Dangers Lurking In Typical Detergents

by Lee Cheng on January 30, 2011

So we keep hearing about chemical residues on clothes after a typical wash and that those residues can end up permeating our skin. But how do we know?

Videos on Chemical Residues

Take a look at this video by Laundromagic in Japanese. It clearly shows that typical detergents do leave behind residues on fabrics and in this case, Optical Brightener. Check out the glowing buns with Optical Brightener residue on them when the cloth is used in the steaming process. Now it makes me wonder how much Optical Brightener I have consumed… Also, children’s clothing are best to be washed with a safe natural laundry product to avoid ingesting chemical residues.

Here is another video revealing Optical Brightener residue on clothes. This video is produced by Seventh Generation, an eco company that produces and promotes non-toxic cleaners. It cautions that Optical Brighteners can cause skin reaction when exposed to sunlight.

Health Risks

Take a moment to think about this. Is having your clothes rid of stains and dirt but coated with chemical residues and artificial fragrances considered clean?

There are dangers in those typical commercial detergents and fabric softeners which we do not recognize. They are heavily chemically formulated and contain many synthetic toxic chemicals, some of which have already been banned.

Through inhalation, accidental ingestion and permeation into our skin, the chemical residues can get into our body and bloodstream. And as a result end up threatening our respiratory system, disrupts our hormone balance, and give us skin rashes.

On a worse scale, some people might develop asthma and other diseases. And the chemicals that perfume the detergent can also make one feel ill, cause headaches, giddiness and breathing issues. Check out this article to have a quick insight on some of the common chemicals used and how your laundry detergent may be hazardous to your health.

And if your children develop itchy skin conditions for no apparently reason, you might want to try switching to a natural laundry product. This Taiwan report in Mandarin talks about the itchy skin conditions in children might very well be the result of typical laundry detergents.

Chemicals To Avoid

I took a walk down the detergent isle of a supermarket and I was very surprised to find that about 70% of the detergents do not list down its ingredients. After researching online, ingredients in detergents are not required to be listed and it’s legal. And thus it is hard for the consumers to find out what they use.

Well, if your detergents do have ingredients labeled, below are some of the toxic chemicals you may want to avoid. (by the way, detergents with these chemicals are available in my nearby supermarkets)

Phosphate – This has been banned from adding into detergents. When phosphate is released into our waterways, algae grows exponentially, causing insufficient oxygen in the water and resulting in many marine deaths.

Methylisothiazolinone - MIT in short, it is a neurotoxin. Studies have shown that it kills the brain cells of rats. It can also damage our nerve cells and can result in Alzheimer’s disease. This chemical is also commonly found in antimicrobial hand soaps, dish washing detergents, shampoos and other personal care products. It’s highly recommended to avoid products that contain this chemical.

Optical Brighteners – A chemical that absorbs ultraviolet light and reflects light to make the clothes appear whiter. It can cause skin reactions when exposed to sunlight. It does not biodegrade and is toxic to aquatic life. It is also a hazard for soldiers because uniforms washed with optical brighteners will make them more visible under low light conditions.

Sodium Hypochlorite – This is a common ingredient used in bleach. Inhalation or ingestion can cause severe poisoning. It will give off poisonous fumes when it is mixed with ammonia — which might be used in other unlabeled detergents.

Butylphenyl methylpropional – a synthetic fragrance compound that is listed as an allergenic substance.

Benzalkonium Chloride – Can cause skin allergies, is toxic to both humans and aquatic lives.

Nonionic and Anionic Surfactants – Another 2 synthetic surfactants that could pose possible health risk. One of the Nonionic surfactant called Nonylphenol Ethoxylate, has even been banned in Europe. Studies have shown that it causes breast cancer, feminizes male fish, can cause damage to DNA and to sperm structure and function in mammals.

What You Can Do

There are many ways to avoid these harmful chemicals. Using Soap Nuts is one of the few natural solutions for cleansing. They are literally fruits that grow on trees, natural and void of synthetic chemicals. They are not only safe for our body but also eco-friendly to our environment.

Many people around the world are taking their health responsibilities into their own hands and are seeking natural alternatives. Besides using Soap Nuts, people are switching to using greener laundry detergents. Some are already exploring the uses of natural soap bars, baking soda and vinegar and many other methods.

What about you? What would you do to protect yourself and your family from these toxins that are probably in most of your everyday detergents?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Byron Friday July 12, 2012 at 12:59 am

Re: Optical brighteners
Dear Cara, I ride my bike one to 4 hours, three times a week during the day. When I get home I have a massive skin rash all over my body, it mostly goes away after several hours.
i wonder what type of skin condition i have?
Thank you,
Byron

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