More and more people are turning to organic cleaning supplies as they become aware of the dangers these products pose to their health as well as the environment. Laundry detergents are one of the worst offenders, yet it’s a product many of us use on a weekly, if not daily, basis. If you think finding an alternative to store bought laundry detergent is too much trouble, consider some of the common ingredients found in laundry detergent. To make it even more confusing, laundry detergents and fabric softeners that claim to be “free” are only free of fragrance and dyes while the other hazardous chemicals remain. Additionally, manufacturers are not required to list all of the ingredients on their packaging. The toxic dangers in these laundry products including dryer sheets and fabric softeners include some of the following:
Fragrance – Everyone loves a fresh smelling laundry and house, however the fragrances used in many products designed to make things smell fresh can be dangerous to humans and pets. Fragrances listed on laundry detergents and dryer sheets can refer to hundreds of different chemicals yet the manufacturers aren’t required to actually list them. Adding fragrance to laundry products don’t make your clothes any cleaner and in fact, can lead to serios health issues including asthma attacks. Products that contain phthalates (substances added to plastics to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability, and longevity) have been also been linked to diabetes, obesity, and hormone disruption.
Household Bleach – While bleach does make your whites brighter and remove stains, it is one of the most toxic chemicals in our homes resulting in the majority of household poisonings. Bleach is so harmful that when required in a work environment, The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires that employees must wear a mask and gloves and that proper ventilation is provided. Chlorine bleach is a corrosive substance that can irritate your eyes, skin and respiratory tract. When combined with other products, the gases created can become life threatening. Bleach has been linked to liver, kidney, lung damage, and breast cancer.
Linear Alkyl Benzene Sulfonates (LAB) or (LAS) are often the number one ingredient in laundry detergents. They may also be listed on the product label as anionic surfactants. This product is considered a carcinogen and when produced release toxins into the environment such as benzene (used in plastics, lubricants, rubbers, dyes, detergents, drugs, and pesticides).
Surfactants are a synthetic crude oil product added to laundry detergents to dissolve grease and grime. Also referred to as phenol or naphthas, these chemicals, which are easily absorbed through the skin, have been linked to damage of the mucus membranes and lungs, inflammation, asthma, cancer, central nervous system, blood vessels, heart and kidneys, and even death in some cases. It is also used in Roundup weed killer.
Dioxane is all too common in laundry detergents and is a known carcinogen. According to the United States Environmental Protection Agency dioxane is a serious threat to our public water supplies, it is used in Cosmetics, Detergents, and Shampoos.
Phosphates end up in our rivers and lakes, acting as a toxic fertilizer to water systems, stimulating the growth of algae which starves marine life from oxygen. Phosphates were removed from most laundry detergents in the 1970’s yet they are still available. Replacing phosphates with Ethylene Diamine Tetra Acetic Acid has resoled some of the problems, however, EDTA’s are still highly toxic. Animal testing of EDTA’s have been shown to kill cells and damage DNA. EDTA, like phosphates, do not biodegrade easily and therefore are also a threat to our water systems and environment. Phosphates are also used in soft drinks, soda water, and some flavorings.
Nonylphenol Ethoxylate (NPE) has been banned in Canada and the European Union but can still be found in laundry products, paints, pesticides, personal care products, and plastics in the United States. NPE’s can damage fetal development and physical functions as exposure to this toxic chemical can interference with hormones. Fish and shellfish exposed to NPE’s have been found to develop both male and female sex organs. With the average family in the United States washing as much as 90 pounds of laundry each and every week, the use of toxic laundry detergents and products has become a real concern. Fortunately, there are alternatives to store bought laundry products that can not only keep your family, your pets and the environment safe, but are less costly as well.
You can make your own laundry products with safe household products such as white vinegar and baking soda, and for fragrance, you can add a few drops of a high-quality essential oil. Dryer sheets can also be replaced with wool dryer balls.
You can find recipes for homemade laundry products on the internet or if your too busy to make your own, Companies like Mid-Michigan Soaps can offer you an easy affordable and safe alternative to store bought products.
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