The phosphate war has even sparked a team of angry rebel dish detergent smugglers who, in vehement protest to the phosphate ban in Spokane, drove all the way to Idaho to buy phosphate-based detergents as a means of “sticking it to the environmentalists.”
But seriously, how clean do you really need to be? Are water spots on your glassware worth fouling the precious water filling them?
Get over the water spots. If they bother you, wipe them off with a towel. New products can butt heads with our old cultural concepts of cleanliness. As I see it, we all need to start making some concessions for the good of our planet and our health. Besides the chemicals I’ve already mentioned, are there other agents lurking in your laundry soap, for which you should be on the lookout? Unfortunately, yes.
Pretty Scary Laundry List
Besides surfactants and phosphates, the average detergent has a long list of other chemical ingredients—and most are not good for you or the Earth. Anything in those products can potentially be absorbed through your skin or breathed in through your nose, as well as passed down the drain to our waterways.
Typical chemicals include:
- Linear alkyl sodium sulfonates (LAS), a.k.a. anionic surfactants
- Petroleum distillates (a.k.a. naphthas), which have been linked to cancer
- Phenols, which can cause toxicity throughout the entire body
- Optical brighteners, which cause bacterial mutations and allergic reactions, and can be toxic to fish
- Sodium hypochlorite (bleach)
- EDTA (ethylene-diamino-tetra-acetate)
- Artificial fragrances, which have been linked to various toxic effects on fish and animals, as well as allergic reactions in humans
And polysorbate 60 and polysorbate 80 are also often contaminated with 1,4 dioxane, according to Dr. Samuel Epstein. Over time, these toxins can build up in your body and cause a number of unknown, unpredictable effects.
Tips for Greener Laundering
Hopefully, public awareness about dioxane and surfactants will, in time, result in bans similar to those now being implemented for phosphates. The wheels of progress are slow, but at least they are turning.