Free «Household Products» Essay

Household Products

Nowadays, people are greatly concerned about their health as well as about the state of environment. Many solutions have already been found to improve the situation with these issues; however, the problem still exists. Possibly, this happens because people have not found and objectively assessed all the significant sources of the issue. Thinking about environment problems, most people consider air pollution from factories and plants, industrial waste, car exhaust fumes, and so on. However, they rarely think about the pollution that comes right from their own houses. This kind of pollution harms both the environment and a person’s health. Specifically, it is caused by household items, including laundry soaps and laundry detergents. Inhaling the chemicals they contain and wearing the clothes washed in them cause such problems as allergies, respiratory issues, eye irritation, and even cancer (Mercola, 2011). Moreover, due to the run-off to natural waters, phosphates from these items seriously contaminate water bodies. Thus, it is necessary to examine this issue and understand whether it is acceptable to use laundry detergents and soap that contain phosphates.

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Soap has always been the principal cleaning agent used at home. Its production and use began in Ancient Rome. Back then, it was made from animal fat and wood ashes (Knud-Hansen, 1994). However, this was not efficient enough, since the minerals contained in water, such as magnesium and calcium, reduced such soap’s detergency, which also contributed to the emergence of soap scum around the clothes’ collar and the tub (Knud-Hansen, 1994). As a result, in the middle of the 20th century, industries began to develop and use synthetic ingredients in order to improve the cleaning qualities of their products. 

Phosphates are usually found in powder form in laundry detergents and in soaps. These chemicals may comprise up to 50 percent of their weight. Phosphates are chemicals that contain phosphorous found in the natural environment. These chemicals have been used in detergents and various soaps for many years, becoming their traditional ingredients. The phosphate that is usually found in laundry detergents is sodium tripolyphosphate, which acts as a builder (MacIntosh, 2007). Phosphates have numerous ualities that make them attractive for a consumer. For example, they improve the detergent’s cleaning efficiency and help soften the water (MacIntosh, 2007). They act very well during removing stains from clothes and minimizing soap scum in washing machines, bathtubs, and clothes collars. Thus, because of their lower price and superior cleaning performance people have found it acceptable to purchase laundry detergents and soaps that contain phosphates. However, they turned out to be extremely harmful.

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Nowadays, an average consumer uses more than thirty pounds of detergent annually. In the USA, people use at least eight billion pounds of dry detergent a year (Hughes, n.d.). In case these detergents contain phosphates, a huge amount of them gets into rivers, streams, and lakes through run-off of wastewater. This wastewater may come from industries and farms as well as private houses. As a result, some water bodies may be highly contaminated by phosphates. On the one hand, phosphates act as an important plant nutrient and as a fertilizer when they enter waterways (MacIntosh, 2007). This means that they can be useful for water plants. However, the levels of phosphates in water, which are considerably higher than normal ones, accelerate the growth of algae. As a result, clear water bodies become green and cloudy (MacIntosh, 2007). Surely, it spoils the appearance of lakes and rivers making them smell bad.

In addition to the environmental issues, phosphates also exert bad effect on the human health. As a very toxic chemical, a laundry detergent may damage a person’s health considerably when it contacts with one’s skin and respiratory ways (Mercola, 2011). The use of detergent or soap containing phosphates may lead to allergies, asthma, chest pains, birth defects, chronic fatigue, dizziness, cancer, and skin and respiratory problems (Hughes, n.d.). First, this happens because an average person spends up to 90 percent of his or her life indoors, where proper air circulation may be restricted, inhaling these hazardous chemicals (Mercola, 2011). In addition, laundry detergents and soaps cannot be properly washed out of the clothes. As a result, they remain in the fabric and cause skin problems and allergy. According to statistics, almost ten percent of toxic exposures reported in the US occuur because of the use of cleaning products, such as laundry detergent and laundry soaps (Halweil, 2004).

In the 1970s, debates began about the use of phosphates detergents, since the quality of water in rivers began to deteriorate (Knud-Hansen, 1994), and their influence on human health was found to be considerable. A number of researches have been held in order to prove the impact of phosphates. As a result of these environmental and health concerns, twenty-five states in the USA banned the use of phosphates in 2008, and fifteen more did this in 2010 (Mercola, 2011). In addition, many countries in Europe and other parts of the world are either preparing to ban or have already banned phosphate-containing products as well. However, some companies still produce laundry detergents and laundry soap containing phosphates. For instance, one of them is Procter & Gamble that manufactures detergents both with and without phosphates in order to accommodate different state rules and laws (Knud-Hansen, 1994). Moreover, many countries in the world still use phosphate containing detergents and soap and are far from making a decision to refuse from using them (MacIntosh, 2007).

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Because of the harmful effects of phosphates on water bodies, as well as the laws and regulation that have appeared recently, many companies currently produce phosphate-free detergents, or at least those that contain a lower amount of them. Even though such detergents may contain similar ingredients apart from phosphates, they are less toxic for the environment and human health (The Swedish Chemicals Agency, 2011). Looking into the researches held on this topic, more people are choosing phosphate-free detergents now. Many manufacturers of laundry household items have already adapted to these market demands, producing such detergents that are as effective as the traditional ones.

To sum up, laundry detergents and soap containing phosphates are extremely harmful for the environment and dangerous for health. This causes a serious threat to the environment, namely to the water bodies. Therefore, there is a need to ban using phosphate containing household items in all countries. Fortunately, many states have already done this, and many others are on their way to this ban as well.    

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