Your Laundry Is Killing You

A woman doing laundryYou probably deal with pollution every single time you leave your home. But could you be destroying the quality of the air inside of your home as well?

You might be doing it every time you do your laundry.

Surprisingly, hanging damp clothes on indoor clothing racks can be a shocking source of indoor pollution, according to Scottish scientists from the Mackintosh Environmental Architecture Research Unit at the Glascow School of Art. After conducting a three-year study on public housing units, they concluded that drying laundry inside of your home is accompanied by dangerous health hazards.

The average home has between 1 and 2.5 gallons of water in the air at any given time, according to the study. But a load of laundry can release an additional half gallon into the air, leaving behind all kinds of unhealthy agents that you later inhale.

Cancer-causing chemicals: People who use fabric softeners tend to have higher levels of cancer-causing chemicals called acetaldehydes in their indoor air, according to earlier research.

Greater mold potential: In this study, mold spores were 300% higher than what’s considered safe when laundry was dried indoors. In 25% of the homes surveyed, the study authors found high levels of a mold spore called Aspergillus fumigatus, which can cause lung infections in those with weakened immune systems.

More dust mites: Humidity inside the home, which is created by extra water from air-dried laundry, is a prime breeding ground for dust mites. All that dust can trigger allergies and asthma.

So how can you avoid these risks, get your laundry clean, and keep your energy bills to a minimum? Follow these tips:

  • Get an outdoor clothesline. This is the easiest fix, and one that’s totally doable if you have a backyard or an apartment with a balcony. Bonus: Clothes dried outside always smell better.
  • Upgrade your washer and dryer. Dryers use a ton of energy, and most models use about the same amount, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s EnergyStar program. But if yours needs an upgrade, look for a model with a moisture sensor, which automatically shuts the dryer off when your clothes are dry. Upgrade your washer to one with faster spin cycles, ideally up to 1800 rotations per minute. A fast spin wrings more water out of clothes, meaning less time in the dryer.
  • Dry loads of similar fabrics. Different fabrics take different amounts of time to dry, and “over-drying” some clothes while others finish drying wastes energy and is hard on your clothing. Keep towels in one load and light attire in another, for example, to minimize unnecessary dryer time.

Black Children and Asthma: 10 Home Care Tips to Reduce Asthma Attacks

father and son laundry

Few experiences are more stressful for families than emergency room visits and hospitalizations for children.  According to the Office of Minority Health:

  • African Americans had asthma-related emergency room visits 4.5 times more often than Whites in 2004.
  • Black children have a 260% higher emergency department visit rate, a 250% higher hospitalization rate, and a 500% higher death rate from asthma, as compared with White children.

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Fortunately, while some hospitalizations are unavoidable, they can be minimized, and even sidestepped, with proper home care. Recent research suggests that there are many causes for asthma attacks, ranging from air pollution and roach droppings to immune system changes that result from the presence, or lack of, certain microbes (allergy-causing organisms that can’t be seen with the naked eye).  The biggest problem, however, is that few parents realize just how toxic the home environment can be for young asthmatic children.

The Visiting Nurse Service of New York, the nation’s largest not-for-profit home health care organization, has developed in-depth expertise to provide the best care to New Yorkers in their homes, including those families with asthmatic children.

According to Sandra Eger-McTernan, RN, MSN, CPNP, a VNSNY pediatric nurse specialist, “While there are a number of different views on the causes of pediatric asthma, there are several surefire steps that parents can take at home to reduce the risk of hospitalizations.”

 READ: Your Children & Asthma: 4 Things They MUST Know

  • Go green.  The use of four or more household cleaners in one home can increase the incidence of asthma in adults and children.  However, children breathe at a faster rate than adults, which puts them at greater risk for harm.  Look for environmentally-friendly cleaning products with non-toxic ingredients.
  • Beware of scents:  Household air pollution that cause or worsen asthma in children can come for surprising sources, including incense, perfumes and air fresheners, fresh paint and new carpeting.  As much as possible, children should be breathing fresh air at home.  (Just because something smells good, doesn’t mean it isn’t polluting the air or isn’t potentially dangerous.)
  • Air things out.  Open the windows after cleaning your home with chemicals.  Many people believe that the smell of bleach implies a clean home or nursery, but it can be harmful.
  • Be smoke-free.  Households with children should be “no smoking” zones.  If you smoke cigarettes, make it your goal to quit and never allow guests to light up in your home.
  • Make your home dust free. Damp mop often. Wipe down all surface areas, picture frames, bookshelves. Avoid collections of furry toys. Vacuum carpets often.
  • Make your home fur free.  Avoid keeping pets in the home.  If you must have pet, keep it confined to areas other than your child’s bedroom and keep the bedroom door closed at all times.
  • Keep food in the kitchen.  Food should be stored and eaten in appropriate locations and not in your child’s bedroom or other rooms, and keep surfaces free of standing water as it can attract allergy-causing roaches.
  • Turn on the AC.  Use air conditioners when possible, but remember to clean out air filters every year. Avoid humidifiers as they can be a breeding ground for unhealthy molds. When using fans, clean the blades and ensure the area is dust free prior to use.
  • Spread the word.  Ask those who care for your children, like babysitters or relatives, to take the above precautions in their own homes, if your child spends more than several days a week there.
  • Get vaccinated.  Children who have had 12 or more severe respiratory (lung) infections in the first few years of life are at a significantly increased risk of asthma.  To reduce the risk of lung infections, asthmatic children should get the flu shot every year.
  • Wash up.  Frequent hand washing by both parents and children can lessen the risk of childhood lung infections.  Make an effort to teach your kids this healthy habit as early as possible.

For further information on pediatric home care, click here.


Visit the Home Health center for more helpful articles and tips.

Small MochaManual is an award-wining online destination for African American parents. From pregnancy to parenting, and from tots to teens, MochaManual is your everything guide for life. Founded by Kimberly Seals Allers, author of The Mocha Manual™ series of books and former senior editor at Essence, the MochaManual brand has been featured on Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper, Essence, Ebony and in international media. Join the conversation on Twitter @MochaManual and Facebook. Follow Kimberly @iamKSealsAllers.