‘The Independent’ UK news: Detergents ‘are bad for health and environment’

August 13, 2010 at 4:23 pm 2 comments

This is an article created in 1994. How sad is it that we’ve heard the truth about detergents almost 20 years ago from major news sources and most consumers still use these toxic detergents. SAY NO TO DETERGENTS! YOU DON’T NEED THEM ANYMORE.

Detergents ‘are bad for health and environment’: Study says people wash clothes too often

DAVID NICHOLSON-LORD, Consumer Affairs Correspondent

Monday, 13 June 1994

(First Edition)A COMMERCIALLY-inspired obsession with the ‘optical illusion’ of whiter-than-white clothes has taken a heavy toll on human health and the environment, according to a new study of soap powders and detergents.The study, Clean Clothes, Dirty Water, from the Women’s Environmental Network, accuses big manufacturers such as Lever Brothers and Procter & Gamble of environmentally irresponsible packaging, ‘sexist and stereotyped’ advertising and of producing ‘some of the most incomplete, confusing and misleading environmental labelling to be found on the supermarket shelves’.

It calls for a shift in attitude towards clothes cleaning. People are ‘overdosing’ their washing machines – and thus the sewers – with detergent, washing clothes too often – which shortens their life – and using too many unnecessary ingredients with potentially harmful side-effects.

It says these include perfumes, colourants and optical brighteners, which do not make clothes cleaner but create a ‘blue-white’ optical illusion. These substances biodegrade poorly and are associated with allergic reactions and skin and eye irritation.

Among other substances which build up in water supplies as a result of detergent use are toxic heavy metals such as arsenic and cadmium, and sodium, a constituent of bleach which may play a part in the rise in male infertility.

The report also explicitly rejects manufacturers’ claims that removing phosphates from detergents will reduce their cleaning power but make little difference to environmental quality. It says detergents account for between 20 and 60 per cent of the phospherous build-up in waterways and are thus a major cause of eutrophication, in which streams and lakes suffer blooms of algae.

Despite near-saturation of the market and the success of new concentrates, detergent consumption has increased by 40 per cent since 1985. The study says vast advertising expenditure has helped Lever Brothers and Procter & Gamble maintain a virtual stranglehold on the market.

Commercial detergents ‘need not be used at all’, it adds. Environmentally-friendly home-made alternatives can be made from grated soap and washing soda – the report provides recipes.

So-called ‘green’ detergents can produce similar results to commercial ones, but may require pre-treatment, such as soaking or brushing, for heavily soiled clothes.

No one was available to comment yesterday at Lever Brothers or Procter & Gamble.

Clean Clothes, Dirty Water, WEN, Aberdeen Studios, 22 Highbury Grove, London N5 2EA; pounds 5.



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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Why are detergents so bad? « I know what I consume  |  July 7, 2011 at 11:37 am

    […] They contain large amounts of phosphates. If this enters the water in concentrated quantities, it causes algae and phytoplankton to grow that in turn kills other fish. This is what is called eutrophication. In the UK, detergents caused an estimated 20-60 per cent of the total estimated phosphorus buildups … […]

  • 2. kazumi yamakawa  |  December 3, 2010 at 2:35 am

    Happy to see articles like this that point out detergents are terrible for our health. However, it does not address the main danger contained in detergents which are the various cleaning agents, a class of chemical compounds known as surfactants. Every laundry container contains a surfactant. It is a unquestioned “fact” that detergent is not a detergent if it doesn’t contain a surfactant. This is not true and in an attempt to let people know this, I’ve started writing on this in my blog http://www.surfactant-free.bloggerspot.com. I hope those who want to find out more about the damaging effects of long-term surfactant use, please take a look.


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