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Chemical Detergents And Public Health

It is said that the most polluted area in the home is laundry room. Every house hold uses modern detergents which smell good and clean the stains on the clothes in less time. Although they can give good scent, shining and remove stains but chemicals used in these detergents are one of the most important causes behind the indoor pollution.

Some of the chemicals used in the detergents are highly toxic and carcinogenic which have adverse impact on human, animals, species and environment. The chemicals also enter into food chain through fishes, crops and other aquatic life. Finally these toxic accumulate in our bodies when we use these species for our food requirement.

These toxic chemicals are responsible for many diseases related to skin, eye, liver, respiratory, throat, kidney, brain and lungs. The carcinogenic elements can cause life threatening disease like cancer. The formaldehyde is responsible for watery eyes, nausea and skin irritation. Diethanolamine is responsible for producing neurotoxins which can cause brain disorders.

Chemicals like bleach and ammonia are dangerous to people having asthma, lung and heart problems. The toxic elements like arsenic and cadmium are used in bleach which can have impact on male fertility. The volatile organic compounds are emitted from detergents are very harmful which can cause kidney, liver failure and damage central nervous system (CNS).

Most of the chemical detergents have high concentration of phosphate. This enhances the eutrophication rate in the water bodies. The imbalance of nutrients in water can increase the growth rate of particular organism at the cost of others. For an example phosphate can lead to algal bloom. The algae deprive the other aquatic organisms from oxygen and are one of the main causes of their death.

The unprecedented and biased use of chemical fertilizers in agricultural sector already polluted our fresh water bodies to a significant level. The rivers and ponds may look clean through naked eyes but industrial sector and other human activities have made their water unusable for humans and animals.

Therefore the challenge before us is that what would happen to our environment if we all 7.5 billion people keep using the chemical detergents at the same high rate. The chemical detergents are not only harmful at individual level but the real concern is the total amount of chemicals we are adding to the earth day by day. It is also observed that people wash the clothes too often. Studies say that in developing countries like India dhobis, rural and urban women use the phosphate based detergents in excessive amount.

So, the total amount of chemicals from human activities is increasing at alarming rate in environment. This man made hazard remind us to adopt the sustainable practices in our daily life to prevent the diseases and save the biodiversity on the earth.

It is daunting and impossible task to get rid of detergents from our life but we can make informed choices while using them to minimize the exposure. The volatile organic compounds pollute the indoor air. The VOC are not just produced from the use of detergents but there is lot of sources for them like paint, furniture, building material and other house goods. That is why a proper ventilation of the house is required. To control the release of formaldehyde maintain moderate temperature and humidity.

The main pollutants are produced by the use of chemicals for better scent, shining, perfumes and colors. The petrochemical surfactants can be replaced by natural plants oil. Instead of phosphate the baking soda can be used. The naturally available plants products like vinegar and lemon juice can be used in cleaning purpose.

The naturally available berry in Himalayas (India and Nepal) the Soap Nuts from Mukorossi can be used as surfactant. The non petrochemical products are biodegradable and good for human health and environment. The packing uses polythene a petro chemical product which is not biodegradable for centuries causing death of many organisms .The packing should limit the excessive use of these materials and option of biodegradable material should be explored.

The air cleaner products can be used to take out the toxic pollutants from the air but there are many naturally available plants which can purify the indoor air and maintain the good aesthetic condition of the house. The useful plants for cleaning indoor air are Bamboo palm, Lady Palm, Moth orchid, Lily turf and Rubber plant.

While using detergents it is important that all precaution levels should be followed in letter and spirit. They should be kept away from children. If dry cleaned clothes have intense odor or scent then they may have carcinogenic elements, it is better not to use them or resend them for cleaning. The amount of detergents can be cut if soft water is available for washing.

World over we are facing acute problem of fresh water shortage so controlling water pollution is important. By making water free from toxic chemicals we can reduce the chances of water borne diseases. Prevention is always better than treatment. All possible precautionary measures should be taken to keep ourselves safe.          

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