There’s nothing like the smell of laundry fresh from the dryer, imparting the sensation of cleanliness from our scented detergents, fabric softeners and dryer sheets. But there is a growing movement in this country, among concerned citizens and healthcare providers alike who believe our ever-increasing number of adverse medical conditions and chronic illnesses may be linked to oil-based synthetic fragrances in our everyday laundry and air products. We think that our detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, air fresheners (plug-in and spray), scented candles, and even our perfumes and colognes are safe to use. But the reality is many ingredients in these products are not strongly regulated by either the FDA or the EPA. In fact, recent research has shown that fragrances and dyes in the products designed to convey a sense of cleanliness and attractiveness are in fact harmful to us as we, our family and friends breathe in the toxic off-gasses these products produce from our clothes, towels, bedding and dryer vents. This may be especially true for children, and those battling chronic conditions. 


Dr. Harvey Cushing, a Pulitzer prize-winning doctor in the last century, is best known for making the non-invasive blood pressure device a mainstay of modern patient care. But articulating Cushing Syndrome, a condition caused by too much cortisol, the steroid hormone responsible for the fight/flight response, may be his most important contribution to medical science. And synthetically (petroleum-based) scented laundry detergents, fabric softeners, dryer sheets, air fresheners (spray, in-car and electronic) and scented candles are depleting the “happy” hormone serotonin when you inhale them with every breath, causing cortisol and adrenaline to surge into the system and put you in a constant state of fight/flight … so you can respond to a very real toxic threat. But since you’re wearing or sleeping in it and taking in the off-gassing with every breath, you can’t fight or flee. The result is chronic cortisol overload, i.e. Cushing Syndrome. You become chronically anxious, don’t sleep well, become unfocused and overly distracted, are quick to anger, and overeat to relieve the stress, trying to replace the serotonin. This leads to many illnesses, including behavioral maladies like ADHD and depression. For instance, ADHD is really AD (attention deficit) and H (hyperactivity); i.e. fight/flight. And depression is treated with Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) to prevent serotonin depletion, and cortisol release.


What kind of conditions can these products promote? The list is long and scary.


In addition to the list of conditions listed above, there are a number of very real symptoms you can see that can tell you whether you and your family are being adversely affected by these toxins. The more toxic fragrance products you use, the more obvious the signs. 

   • Red neck, cheeks, and ears

   • Red hands and fingertips.

   • Acne flares that are always present

   • A large amount of extra fat protruding from your belly 

   • Rounded facial features

   • A rounded larger upper back or shoulders hump

   • Nasal drip that's chronic

   • Raspy voice, low voice

   • Chronic cough or throat clearing

   • Swallowing your words

   • Inability to complete long sentences in one breath


Serotonin depletion is also the main cause of weight gain, obesity and diabetes. Because it turns out that serotonin does, in fact, control appetite. Serotonin released as you eat blocks receptors on the dopamine-producing cells that give you your appetite. This serotonin stops the dopamine release, thereby reducing the desire to eat and making you feel full. But when serotonin is in a state of depletion, dopamine release continues, the body is unable to shut off its appetite, and the result is chronic increased  appetite and weight gain. In addition, when your body is physically stressed, like from breathing toxic fragrances with every breath, it secretes cortisol, increasing the flow of glucose (as well as protein and fat) from your tissues and into the bloodstream to increase energy and physical readiness to handle the fight/flight  threat ‑  causing a spike in your appetite. This can also cause a relentless craving for comfort foods high in fat and sugar. The body stores these unused stress calories around the abdominal organs, i.e. belly fat. This type of fat, known as visceral fat, is most damaging to health, leading to an increased development of cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure and diabetes. The obesity epidemic began at the same time that fragranced laundry product use increased dramatically beginning 30 years ago. It’s not a coincidence. 


Stopping use of synthetically fragranced laundry and air freshening products can bring noticeable health improvements almost immediately. Reduced cortisol means that a happier mood, less anxiety, reduced allergies, better sleep, easier breathing, more focus, significant weight loss, and more energy can all begin to be realized in just one week! And you feel better every day after that!


THROW OUT: First, go through your house and collect and throw out your fragranced deteregnts, fabric softener, dryer sheets, air fresheners, scented candles, perfumes and colognes. Don't wait for them to run out. Just dump them! Then change your AC filter, and open your windows about an inch or two. After about two weeks, change your AC filter one last time. Now that the fragrances have left your house and AC ducts, you're good to go.


FREE & CLEAR: Head for the Laundry Products aisle as usual in your regular supermarket. The WHITE JUGS OR PODS of Tide, All, Purex, Cheer, Arm & Hammer, etc. are “FREE & CLEAR” detergents (yes, they all clean just as well as the toxic ones). White jug  FREE & CLEAR fabric softener (Downy) is also there, along  with FREE & CLEAR  dryer sheets (Bounce), in WHITE boxes. Better yet, you can get all natural dryer sheets, fabric softeners and air fresheners online. Or even better, don’t use any!

WASH OUT: Start by first washing the clothes and sports apparel you wear most often, and your sheets and pillowcases. It may take a couple of cycles to get rid of the fragrances. Then continue with the rest of your normal laundry loads until all your laundry is toxic frgarance-free.


ESSENTIAL OILS: A few drops (only 2 or 3) of flower-based essential oils, like vanilla (my favorite), black coconut (yum), jasmine, gardenia, lavender or a favorite of yours is placed on a small piece of cloth and thrown into your dryer, they impart a wonderful happy-mood enhancing smell to everything. In fact, they actually promote serotonin (think aromatherapy). And you can buy diffusers to spread their wonderful smell throughout your home and bathroom. You can even put a small piece of cloth with a drop of two in your car's vent. And a drop on your neck or under your arm is the perfect serotonin-promoting perfume/cologne/deodorant. Take a stroll down the essential oils aisle of Whole Foods and find your favorites. Or order “essential oils” online on (read the reviews). They are very affordable from both places, and last a long time. Use them sparingly. A little does the trick.


NATURAL SOFTENERS: Adding a ¼ cup of vinegar in your wash is a great all natural fabric softener. Don't worry, your clothes won’t smell like vinegar. And two or three tennis balls in the dryer, or a rolled up ball of aluminum foil (reusable) takes care of any static cling. For dry cleaning, pressed shirts or large items like bedding, search locally for a fragrance-free laundry service or check one of the growing list of professional cleaning chains that use only non-fragranced products. So go “Free & Clear.” You and your family (and those sitting next to you) can enjoy clean, safer laundry, really fresh air, and better health.

For more information on this subject Google “laundry detergent harm”, “fabric softener harm”, “dryer sheet harm”, “air freshener harm.” Or substitute “obesity” or “depression” or “ADHD” for “harm”. This information is for educational purposes only, and was gathered from a variety of sources. It is not medical advice. Your healthcare provider should be consulted on any health or product-use decision you make. 

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