Fragranced laundry products and emissions from dryer vents: implications for air quality and health


Fragranced laundry products emit numerous volatile organic compounds (VOCs), including terpenes such as limonene. Fragrance emissions have been associated with adverse health effects such as asthma attacks and breathing difficulties. Further, fragrance terpenes are primary indoor air pollutants that can react with other compounds and contribute to both indoor and outdoor air pollution. This paper examines volatile emissions and exposures from fragranced laundry products, and the implications for air quality and health. The paper synthesizes and analyzes data from studies conducted across the United States (US) and Australia (AU), providing results in three main themes: adverse health effects associated with exposure to fragranced laundry products, volatile emissions from fragranced and fragrance-free laundry products, and reductions in VOC emissions by switching from fragranced to fragrance-free products. Across the US and AU, 12.5% and 6.1% of the general population and 28.9% and 12.1% of asthmatics report health problems (respectively) when exposed to scented laundry products coming from a dryer vent. Among the volatile emissions from products, terpenes were the most prevalent VOCs detected in all fragranced laundry products; however, terpenes were absent in all fragrance-free products. By switching from fragranced to fragrance-free laundry products, dryer vent emissions of limonene can be reduced up to 99.7%. As context for significance, switching from fragranced to fragrance-free laundry detergent could reduce limonene emissions from dryer vents per household by an estimated 1.68 g/year. For the study area of metropolitan Melbourne, this represents a reduction in limonene emissions by an estimated 1.58 tons/year. Results from these analyses point to a promising way to reduce emissions and exposures to volatile compounds, and create potential improvements for air quality and health.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.


  1. CARB (2019) California Air Resource Board, The California Consumer Products Regulation. Available at:

  2. Caress SM, Steinemann AC (2009) Prevalence of fragrance sensitivity in the American population. J Environ Health 71(7):46–50

    Google Scholar 

  3. Goodman N, Nematollahi N, Agosti G, Steinemann A (2019) Evaluating air quality with and without air fresheners. Air Qual Atmos Health 13:1–4

    Google Scholar 

  4. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (2017) Initial list of hazardous air pollutants with modifications. Accessed July 2020

  5. Goodman NB, Steinemann A, Wheeler AJ, Paevere PJ, Cheng M, Brown SK (2017) Volatile organic compounds within indoor environments in Australia. Build Environ 122:116–125

    Google Scholar 

  6. Jia C, Batterman S, Godwin C (2008) VOCs in industrial, urban and suburban neighborhoods, Part 1: indoor and outdoor concentrations, variation, and risk drivers. Atmos Environ 42:2083–2100

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  7. Lunny S, Nelson R, Steinemann A (2017) Something in the air but not on the label: a call for increased regulatory ingredient disclosure for fragranced consumer products. UNSWLJ 40:1366–1391

    Google Scholar 

  8. McDonald BC, De Gouw JA, Gilman JB, Jathar SH, Akherati A, Cappa CD, Jimenez JL, Lee-Taylor J, Hayes PL, McKeen SA, Cui YY (2018) Volatile chemical products emerging as largest petrochemical source of urban organic emissions. Science 359(6377):760–764

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  9. Nazaroff WW, Weschler CJ (2004) Cleaning products and air fresheners: exposure to primary and secondary air pollutants. Atmos Environ 38(18):2841–2865

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  10. Nematollahi N, Doronila A, Mornane PJ, Duan A, Kolev SD, Steinemann A (2018) Volatile chemical emissions from fragranced baby products. Air Qual Atmos Health 11(7):785–790

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  11. Nematollahi N, Kolev SD, Steinemann A (2019) Volatile chemical emissions from 134 common consumer products. Air Qual Atmos Health 12(11):1259–1265

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  12. Safe Work Australia (SWA) (2020) Hazardous chemical information system (HCIS): search hazardous chemicals. Accessed July 2020

  13. Steinemann AC (2009) Fragranced consumer products and undisclosed ingredients. Environ Impact Assess Rev 29(1):32–38

    Google Scholar 

  14. Steinemann A (2015) Volatile emissions from common consumer products. Air Qual Atmos Health 8(3):273–281

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  15. Steinemann A (2016) Fragranced consumer products: exposures and effects from emissions. Air Qual Atmos Health 9(8):861–866

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  16. Steinemann A (2017) Health and societal effects from exposure to fragranced consumer products. Prev Med Rep 5:45–47

    Google Scholar 

  17. Steinemann A (2018) Fragranced consumer products: effects on autistic adults in the United States, Australia, and United Kingdom. Air Qual Atmos Health 11(10):1137–1142

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  18. Steinemann A (2019) International prevalence of fragrance sensitivity. Air Qual Atmos Health 12:891–897

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  19. Steinemann AC, Gallagher LG, Davis AL, MacGregor IC (2013) Chemical emissions from residential dryer vents during use of fragranced laundry products. Air Qual Atmos Health 6(1):151–156

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  20. Steinemann A, Goodman N (2019) Fragranced consumer products and effects on asthmatics: an international population-based study. Air Qual Atmos Health 12(6):643–649

    CAS  Google Scholar 

  21. Steinemann A, Nematollahi N (2020) Migraine headaches and fragranced consumer products: an international population-based study. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, pp.1–4

  22. Wang CM, Barratt B, Carslaw N, Doutsi A, Dunmore RE, Ward MW, Lewis AC (2017) Unexpectedly high concentrations of monoterpenes in a study of UK homes. Environ Sci Process Impacts 19:528–537

    CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


We gratefully acknowledge the supporters of this study: the Clean Air and Urban Landscapes Hub funded by the Australian Government’s National Environmental Science Program; and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). We thank Professor Spas Kolev, School of Chemistry, The University of Melbourne, for his exceptional expertise and generosity, and for granting use of his laboratory facilities in Australia. We also thank Ian C. MacGregor of Battelle in Columbus, OH, United States, for his excellent analytic work in the United States. Finally, we deeply appreciate the anonymous reviewers of this paper.

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to Nigel Goodman.

Additional information

Publisher’s note

Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in published maps and institutional affiliations.

Electronic supplementary material


(DOCX 17 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Goodman, N., Nematollahi, N. & Steinemann, A. Fragranced laundry products and emissions from dryer vents: implications for air quality and health. Air Qual Atmos Health 14, 245–249 (2021).

Download citation


  • Laundry products
  • Fragranced consumer products
  • Dryer vents
  • Indoor air quality
  • Outdoor air quality
  • Health effects
  • Volatile organic compounds
  • Terpenes