Living here in Sweden,  I have noticed stores here don’t have the same everyday items we Americans are so accustomed to having stocked in our food pantry, or cleaning closet. While there are a variety of household items(we can talk about foods another day) I have noticed are missing or hard to find there was one that really stuck out to me – dryer sheets. This also includes many of the home fragrance products, or scented laundry detergents I am used to seeing in abundance in America.

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Dryer sheets were a staple in my house, with the advent of so many synthetic fabrics it was almost a must have(or so I thought), not to mention our obsession with fresh smelling everything.  We have scented detergent, scented fabric softener, scent beads, scent boosters, and the final touch is the scented dryer sheets.  Brilliant marketing has made us believe we need to have these, after all who doesn’t want their bath towels to smell like a warm spring breeze or lavender fields, and who can resist that cute Snuggle bear? Upon arriving in Sweden these scented laundry products, especially dryer sheets were no where to be found. Naturally this sparked my curiosity, and I set out to find some answers.

While I have found no concrete evidence, specifically pointing to why I can’t find these in Sweden, I concluded this is to do with the large amount of chemicals in the products, the potential side effects, and lack of transparency of the chemicals ingredients.  Most of us don’t think about what goes into making these products smell the way they do, the chemicals needed to artificially create that ‘”spring breeze scent”. This is exactly what the companies that develop these products are banking on.  A University of Washington study showed that many of the chemicals found in home fragrance products and laundry products, are conveniently missing on the product labels, leaving us in the dark on what we are really exposing ourselves to.  These missing chemical ingredients have shown to be harmful, although this study does not go into potential links in health risks.  With that, do you want to expose yourself to unnecessary chemicals that the long term affects may be unknown? And you must question why these chemicals are not listed.

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This study, tested 6 products to include top selling laundry products and air fresheners. The study did not publish the brand names on these products, however I am sure you can deduce the brands tested. Steinemann, the lead researcher on the study, went on to say:

“I was surprised by both the number and the potential toxicity of the chemicals that were found,” Steinemann said. Chemicals included acetone, the active ingredient in paint thinner and nail-polish remover; limonene, a molecule with a citrus scent; as well as acetaldehyde, chloromethane and 1,4-dioxane. Nearly 100 volatile organic compounds were emitted from these six products, and none were listed on any product label. Plus, five of the six products emitted one or more carcinogenic ‘hazardous air pollutants,’ which are considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to have no safe exposure level,” (2)

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I was shocked by this, and thankful that Sweden has forced me to move past the idea that I need dryer sheets.  In fact, the EU enacted legislation that requires them to list 26 fragrance chemicals when they are present above a certain concentration in cosmetic products and detergents.  As far as I know, there are no  similar laws that exist in the United States. I believe this another major reason these products are not available here.

Make your own determination on this issue, I for one will be seeking out more fragrance free products, even though I enjoy the smell of scented products. My new task will be finding safer alternatives. For those who want soft fluffy towels and clean scents, there are options out there, I encourage you to do some research and experiment with alternative solutions that fit your lifestyle.

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