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Port Resident Protests Kleen Test Smell

Petition circulating to require Kleen Test Products to get rid of the detergent odor, which company officials say they work hard to keep contained.

It's more than just the smell.

A Port Washington woman mounting a petition drive to try to get Kleen Test Products to stop filling the city air with the dryer sheet "stench" says the odor is also making her ill.

"It makes my eyes water, it makes my throat swell up — it actually changes my mood," Amy Leder said of the smell that comes from fragrances used in producing the dryer sheets at the company's facility at 630 N. Moore Rd.

A city ordinance prohibits public nuisances, such as the emittance of "foul, noisome, nauseous or disagreeable odors ... extremely repulsive to the physical senses of ordinary persons."

But Leder has some simpler terms for the ordinance.

"You can’t make stinky smells that annoy people," she said.

Leder first complained about the smell to city officials when she moved here 2-1/2 years ago, but said she was told nothing could be done.

After finding the nuisance ordinance, she decided to start the petition and once again gave a formal complaint to City Administrator Mark Grams. The next day, Kleen Test officials called her.

She said she was told by officials the company has not received many complaints about the smell and it had engineers looking at the filtering system to be sure the smell is contained within the building.

Kleen Test Vice President Doug Arnold said the company, which has been producing dryer sheets in the area for close to 25 years, remains conscious of the products' smell.

“There are no (particle) emissions from the plant. All vents, doors and windows are kept closed at all times … we really work to make sure we keep it sealed up tight," he said.

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources monitors such emissions, but Ron Dillahunt, an air management engineer with the DNR, said Kleen Test hasn't been visited in a while as it is below the threshold the DNR tests under recent budget restraints.

"It’s a smaller company … it’s exempt from needing a permit," he said, adding the DNR now focuses on larger manufacturing companies and power plants.

"I’ve gotten a few odor complaints over the years," he said, "basically it’s the perfume that smells and I don’t see anything specifically hazardous (about that)."

After speaking with the DNR about the odor, Leder said she researched more about the fragrance in the dryer sheets and one of its potential components — toulene.

The Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry explains that toluene is a clear liquid with a distinctive smell occuring naturally in crude oil and the tolu tree. It is used in products such as paint thinner, fingernail polish and rubber and enters the air around it when present, meaning people are exposed by breathing the chemical in. 

Large amounts of exposure have the biggest impact on your brain and nervous system, often causing dizziness, fatigue and the inability to think clearly — among other symptoms, the agency reports. For instance, people who sniff glue will become light-headed because of the toluene.

Dillahunt said he can't say whether toluene is used by Kleen Test, but added it's not a chemical of high concern as far as the DNR goes. The chemical is used in common solvents and can also be purchased by the can at retail stores, he said.

Whatever chemicals the dryer sheets contain, Arnold said the company works to make sure it has as little impact on the community as possible.

"We do all we can and have, to prevent any fragrance from escaping, and I think anybody who’s been here for the 25 years we’ve been running will attest that it's gotten better over time," Arnold said.

Leder said she has no desire to shut down Kleen Test, she just wants the odor gone. She has gathered about 32 signatures on her peitions after making them available at area businesses, but she is not sure how high that number has to get before she can make the petition matter.

Leder plans to attend the Port Washington Common Council meeting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday to discuss the issue with officials.

Kenny Mitchell July 20, 2011 at 01:05 AM
This is the same a someone who moves by an airport and then complains about the noise. The plant was producing this product well before she moved there. And adding hype about a potentially toxic (at large doses) chemical that may or may not be in there is a stroke of genius even though the symptoms of eyes watering and throat swelling are not listed as one of the side effects of Toluene. If this complaint does reach some high level that requires the plant to have a more complex air filtration system, it may shut down Kleen Test due to the cost burden of such a system to be installed. All of this could have been prevented had a little more time been spent researching the neighborhood in advance of moving.
Michele July 20, 2011 at 11:37 AM
I personally like the smell. Makes me wonder what she uses in her laundry.
Scott Ziegler July 21, 2011 at 04:26 PM
I prefer this over the cow poop smell that covers the west side of Port from time to time. How about the skunks that wander through? What a poor job of research by the writer on the subject. Speculation on what a company may or may not use? No agenda there. Maybe she could send out a petition to take the stink out of natural gas or better yet the smell out of the port a potties used in town.
Dan Gertth July 21, 2011 at 09:32 PM
http://www.naturalnews.com/002693_personal_care_products_dryer_sheets.html
Dan Gertth July 21, 2011 at 09:49 PM
http://www.naturalnews.com/002693_personal_care_products_dryer_sheets.html check the first aid section, (IV first aid measures) Just in case you complain the above article is bias. Here's a company MSDS on the product "Snuggle" dryer sheet.
Kenny July 21, 2011 at 10:33 PM
Dan - none of the chemicals listed in the article which reference a study done in 1991 are mentioned in this story. The MSDS is not attached, but I have seen enough to know that they are required ro list absolute worst case. And if that is the arguement that is being used then I would like to know what cleaning products people use and how the sun is completely avoided as it causes cancer also. Everyrhing in this world can, as a worst case scenario, cause cancer.
Dan Gertth July 21, 2011 at 11:04 PM
I'm kind of thinking the folks that worked with asbestos sad the same thing. When it came out it was the best thing ever years later,, oops. I'm just thinking I would prefer to lean towards the safe side. true, every thing in excess causes cancer, even water, but shall everyone breath in this stuff just to prove a point? http://www.janitorialsupplies.com/products-msds/DRK-CB625126.pdf here is the msds for snuggle,, I hope it makes it..
Jaime Sommers July 22, 2011 at 02:05 PM
"Broad"? Are you living a half century behind us?
Jaime Sommers July 22, 2011 at 02:40 PM
You should hold your breath until all thoughts are gone, Dave.
Jaime Sommers July 22, 2011 at 02:49 PM
Businesses sure are being lost in Port. Why do you think that is? Businesses don't survive here. Why is that? I wonder if it's an administrative problem. Is there a problem with cost to businesses? Is there a problem with rotting fish and poop smell on the beach that people avoid Port? Is it the change in status of the port from commercial to recreational? So many problems and it's not the editorial commenters that cause problems. But lack of tolerance for opposing opinions is unfortunate and not what I hope for Port Washington area as we grow, expand and progress.
Dave July 22, 2011 at 05:29 PM
Ashley your not holding your breath....
Dan Gertth July 22, 2011 at 10:13 PM
well put Ashley! thank you!
Dan Gertth July 23, 2011 at 02:11 AM
Dave, please prove her point more! "we are not forced to accept the things that grieve us"
Pat July 23, 2011 at 05:16 PM
Hey Doug Arnold, if you keep Kleen Test "sealed up tight" why is it that over here on Wisconsin we can be gagged by the "perfume" of your plant today? Why, if there are "no particle emissions" does wearing a simple paper dust mask filter out the stink from your company. I have heard runners say that when they are out running and hit the "cloud" from Kleen Test, that they have to slow to a walk because they can't breathe. How about the people trying to sell their homes two or three blocks down wind from Kleen Test; do prospective buyers jump at the opportunity to live immersed in the bowels of a dryer? I recently moved here also. Had I known the dryer sheet smell was from something larger than my neighbor's laundry room I would never have bought a house here. Once outsiders know about Kleen Test"s stink, how many people do you think will want to be moving to Port? Since Kleen Test's in-plant work force is basically supplied by a temp agency (the green or blue school buses) one would think that they could afford to install a proper comprehensive filtration system. Personally, I feel sorry for the minimum wage plant workers who breathe that stink for eight hours a day.

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