INFORMATION ON CLEANING AGENTS TO AVOID
Some chemical agents, such as parabens, phthalates, triclosan, triclocarban, are already notoriously toxic to human reproductive, developmental and/or immune systems, and yet can still be found in cleaning products. Avoid them at all costs.
Other chemical agents are also detrimental to the environment – though less notorious. Look out for phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia. They have been incorporated within many cleaning products because of their disinfectant and bleaching capabilities. When you use them, they are eventually rinsed down the drain, head to waste water treatment facilities, where only some of their contaminants are removed. The remaining contaminants enter local rivers, lakes and cause vegetation to grow, clogging the waterways used by marine life. Due to their chemically accelerated life cycle, these enlarged plants quickly proceed to decay, depleting the water's oxygen stores and resulting in the growth of algal blooms – that generate toxins, scum, foams – leading to the asphyxiation of fish and invertebrates, the decline of coastal plants, and fundamental damage to aquatic wildlife. Boo!
Surfactants, or surface-active agents are added to laundry detergents, disinfectants, stain removers and citrus cleaners, due to their effectiveness at removing stains as they help separate water and oil. Some are derived from plants, like potassium cocoate. Unfortunately, others, such as sodium lauryl sulfate can be irritating for the skin (although it is in many UK detergents), and some, such as alkyl phenol ethoxylates (APEs), and linear alkylbenzene sulfonates (LAS), can be toxic to aquatic life. They break down into contaminants, thought to be endocrine disruptors, and affect the natural defences of fish, plants and bacteria. As manufacturers are under no obligation to provide a detailed list of ingredients, it is tricky to avoid the harmful surfactants. Today the EU regulation requires that surfactants degrade more than 60% in 28 days – is that the best we can do? What about the wildlife they affect within these 28 days, and what about the remaining 40%?
Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) present in aerosol sprays, cleansers and disinfectants, moth repellents, air fresheners and automotive products, negatively impact the air quality. Given how much UK inhabitants use these household aerosols, they now release more harmful smog chemicals than all vehicles in the country. Time to stop using them?
And finally bleach! You are certainly aware of how bleach can be harmful to humans, pets, and useful bacteria. But you might still think that its disinfectant properties justify using it, just a little, to disinfect the toilet bowl. Well, then, consider that by buying bleach, you contribute to the organochlorine industry, a disastrous industry. There are alternatives to bleach, including Sodium Percarbonate (more below).
Check the composition of your cleaning products!