How Many do you have in your home?
Household cleaners are not usually thought of as pollutants. They are used inside the confines of the home to make the indoor environment safe and clean for human habitation. Many household cleaners are effective at ridding the home of dirt, germs and other microscopic, harmful organisms.
However, some of the cleaners that are used to sanitize, degrease, whiten and wash clothing, surfaces, and dishes are also harming our water and air. The chemicals in many cleaners are common pollutants that contribute to smog, reduce the quality of drinking water and are toxic to animals. The effect of cleaning products on the environment is wide ranging.
Many common household cleaners have a negative impact on the environment, polluting indoor air as well as waterways as these chemicals run off into the watershed.
The Chemical Culprits
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia and chemicals grouped under the term "Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs)" as the worst environmental hazards in household cleaners. Many dishwasher detergents are high in phosphorus. Ammonia is a multipurpose household cleaner that is found in many cleaning products that do everything from degreasing to sanitizing and removing allergens.
VOCs are found in a wide range of cleaning products. They whiten your clothes, remove grease from dishes and disinfect as bathroom cleaners, among other uses. Nitrogen is found in glass and surface cleaning products; this chemical is found in floor cleaners as well.
Entering the Waterways
Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia are dangerous water contaminants in large quantities. They are rinsed down drains and flushed down toilets as families clean the house. Most pollutants are removed from the water by the waste treatment facilities before the water is returned to the rivers, streams, lakes and other waterways.
However, those three household cleaning chemicals are not removed by waste treatment processes. Instead, they enter the waterways and build up, causing an accelerated growth of some types of plant life, reports the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay.
Chemical Effects in the Water
Ammonia, nitrogen and phosphorus are all fertilizers used in agriculture to help plants grow in controlled environments on farms. When those same chemicals enter a freshwater environment as residues of household cleaning, their levels are not controlled. The result is excessive nourishment of some types of plant life in habitats native to aquatic animals. This can lead to dense vegetation that clogs waterways, crowding out animal life and other marine plants.
At the end of these plants' chemical-accelerated life cycle, they die in large masses, decaying and depleting the oxygen in the water. Algae then grows, and the animals – freshwater shellfish, fish and others – die off as well; the die-offs cause more decay. Soon, the water is no longer suitable for drinking, cooking or bathing.
Air Contamination Hazards
VOCs can cause health hazards by concentrating inside the household air, and when windows are raised to ventilate while cleaning, the problem goes outdoors. According to the EPA, VOCs contribute to smog, and the pollution is so severe in some areas that legislation to ban or restrict the number of VOCs in household cleaners became necessary. The state of California's Air Resources Board, for example, has set acceptable limits for these chemicals in the California Consumer Products Regulations.
Here are a few common household cleaning products that could be doing more harm, in the long run, than good...
Found in facewashes, body scrubs, toothpastes, abrasive cleaners.
As they are so minuscule, these tiny pieces of plastic can easily pass water filtration systems and end up in the sea, at great risk to our marine life. A single shower can result in 100,000 plastic particles entering the ocean.
Although the government has announced a ban on all cosmetics containing microbeads by the end of this year, many other household products will continue to contain them. To be safe, before you purchase a product, always check its ingredients. Culleoka Company’s products don’t contain any microbeads.
2. Wet Wipes.
Last year, there was a 400% rise in wet wipes found on beaches causing immense harm to our marine life. As they don't dissolve in water the way paper does, wipes should not be flushed down the loo and should, ideally, be the last option when it comes to washing your face or cleaning the house. Wet wipes also typically contain plastics, which can never be dissolved. Try cleansing with a flannel or instead or using a fabric cloth and warm soapy water.
3. Single use plastics.
From disposable cutlery to drinks bottles, bags and food wrapping, plastic is everywhere. And, unless it's been burned, every piece ever made still exists somewhere on our planet - meaning that up to 12.7 million tons of the stuff ends up in the ocean every year. It's difficult to eschew all plastic, given that so much food comes packaged in it, but small changes such as bringing your own bags to the supermarket, or shopping at local farm shops could make a big difference. Culleoka Company suggests purchasing gallon sized bottles to refill smaller spray bottles. We have gallon sized Natural Based Cleaners, gallon sized Hand Script hand sanitizers and Natural Based Scale & Scum remover as well!
4. Antibacterial gels and soaps.
Killing 99.9% of all germs isn't as necessary as we've been led to believe. The use of antibacterial hand gels is causing the rise of antibiotic resistant 'super-bugs' as well as interfering with immune system development in children. Many studies have proven that clean is better than germ-free. Those exposed to some level of germs have typically stronger immune systems than those who grow up in overly sanitized environments. Check out Culleoka Company’s foaming hand soaps.
5. Detergents containing phosphates.
Phosphates are often key ingredients used in in laundry detergents owing to their ability to soften water and remove tough, greasy stains. However, these naturally occurring compounds enter our water system and cause a process called 'eutrophication' to happen far more rapidly than it would naturally. This is because phosphates act as fertilizers, causing plants to grow far more rapidly than they would naturally and essentially choking the waterway.
For a phosphate free laundry alternative, try Culleoka Company’s Natural Based Cleaner. Simply use 8oz for a standard load of clothes.
*Culleoka Company will soon be releasing its own natural based laundry detergent.
6. Chlorine bleaches
This corrosive chemical is found under most kitchen sinks but is incredibly dangerous and many argue unnecessary, as it is far more harmful than the germs it was invented to get rid of. Comprised of lye and chlorine, manufacturers often release bleach into water bodies where it reacts with other minerals to create dangerous toxins which linger for decades.
As a safe alternative to bleach for cleaning kitchen sinks, try CC's Natural Based Scum and Scale.
Moral of the story?
Think before you buy and make sure you read the label on any cleaning product to make sure it is safe to use. At Culleoka Company we make sure that all our products are safe for you and the environment!
Until next time. Stay safe and God bless!