5 Toxic Chemicals to Avoid in Laundry Detergents
April 11, 2021
Chemicals are often found in everyday products such as laundry detergents. Although many of these substances likely pose little risk, exposure to some has been associated with serious health concerns, including cancer.
As your trusted dry cleaners, we take a closer look at some chemicals typically found in mainstream detergents that can harm both your family and the environment.
Surfactants are often used to improve the foaming, emulsifying, and dispersing abilities of laundry detergents. They can also be found in dish liquids, hand washes, and shampoos.
Surfactants are linked with a broad range of health and environmental risks. Examples of surfactants in detergents include:
- Quaternium-15 - A known human skin toxicant, allergen, and potential eye irritant. It is also a formaldehyde-releasing chemical.
- Diethanolamine – Exposure to diethanolamine may irritate the throat, nose, and skin.
- Petroleum distillates – Often associated with cancer and lung damage.
- and Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLES/SLS) – Inflames eyes, lungs, and skin, and may harm internal organs.
- Linear alkyl benzene sulfonates (LAS) – Harmful to eyes, skin, and aquatic life.
Surfactants can also have poisonous effects on aquatic environments, even decreasing the breeding ability of aquatic organisms.
1,4-dioxane is a chemical by-product of detergent manufacturing and is a known carcinogen. Exposure via inhalation or skin contact can inflame the skin, eyes, nose, throat, and lungs. Large amounts of this chemical can also damage kidneys, liver, and central nervous system.
Around 5% of the total phosphate mined worldwide is used in the formulation of laundry detergents. Manufacturers used pentasodium triphosphate to dissolve insoluble metal salts, make detergents more effective in hard water, and improve the performance of surfactants. It’s also known to prevent stubborn dirt particles from settling back on clothes while they’re washing.
Despite its powerful penetrating and emulsifying properties, exposure to pentasodium triphosphate is often linked to cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis. High levels of phosphorus discharged in aquatic environments may also result in fish kills, algal blooms, reductions in biodiversity, and excess aquatic plant growth.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, strong-smelling gas commonly used in detergents as a preservative and antibacterial agent. It is considered a class B1 probable human carcinogen by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Concentrations of 100 ppm are immediately threatening to life and health.
Acute exposure to formaldehyde can irritate the eyes, nose, skin, and throat. Long-term exposure may cause severe respiratory problems, increase the risk of cancer, and trigger skin problems such as dermatitis.
Optical brighteners in detergents are used to make fabric look whiter and brighter. However, they do not remove discoloration or stains at all. Instead, they simply coat the fabric with a substance that reflects visible light, concealing the stain from the human eye.
Optical brighteners can be harmful to the skin, eyes, and lungs. Since they do not biodegrade, they can accumulate into wastewater and pose long-term hazards to aquatic life.
An eco-friendly laundry solution
Most laundry shops unknowingly use commercial detergents that can be detrimental to one’s health. At Starcrest Cleaners, we use greener and safer detergents that feature plant-based substances and chemical compounds listed in the EPA’s Safer Chemicals Ingredients. Choosing us, you know your clothes and the environment are in good hands.
Contact us today for reliable and eco-friendly laundry services.