products.  Meanwhile, they found benzene in the emissions from another dryer when product was not used, as well as when both laundry and dryer products were used. Although, 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. Thus, it is false to conclude that the benzene they measured was due to the products.

Regarding trace elements of acetaldehyde that was found: acetaldehyde is emitted from a wide range of natural sources, including apples and people’s breath. In fact, the human body generates significant levels of acetaldehyde anytime an alcoholic product is ingested, because acetaldehyde is created during the metabolism of alcohol. The levels in the body as a result of alcohol breakdown would be expected to be higher than those that could occur from atmospheric exposure to dryer vent exhaust.  In fact, acetaldehyde concentrations from using no products were similar or even higher than the results they obtained when products were used.

Activism Shouldn’t Trump Good Science, Common Sense

“Political activism should never trump good science and common sense,” the groups said.  “Consumers can continue to use laundry and fabric care products like they do every day: safely and effectively.”

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