Monday, September 28, 2009

Lethal Laundry?

Yes. I know that I should be folding this load of laundry instead of goofing off on my computer.

I was sitting in our veterinarian's office the other day with a squirming Lulu on my lap, waiting for her next set of puppy shots. A doggie magazine was lying open on the table next to us, so I tucked the wiggling puppy under one arm and took a look at the article facing me. On the magazine page, in bold letters, was a warning to pet owners not to allow their pets any access to fabric softener dryer sheets.

Interesting, I thought. I didn't have time to read further when the vet entered the exam room and my drama queen puppy began howling even before any needles were unsheathed.

Once home and Lulu placated with puppy treats and her favorite chew toy, I decided to try to find out more about dryer sheet dangers, since my laundry room is Lulu's suite until she's house trained.

A quick search on the net located the article, found here, in Dog's Life Magazine. I was horrified to read that dryer sheets contain chemicals, cationic detergents among others, that can be harmful and even fatal to some animals. The Merck Veterinary Manual goes on to describe the effects of exposure to these compounds on pets:
"Signs of oral exposure include oral ulceration, stomatitis, pharyngitis, hypersalivation, swollen tongue, depression, vomiting, abdominal discomfort, and increased upper respiratory noises within 6-12 hr of ingestion. Affected animals frequently have significant fever and elevations in WBC counts. Systemic effects include metabolic acidosis, CNS depression, hypotension, coma, seizures, muscular weakness and fasciculation, collapse, and pulmonary edema. Dermal irritation, erythema, ulceration, and pain are possible with dermal contact. Conjunctivitis, blepharospasm, eyelid edema, lacrimation, and corneal ulceration may be seen secondary to ocular exposure. Lesions can include GI, ocular, or dermal irritation or ulceration."
I had my box of dryer sheets wrapped up and in the garage garbage can within minutes. On my way back into the house, another thought struck me: If this stuff is so toxic to pets, what's it doing to me? I have used fabric softener in every load of laundry cleaned in my house since my first washer and dryer purchase in 1981.

Another quick Google search with the words autoimmune + cationic detergents yielded a zillion results, most from alternative medicine sources making the assertion that use of these chemicals has a distinct and direct link to disease. Some seemed outrageous, others blatant ads for products, but still others proved very intriguing. I think that I have found yet another source of very interesting material to delve into.

I would think that since some of the world's best researchers have yet to decipher the cause of autoimmune disease, it's unlikely that a direct cause and effect can be proven between chemical triggers and autoimmunity at this point in time. But what an interesting concept. I have read repeatedly that autoimmunity is thought to be brought on by a combination of genetic tendency, possible infection, and an environmental trigger.

It will be fascinating to learn more about what some of those environmental triggers may be. In the meantime, I don't believe that anyone will be permanently scarred by static cling due to the absence of dryer sheets in our house.

Just let me know if I have a sock stuck to the back of my sweater this winter......

1 comment:

annie said...

I'm new to this disease, but not new to cfs and fms. All these three syndromes seem to have overlapping symptoms and also seem to have triggers. In my case, I had some viral infection, that never got better. It left me incapacitated with fatigue, food intolerances and a whole load of other miserable problems. One of these problems has been in dealing with chemical sensitivities. I have problems on public transport with different smells, burning rubber,cigarette smoke, cleaning products at home...I even have reactions when I go to the hospital for my doctors' visits. There is a chemical smell that makes me come out in hives and gives me respiratory difficulty. I never know when it will strike..I'm breathing OK one minute, that feel as if someone is choking my airway passages, and I feel ready to pass out. Thank you for bringing this topic up, as it is a hidden danger with people with these invisible illnesses.