Laundry Detergent’s Toxic Impact on the Environment

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Doing laundry is a mundane task.

Throw your clothes in the washer, pour a cap full of laundry detergent, press start, and walk away.

Not much thought is put into doing the laundry.

We don’t think of the impact it has on the environment.

Let’s take a look at what laundry detergent is made of and how it impacts the environment.

What Chemicals Are In Laundry Detergent

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Common laundry detergent you see in stores is full of chemicals that are not safe for people, pets, and the environment. Avoiding these dangerous chemicals is a must for improving your health and the health of the planet. Here’s a list of common chemicals in the laundry detergent we use:

· Sodium Lauryl Sulfate and Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLS/SLES)

· Phosphate

· Formaldehyde

· Chlorine Bleach

· Ammonium Sulfate

· 1,4 Dioxane

· Fragrance

· Dyes

These are just a few of the chemicals found in laundry detergent. None of it is natural and should be far away from you and your family. These chemicals harmful to the human body and can get you sick or worse.

Let’s take a look at what these chemicals do to the body.

Toxic Effects on the Human Body

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The SLS and SLES are surfactants used to remove soil and stains from clothes. However, they also irritate skin, eyes, lungs, and damage internal organs.

Phosphates are linked to cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and death. Not only that, Phosphates have a big impact on aquatic life which we’ll get into later on.

Formaldehyde is used to preserve dead bodies are found in laundry detergent as well as dish detergent. Breathing and smelling formaldehyde increases your risk of developing cancer according to the CDC. With regular exposure, it can cause an immune response consistent with parasitic infection, an allergic reaction, and spots of dying tissue.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) calls it a class B1 probable carcinogen and says it causes acute toxicity when it touches your skin.

Another chemical that irritates the skin is Chlorine Bleach. It's common in many laundry products and people even add more of it in their loads of clothes. It can cause severe caustic burns to the skin and eyes, blindness, and respiratory failure.

1,4 Dioxane should never get into contact with your body and your families. This chemical can spontaneously combust, known as a carcinogen since 1988, causes skin, eye, and lung inflammation.

It should be handled only with protective gear. Once you’re exposed to 1,4 Dioxane, whether from inhalation, skin, or eye contact, it starts to damage the kidneys, central nervous system, liver, respiratory system, eyes, and skin.

The dyes laundry detergent companies add to their products don’t really add any cleaning power. They do cause a lot of unexplained allergies or skin rashes.

Environmental Effects of Laundry Detergent

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Chemicals found in laundry detergent harm the environment. The big troublemaker is phosphate. When phosphate enters rivers and lakes, they cause a big problem for aquatic life.

The nitrogen in the detergent reacts to the phosphorus in the water. This creates nutrients that stimulate the growth of algae. The algae use up the oxygen in the water and overtime suffocates the fish.

Since 2010, 17 states in the U.S. have banned the sale of phosphorus-containing detergents. New, York, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, and Washington are some of the states that banned these detergents. Even the European Union (EU) is making moves to ban phosphates from dishwasher detergent.

Don’t be surprised when laundry detergent will be added to that list.

The surfactants in the detergent are very toxic to aquatic life as well. According to the EPA, these chemicals break down the mucus layer that coats fish. This coat protects them from parasites and bacteria.

Surfactants also reduce the surface tension of water. This makes it easier for bodies of water to absorb pollutants and pesticides. They don’t even dilute all the way, however, they only breakdown further into more toxic byproducts.

Not only do the chemicals in laundry detergent harm the environment, the plastic containers they come in cause harm too. The plastic is non-reusable and non-recyclable. Every single week hundreds of thousands of these plastic containers end up in landfills created more pollution.

Not to mention plastic takes a very long time if at all, to decompose. The plastic remaining will have an effect on the plants and animals, which is why microplastics are a problem today.

Eco-Friendly Alternative

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There are brands of laundry detergent that are eco-friendly. You can find some of them on Amazon. Here’s a list of some of the eco-friendly brands:

· Dropps

· ECOSNext

· Meliora

· Soap Nuts

· Pur Home

· Tru Earth

They can come in liquid form or strips. None have any of the dangerous chemicals that can make you very sick. They’re safe for people with sensitive skin, biodegradable, plastic-free, and haven’t been tested on animals.

With these eco-friendly laundry detergent brands, you will have peace of mind that you’re doing your part to protect the health of yourself, your family, and the planet.


· The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF). “Why Phosphate Free?”,Vermont%2C%20Virginia%2C%20Washington%2C%20and

· Reuters. June 15, 2011. “EU Wants To Ban Phosphates From Dishwasher Detergent.”

· Natural Living Family. September 1, 2020. “13 Chemicals In Laundry Detergent & How To Avoid Them!”

· Green Matters. November 2, 2020. “How Does Laundry Detergent Affect the Environment?”

Better thyself, Better thy nation. Once the nations are right, the world will be right.

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