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Gas Dryer Exhaust | Is It Dangerous?

A gas dryer is a popular appliance used in many households to dry clothes quickly and efficiently. It’s easy to forget that such common household appliances can actually pose a significant risk. Fire is the most obvious one, but the exhaust can also be of concern.

Proper maintenance and regular cleaning of the dryer’s exhaust system are crucial to ensure its safe operation. Without scaring you too much, we’ll delve into how a clogged or damaged gas dryer exhaust can cause certain illnesses, diseases, burns, fires, mold exposure, and in rare cases, can lead to death.


The dryer ventilation system is supposed to carry the harmful exhaust away from the house and release it where it will not be dangerous. However, a clogged or damaged gas dryer exhaust system can release dangerous gases into the house, creating fire hazards, excessive heat, and mold growth.

Gas Dryer Exhaust Poses a Risk

Under normal circumstances, your gas dryer exhaust is not a great risk to you because it is removed from the house by the exhaust system.

The vents transport all the hot, moist air and the byproducts of combustion (such as volatile organic compounds, carbon dioxide, and carbon monoxide) outside of the building.

However, an incorrectly installed or poorly maintained exhaust system can cause a buildup of the hot, moist air and its byproducts.

Furthermore, a blocked or broken vent can lead to a buildup of lint, heat, and mold. All of which can lead to some severe health and safety issues.

I will be discussing each in more detail further below.

Dryer exhaust vent with net cover with a lot of lint

VOC Exposure Linked to Illness and Disease

Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are chemicals that are emitted as gases from certain solids or liquids.

They are found in many products that we use on a daily basis, such as paint, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, fragranced laundry detergents, and dryer sheets.

Gas dryers can emit VOCs as part of their exhaust. VOCs can be found in the emissions from the combustion of natural gas or propane, which are used as fuel sources for gas dryers.

Some VOCs that have been found in gas dryer exhaust include formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and benzene.

Exposure to high levels of VOCs can cause a range of symptoms, including eye, nose, and throat irritation; headaches; dizziness; and nausea. 

Long-term exposure to VOCs has also been linked to an increased risk of certain illnesses and diseases, such as cancer, liver and kidney damage, neurological effects, and respiratory problems like asthma and bronchitis.

The severity of the symptoms and the health risks associated with VOC exposure can depend on a number of factors, including the type and concentration of the VOCs, the duration of exposure, and the individual’s own health status. 

Some people may be more sensitive to VOCs than others, and certain groups, like pregnant women and children, may be more vulnerable to the effects of VOCs.

You should also be careful when using laundry products with high VOCs around your gas dryer and ensure proper ventilation when doing so.

You can reduce your VOC exposure by choosing low-VOC or VOC-free products and by maintaining good indoor air quality by having proper ventilation in your home.

Carbon Dioxide Makes You Feel Sick

A gas dryer, like any gas-powered appliance, emits carbon dioxide (CO2) as a byproduct of the combustion process that powers the dryer. 

Gas dryer causing carbon dioxide

Under normal circumstances, the levels of CO2 emitted by a gas dryer are not a concern for human health. However, there are certain situations in which the levels of CO2 emitted by a gas dryer may become elevated.

Poor ventilation, blockages in the vent pipe, back-drafting, and leaks in the gas line can all cause CO2 emissions to build up inside the dryer and be released into the room, leading to elevated levels of CO2 in the home.

One of the primary ways that high levels of CO2 affect the body is by decreasing the amount of oxygen that is available to breathe. This can lead to symptoms such as shortness of breath, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, increased heart rate, and depression of the central nervous system.

In severe cases, high levels of CO2 can cause seizures, unconsciousness, and even death.

Exposure to high levels of CO2 should be avoided. If you suspect that you are experiencing symptoms related to high CO2 levels, it is vital to remove yourself from the area immediately and seek fresh air. In case of an emergency, call for help right away.

It is crucial to ensure that your gas dryer is properly ventilated and that the vent pipe is cleaned regularly to minimize the risk of CO2 buildup. 

It is also a good idea to have a CO2 detector in the same room as your gas dryer to detect any potential CO2 leaks early on.

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Carbon Monoxide Is Potentially Fatal

Carbon monoxide (CO) is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas that is toxic to humans and animals when inhaled. It is produced by the incomplete burning of fossil fuels, such as natural gas, coal, and oil.

When CO is inhaled, it enters the bloodstream and binds to hemoglobin, the protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen to the body’s cells, organs, and tissue.

Because CO has a greater affinity for hemoglobin than oxygen does, it displaces oxygen in the blood and reduces the amount of oxygen that is available to the body.

Under normal circumstances, a gas dryer is relatively safe and will safely vent the very small amounts of CO produced. However, if not installed or operated correctly, or if there is insufficient combustion air, gas dryers can produce CO instead of CO2.

CO poisoning is a serious health concern that can cause symptoms such as 

  • Headaches
  • Nausea 
  • Dizziness 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion 

Long-term exposure to low levels of CO can also cause damage to the heart and brain.

CO poisoning  symptoms

The symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can often be mistaken for the flu and, if not detected in time, can be fatal

Having a CO detector installed in your home is crucial to alert you to dangerous levels of the gas. Just remember that a CO2 detector cannot detect CO.

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Lint Can Cause Fires

Clothes dryers are responsible for an estimated 15,600 structure fires, 29 deaths, and 400 injuries in the United States each year. Most of these fires are caused by lint buildup in the dryer or vent system.

Lint is a byproduct of the clothes drying process, and it is created from tiny fibers that are released from the clothing as it tumbles and rubs against the drum.

Lint is collected in the lint filter, but if not removed regularly, it can accumulate in the dryer, the vent system, and ductwork. 

Hand removing the lint inside the dryer exhaust vent

Lint is highly flammable due to its low ignition point and high heat release rate. When lint accumulates in the dryer, vent system, or ductwork, the heat produced by the dryer can easily ignite the lint, causing a fire.

Additionally, lint buildup can obstruct the vent system, blocking the flow of air and causing heat to build up. 

Due to the risk of fire, it is important to clean the lint filter after each load of laundry and to check the vent system and ductwork regularly to ensure they are free of lint buildup. 

It’s recommended to have the ductwork and vent system cleaned by a professional every two years or more frequently, depending on how often you use your dryer.

Heat Creates Burn Risk

The temperature of a gas dryer exhaust system can vary depending on the type of gas dryer, the efficiency of the combustion process, the amount of airflow through the exhaust, and your dryer temperature setting.

A dryer set on high will exhaust air at temperatures between 125-135 °F. This can also heat the ducts to temperatures between 113-145 °F. The vent could get as hot as 145 °F if your vent runs through a hot ceiling. 

The dryer’s air temperature is hot enough to dry the clothes and vent the moisture out of the dryer but is not hot enough to cause burns to the skin. The actual vent could cause burns if you held your skin against the vent for longer than 15 seconds.

If your dryer is not working properly or the vent pipe is blocked, the exhaust temperature can increase because the hot air has no place to go, and it will heat the dryer and the vent pipe.

A clogged dryer can reach temperatures of 392 °F and more. At this temperature, the dryer exhaust will be excessively hot. If you were standing at the terminal vent, you risk scalding your skin. And if you were to touch the actual exhaust or vent, you could suffer third-degree burns. 

Water Vapor Encourages Rot and Mold

If your dryer is not properly vented outside, or your dryer duct is broken, the moist air can accumulate in rooms and spaces, leading to a range of potential issues. 

When there is a break in the dryer duct and air escapes, the escaping air causes the remaining air to slow down and cool, leading to condensation. The condensed air in the duct can then accumulate and drip back down to your dryer and surrounding areas.

If left unchecked, a leak can lead to damage to the structural integrity of a building over time, as moisture and water seep into ceilings, walls, floors, and structural beams, causing rot. This can result in serious issues, such as collapsed ceilings, beams, and floors.

Condensation inside the duct and water leak

High levels of humidity, poor ventilation, leaky pipes and appliances, and flooding can all lead to mold growth. Mold can grow on various surfaces, including wood, paper, carpet, insulation, and food. 

Once mold takes hold, it can be difficult to remove and requires professional help to safely and effectively clean and prevent further growth.

Exposure to mold can cause symptoms such as allergic reactions, asthma, and other respiratory issues. The symptoms vary depending on the person; some people may have no reaction, while others may have severe allergic reactions, such as sneezing, runny nose, red eyes, and skin rash. 

Mold exposure can also cause headaches, fatigue, and even more severe symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath, and lung infections. Additionally, mold can cause damage to the building materials it grows on and the structure of the house.

Sources

https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11869-011-0156-1

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/016041208690036X

https://www.epa.gov/indoor-air-quality-iaq/volatile-organic-compounds-impact-indoor-air-quality

https://www.airprohawaii.com/2020/05/15/can-dryer-exhaust-make-you-sick/

https://ohsonline.com/Articles/2006/07/Carbon-Dioxide-Measures-Up-as-a-Real-Hazard

https://www.health.state.mn.us/communities/environment/air/toxins/index.html

https://www.nfpa.org/-/media/Files/News-and-Research/Fire-statistics-and-reports/US-Fire-Problem/osdryer.ashx

https://www.nps.gov/articles/p52-dryer-lint-uses.htm

https://inspectapedia.com/Appliances/Clothes-Dryer-Temperatures.php

https://antiscald.com/index.php?route=information/information&information_id=15

https://www.cdc.gov/mold/faqs.htm

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