The market is full of cleaning products and modern society of consumerism where we live requires a good number of cleaning products. What it has not been understood is that all these are harmful for the environment and for our own health. The uses of chemical cleaners are dangerous, however, hygiene is something that concerns all of us.
Daily, detergents and cleaning agents end up through the drainage systems in the aquatic environment (groundwater, seas, lakes, rivers, etc.) or after passing through biological treatment as soil fertiliser or directly on the ground. It is very important both for handling and for the selection of such products, to know the problems created by them. But it is also important to know whether and how environmentally friendly they are and their impact on human health by direct or indirect contact.
What is the chronic use of these dangerous substances and their effects after years?
How are allowed in daily activities the use of chemicals that are carcinogenic, mutagenic, teratogenic with harmful consequences for the environment?
For example, eating fresh fish has been harmful, certainly not for the sake of vegetarianism, but excessive concentration of toxic heavy metals in the seas, lakes and rivers where accumulated in recent decades by the use of detergents and cleaning materials. Traditional cleaning products are completely problematic for humans and the environment, both when they are used in large and small quantities.
Surfactants are the active substances in detergents, which owe their cleaning ability and its major concerns are:
- Toxicity to aquatic organisms and algae;
- Eutrophication of fresh water, particularly by phosphate-based detergents (now, phosphates have been replaced by zeolites which may be alleviating this problem);
- Persistence in the environment;
- Health problems in people, such as cancer.
Furthermore, phosphates are substances that facilitate cleaning, as they reduce the hardness of the water and contribute to the spreading stain. At the same time phosphates are wonderful “food” for harmful microorganisms found in seas, lakes and rivers. The microorganisms grow, causing eutrophication observed especially in enclosed bays and lakes and it gives the green colour to the water. They consume the oxygen from water, and as result other organisms cannot survive. Often the mass death of fishes is the result of this phenomenon.
It has been estimated that from 50% to 75% of the phosphorus in lakes and rivers is from detergents. Therefore, the elimination of this component would bring about an immediate and massive decrease in the rate of eutrophication.
So, why did not replace Phosphates earlier?
The truth is that many EU countries stopped the usage phosphates for many years. However, some European countries such as: Spain, Italy, Cyprus, Malta and Greece delayed to make such a move. The main reason was the cost, as the zeolite (which has the same properties as phosphates but without impact on the environment) was expensive. Three years ago, however, the price of phosphates raised sharply, the pressure for the “green shift” became more intense, so some companies took the decision to become “greener” by using zeolite in their products.
How can we help?
- Always use the appropriate amounts of detergents and never above.
- Buying detergents non-toxic and environmentally friendly. Products that do not contain phosphorus, chlorines or oil based, because they cause irritation in the respiratory system and headaches.
By Alex Serefas/ firstname.lastname@example.org