Commercial cleaning products can not only harm your health, but they can have adverse affects on waterways and wildlife. Some chemicals are always taken out of waste water by treatment plants, some can be taken out but are expensive to do so and not always done, and some pass right on through to your local stream. Check out below some good info on chemicals harmful to our environment.
On Phosphates, Petroleum, Chlorine, and Biodegredability:
Safer Cleaning Products
■ Petroleum-based Ingredients
Some Suggestions for Safer Products
■ The Chlorine Issue
On APEs and Plastics:
From the National Geographic Green Guide http://www.thegreenguide.com/reports/product.mhtml?id=15
Another environmental concern with cleaning products is that many use chemicals that are petroleum-based, contributing to the depletion of this non-renewable resource and increasing our nation's dependence on imported oil.
On water, NPEs, and other laundry chemicals:
From the National Geographic Green Guide
Switching from liquid detergents to powders is another easy way to reduce your water burden. "Laundry liquids contain a significant amount of water, presently 70 to 80 percent, soon to be reduced to 40 to 60 percent in double and triple compact concentrates," says Martin Wolf, director of product and environmental technology at Seventh Generation. "It costs energy and packaging to bring this water to the consumer," he says; that's unnecessary when your machine will add water on its own.
Although phosphates, still used in dishwashing detergents and known to promote algae growth that in turn suffocates aquatic life, have been phased out of laundry detergents, health risks remain with other laundry chemicals, most notably nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs). NPEs are surfactants (chemicals that help other ingredients penetrate dirt and grime) that belong to a class of hormone-disrupting compounds called alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs). Unfortunately, "It's added to lots of cleaning agents," says Jason Marshall, lab manager at the Toxics Use Reduction Institute.
because they're inexpensive, petroleum-derived NPEs break down in the
environment into nonylphenol, which harms the reproductive abilities
and survival of fish. They also aren't easily removed by
wastewater-treatment facilities; Sierra Club has detected NPEs in 61
percent of U.S. streams tested. Linear alkylbenzene sulfonate (LAS), a
common surfactant used instead of or in conjunction with NPEs and often
listed on ingredients as "anionic surfactants," doesn't fare much
better environmentally. Like phosphates, LAS can deprive water of
oxygen and kill aquatic life.