According to environmental experts, the average American household contains 62 toxic chemicals. Ironically, most of them are in our everyday cleaning products. Study shows that harsh chemical ingredients found in commercial detergents can cause illnesses. Some of these illnesses are neurotoxicity, asthma, hormonal imbalance, cancer, and more.
According to the US Poison Control, the use of cleaning products account for 10 percent of all toxic exposures. While most of these chemicals are identifiable, we can’t know for sure if our products are safe or not. That’s because manufacturers are NOT required to list all their ingredients on the label.
So, what dangerous chemicals are inside our everyday laundry detergents?
While mostly known as an embalming agent, Formaldehyde is also used in cleaning products.
Cancer.gov found that formaldehyde can cause nasal cancer in rats. Additionally, the same source also states that overexposure to the chemical makes it a probable carcinogen to humans.
Moreover, formaldehyde exposure is also linked to acute myeloid leukemia — a type of blood cancer.
Quick facts about acute myeloid leukemia, or AML, taken from Cancer.net:
The best way to know if your detergents contain formaldehyde is to check the label. Manufacturers will try to cloak this chemical by using its other names so as not to discourage buyers. Listed below are the other names of formaldehyde and chemicals with similar attributes:
The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has now classified Formaldehyde as carcinogenic.
Phosphates are a common ingredient in many detergents. In large quantities, they cause an imbalance in the natural aging process of bodies of water, a process called Eutrophication.
The most common type of phosphate found in detergent powders is sodium tripolyphosphate. In excessive amounts, phosphates in waterways will encourage a wild growth of aquatic plants. This chokes up the water, causing the death of aquatic life due to the decreased levels of oxygen.
Normal levels of phosphates are not harmful to people and animals. However, they do have consequential effects on man and the environment in large quantities.
Most commercial detergents also contain Zeolite, a natural mineral similar to asbestos. They are commonly found in their less harmful, solid form. However, cellular zeolite dust and its constituents can be carcinogenic. The inhalation of fibrous zeolite is linked to mesothelioma – a cancer of the mesothelial tissue, the protective layer of our lungs.
One way to know if your laundry detergent contains zeolite is if you’re experiencing itchiness. Many people don’t know that this irritation is a reaction from unhealthy zeolite exposure. Read the ingredients on the package before buying.
Mineral buildup is also known to happen from constant use of zeolite-containing detergents. Moreover, some people claim that they notice a slight ‘greying’ in clothes washed in zeolite.
Another toxic ingredient often used in detergents are Optical Whiteners. They can go by other names: optical brightening agents (OBAs), fluorescent whitening agents (FWAs), organic fluorescent dyes, and more.
Although they make your clothes appear whiter, they don’t necessarily clean better. They’re also slightly toxic to humans and aren’t readily biodegradable. As a result, they damage our environment and cause harm to marine species.
To find out for sure if you’re laundry detergent has optical brighteners, use a small amount to wash any piece of clothing. Next, place the washed cloth under a UV light. If the material glows, it means optical whiteners is one of the ingredients in your detergent.
Many man-made fragrances found in washing detergents have been linked to birth defects, cancer, damage to the nervous system, and allergies. This is because most fragrances arepetrochemicals: compounds derived from petroleum. We don’t know they’re bad for us because manufacturers simply place “fragrance” as an ingredient.
Some harmful ingredients being used as fragrances are benzene, toluene, xylenes, and methanol. Phthalates are also commonly used in commercial fragrances. An experimental research on lab rats show significant proof that phthalates are carcinogenic.
The European Union has banned the use of phthalates in children’s toys due to possible health risks.
Aside from containing artificial fragrances, fabric softeners also include an array of other harmful chemicals. The exact ingredients used in fabric softeners aren’t made public by manufacturers. This is because much of what is inside these products are toxic to mankind and the planet.
Chloroform is one of the ingredients in most commercial softeners, which is a known carcinogen. Other manufacturers may also use ethanol and ethyl acetate, both labeled a “hazardous waste” by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
The use of fabric softeners pollutes our oceans, harming marine ecology, and poisoning the fish we eat. Another disadvantage is that these chemicals find their way into our water supply. This further exposes us to toxins through our drinking waters.
Our skin is exceptionally permeable. Therefore, anything that comes in contact with our skin seeps into our bloodstream!
If we want to provide a safer environment for our family, we should look for ‘greener’, more natural alternatives for cleaning our clothes and homes. It’s our job to make wise buying decisions and protect ourselves, others, and the earth we live in.
Let’s do our part and keep our homes free of toxic chemicals. Switch from commercial detergents to natural cleaning products today.
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