For many of us, laundry day means throwing our soiled clothes into the washing machine and pouring in whatever detergent we have on hand to get them clean. But did you know that regular laundry detergents can be incredibly dangerous for the environment?
Not only do they contain a number of chemicals and pollutants, but they also contribute to air and water pollution when disposed of incorrectly. Read on to learn more about the dangers of conventional laundry detergents for humans and the planet, and why eco-friendly laundry detergents are the best choice.
What Happens to Water After Doing Laundry?
When it comes to laundry and its environmental impact, it is important to consider the water we use. After the washing cycle, this water is typically passed through a wastewater treatment plant in order to remove any large contaminants before being discharged back into rivers or oceans.
However, many of these processes are inefficient, letting harmful substances like phosphates pass through and enter natural waterways.
This can cause a variety of issues for aquatic life, such as dangerous algal blooms that reduce oxygen levels and harm fish populations. In order to reduce this negative effect on the environment, some advanced technological processes, such as membrane filtration, may be employed by certain facilities to clean wastewater more effectively before releasing it.
Ultimately, reducing our excessive use of water can help minimize the impacts that laundry has on the environment.
Toxic Ingredients Found in Leading Brands of Laundry Detergents
Many conventional laundry detergent brands contain a cocktail of chemicals that are highly detrimental to human health, animals, and the environment. These synthetic substances may be used as surfactants, fragrances, dyes, and preservatives. These ingredients can cause skin irritation, respiratory distress, and even cancer.
Here are the three most common chemicals found in your average laundry detergent.
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS/SLES)
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) are chemicals commonly used in many laundry detergents, shampoos, and soaps. These chemicals act as surfactants and emulsifiers, which help break down oils and dirt particles so that they can be easily washed away.
Unfortunately, these same properties of removing oils and dirt also make the SLS and SLES harsh on human skin due to their ability to strip away natural oils. Additionally, these chemicals can be inhaled or absorbed through the skin's pores, creating potential health risks such as eye irritation, lung damage, and organ failure over time.
Thus, it is important to exercise caution when using products containing SLS and SLES to avoid any possible adverse effects resulting from prolonged exposure.
Chlorine bleach is a common chemical found in many laundry products, and is often added in higher concentrations. Unfortunately, this highly corrosive chemical can cause severe irritation to exposed skin, eyes, and respiratory systems.
In fact, it has been known to cause rashes, redness, burning sensations, watery eyes, sinus irritation and coughing. The fumes of chlorine bleach can be particularly dangerous for those with asthma or other respiratory conditions.
Optical brighteners have become a standard additive in many detergents, designed to make clothes appear brighter and whiter even if they are not actually getting any cleaner. But while these chemicals can give the illusion of a freshly-laundered look, they pose a serious health risk.
Optical brighteners are known to be carcinogenic, have hormone disruptors, and are highly toxic to marine life; in addition, they tend to linger in fabrics long after laundering and may cause an allergic reaction when worn next to the skin.
Although consumers should exercise caution when using detergents containing optical brighteners, some natural alternatives provide the desired effect without additional health risks.
1,4-Dioxane is a chemical commonly used as a solvent in many household detergents. Although it is deemed safe for use in small amounts, exposure to the substance can cause adverse side effects such as nausea, drowsiness, headaches, and irritation of the eyes, nose, and throat.
What’s more concerning is that this compound can readily be absorbed through the skin, lungs, and gastrointestinal tract. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has classified 1,4-dioxane as a Group B2 probable human carcinogen due to potential long-term health risks associated with even low levels of exposure.
The Impact of Laundry Detergent on the Environment
As if plastic waste and other garbage debris weren't alarming enough, the after-effects of conventional laundry detergent on our oceans and waterways pose yet another threat. Phosphates, a common ingredient in many laundry products, can release into nearby rivers, lakes, and oceans and lead to algal blooms.
These overgrowths of algae block out sunlight from reaching aquatic plants below the surface and cause oxygen levels to drop dramatically. This can spell disaster for entire food chains as fish, and other marine life struggles to survive with little or no oxygen.
The consequences are far-reaching - not only do these algal blooms have a devastating impact on wildlife but also on local coastal communities that rely on fisheries for their livelihoods.
Ultimately, it is up to all of us to reduce our use of conventional laundry detergents, seek out safer alternatives that contain fewer hazardous ingredients, and dispose of them properly so they don't end up in our waterways.
What Can Be Done?
Understanding the different chemicals used in these detergents can help us make more informed decisions about what products we use in our homes. Common ingredients to look out for include phosphates, surfactants, petrochemicals, fragrances, and optical brighteners.
Similarly, surfactants break down the water surface tension which can act as an adhesive on fish gills, leading to suffocation. Petrochemicals are made from petroleum products that leak toxins into surrounding waterways, while fragrances can be composed of a variety of potentially hazardous synthetic compounds.
By becoming aware of the potential dangers posed by these ingredients and ultimately switching to natural laundry detergents, we can help reduce or even eliminate the impacts of regular laundry detergents on our oceans and marine life.
Why Make the Switch to Tru Earth’s Laundry Detergent Strips?
Tru Earth’s laundry detergent strips are an eco-friendly, hypoallergenic way to clean your laundry. Each strip is pre-measured and packed with ultra-concentrated cleaning power, allowing you to skip the bulky bottle of liquid detergent and reduce single-use plastic packaging.
The innovative formula seeks out dirt and stains, suspending them until they are washed away. Additionally, these strips are free from parabens and phosphates, contain no added dyes or chlorine bleach, and have been certified by independent laboratory tests to be free of 1,4-dioxane.
Furthermore, the detergent is readily biodegradable in accordance with OECD 310D standards, so you can feel good about doing your laundry while being kinder to our planet.