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

Abstract

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.

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Acknowledgments

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.

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Correspondence to Nigel Goodman.

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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). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11869-020-00929-0

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Keywords

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