Pollutants in Laundry Detergent

By: The Cleancult Team

September 21, 2017

A pollutant is defined as “a substance or energy introduced into the environment that has undesired effects, or adversely affects the usefulness of a resource.” Most standard leading brands of laundry detergent actually contain pollutants and are constantly affecting negatively the environment. Water, soil, plants, and animal life are all getting affected by our choice of laundry detergent. But, how, exactly? How does my load of laundry affect the environment? And, more importantly, what can I do to reduce or eliminate this contamination?

Thankfully, in 1965, laundry detergent brands began producing "bio-degradable" products. This advance eliminated a major pollutant: detergent foam on rivers. But biodegradability is not enough. We need to be aware of how many of the ingredients present in leading laundry detergents may negatively affect the environment. One of the main problems resulting from pollutants in laundry detergent is eutrophication. Eutrophication is the process in which excessive nutrients induce the growth of plants and algae which may in turn lead to oxygen depletion of a lake and the subsequent death of many marine animals. The water is, then, eventually displaced by the accumulating vegetation and the lake subsequently “dies.” Even though this is a process that can occur naturally over the course of many years, it is almost always induced by the discharge of phosphate-containing detergents, fertilizers, or sewage, into an aquatic system. In fact, It has been estimated that the eutrophication which has occurred in the past few decades as a result of man's pollution would require thousands of years under natural conditions. And this is just one of the problems.

Phosphate builders soften water, help remove dirt, oil and grease and contribute to the reduction of germs on clothes. They are definitely effective and have been widely used for decades. However, about 370 million pounds of phosphate builders end up in surface waters, and the problem is getting worse. Not only is the amount of detergent used annually increasing, but the amount of phosphorus in each product is also rising. And fast.

In addition to phosphates, your detergent may be filled with harmful surfactants. Surfactants are what is included in your regular detergent’s formula to make it clean better. To make it “more effective.” Examples of these are chemicals like quaternium-15 (known to release formaldehyde, a known carcinogen), diethanolamine (linked with skin and eye irritation and possibly liver problems), nonlphenol ethoxylate or NPE (toxic to nerves, irritating to skin, potential hormone disruptor, toxic to aquatic life), and linear alkyl benzene sulfonates or LAS (irritating to skin and eyes and toxic to aquatic life; benzene on its own is a carcinogen).

Other pollutants and harmful chemicals present in regular, leading brands of laundry detergents are stabilizers, bleach (which can form toxic organic compounds that have been linked with respiratory issues, liver, and kidney damage), 1,4-Dioxane, and brighteners (which are chemicals that actually remain on the clothes to absorb UV light and help clothes “appear” brighter). Even though we have grown accustomed to the inclusion of many of these chemicals in laundry detergent, studies have come to find that most of them are not only harmful to the environment, but are harmful to our health, and the health of many other animals.

But what can you do to reduce this pollution? Easy! Opt for a laundry detergent with biodegradable ingredients. The minerals used in our formula are safe for the environment and for your skin. So take a look at our site, give us a try, and move away from dangerous pollutants!