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Your Laundry is Killing Me

Imagine waking up in the semi-darkness of dawn with the sudden awareness that there are toxins seeping in the bedroom window you left open to gain fresh air. Toxins that immediately begin to cause pain, to drop your level of ability to think, to lower your reaction times, and even more insidious, to affect your emotional balance.

How would you feel? Does this sound like a horror film? Or maybe something out of World War One, when toxic gases that were heavier than air were swept over the war-torn landscape to drop into the war trenches and kill soldiers? Every day, I live with this kind of chemical warfare. Because of autism, my body’s detoxification systems don’t work as well as almost everyone else’s.

After WW1, the allied countries decided to find “peacetime uses” for war chemicals and factories. They began promoting “Better Living Through Chemistry”, allowing manufactured chemicals to seep into every aspect of our homes, our clothes, our furnishings, and our food. Chemicals that are now becoming obvious as one source of autism, in addition to promoting a host of other ailments and diseases.

The precautionary principle (governments are there to create safety for their people) went out the window in favour of unbridled profits (governments are there to maximize the taxes they receive from profitable companies). Which is how toxins end up trickling in my window.

Sometimes I wonder how many back-room arm-twists went into that post WW1 allied-countries’ decision, as the companies who had profited from the war manipulated politicians of countries that had been dreadfully impoverished and depopulated by fighting that war. Most of the time, though, I just try to survive the consequences.

laundryventThis morning I am nauseous and aching from my noxious wake-up. For the past three years, I have gone outside less and less, visited with neighbours less and less, felt connected to my city less and less. Every time I go outside, I never know when the next-door laundry vent will cripple me with toxic gas.

My garden has definitely suffered. The sheltered patio I rebuilt to house healthy living and outdoor skills programming languishes. I can’t hold events there when I might suddenly need to vacate, to save what I can of my brain and function by running away from a plume of toxins streaming from a nearby laundry vent.

I’ve thought about just carrying a gas mask all the time. But when my head hurts from that first rush of toxins I get as I smell the laundry, and scramble to get away, a tight gas mask aches abominably, never mind being difficult to speak through…

And people look at me funny when I wear one, as though I might be a terrorist ready to whip out some toxic weapon.

What changed three years ago? We got new neighbours, lovely people. But their laundry vents into our laneway. I’ve tried numerous ways to request that they use non-toxic laundry products.

I started by explaining the situation, and asking if they’d be willing to try out some non-toxic products if I gave them some of ours. They were willing. But they often forget and use the toxic stuff instead… So for the first several summers, I bought them non-toxic products, and would often get gassed anyway.

My husband and I have tried talking with them again. And again. My husband is still trying. I smile and say hi, but have no idea where to go from here, other than far, far away. I don’t know how to address this with them without making things worse. Social unpleasantness causes more harm than toxins!

toxiclaundryThe only thing I can think of doing is asking you, my community, to raise awareness about toxic laundry products. If we can get these off the grocery and corner store shelves, my neighbours won’t be able to (albeit unintentionally) harm me anymore.

The toxic compounds contained in synthetic laundry detergents are the #1 cause of childhood poisonings (and sometimes death). They are also responsible for almost 10% of all poisonings reported to United States Poison Control Centres. What harm do they do?

Harm From Laundry Detergents:

  • Allergies
  • Dermatitis
  • Eye Pain and Conjunctivitis
  • Cancer
  • Death
  • Headaches
  • Skin Irritations and Rashes
  • Premature Skin Aging
  • Nausea
  • Neurotoxicity (which is where my nasty headaches come in)
  • Developmental and Emotional Problems in Children (hello, autism)
  • Organ Toxicity (how many people do you know who have had to have a diseased gland or organ removed?)

Harm From Dryer Sheets and Other Fabric Softeners:

  • 25 VOCs (volatile organic compounds)
  • 7 hazardous air pollutants
  • acetaldehyde and benzene, for which there is no safe exposure level

The toxins our laundry releases aren’t just disappearing into the air. Dr. Anne C. Steinman, a professor of hydrology and hydrodynamics at the University of Washington, is studying their harmful impacts on air, human health, and the water ecosystems laundry products are draining into. They come into our bodies through our skin, and through the food grown in contaminated soils around us, as well as our breathing.

If you care about the future of our children, would you please share this post? And if you can think of a gentle and supportive way to shift my neighbours away from poisoning me, would you please tell me about it, below?

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