Unfortunately, just because the label says “ECO”, it doesn’t mean the product is truly as eco friendly as we would expect. If you really care you should have a closer look to the ingredients. Many big brands, even those whose mission is “to prove that we can save the planet” still using ingredients that have negative impact on the environment and our health.
One of the major parts of the cleaning products is the surfactants (detergents) which can be derived from vegetable source and petroleum derivatives (sodium lauryl sulphate). Latter, often biodegrade more slowly and during the degradation process, they can form compounds that are even more dangerous than the original chemicals themselves.
Toxic chemicals Whilst science is never settled and many chemicals are still under “trial” to remove them from the list of ‘controversial’, there are certain chemicals that are widely accepted as harmful to the environment and human health, such as formaldehyde, parabens, phthalates and triclosan.
Formaldehyde I think everybody remember formaldehyde from biology class. It is used as a preservative to help prevent bacteria growth. Even if it is a naturally occurring organic compound, it can cause adverse effects such as watery eyes; burning sensations in the eyes, nose, and throat; coughing; wheezing; nausea; and skin irritation. It has been linked to an increased risk of asthma and allergies in children and is also recognised as a human carcinogen (cancer cause substances).
Parabens Parabens is also used as preservatives, preventing the growth of bacteria, mold and yeast. Parabens and para-hydroxybenzoic acid are synthetically produced compounds. They are generally listed in ingredients as methyl paraben, ethyl paraben, propyl paraben and butyl paraben. High concentrations of parabens have been found to mimic the actions of oestrogen. Oestrogen is associated with increased breast cancer risk.
Phthalates Phthalates are chemical compounds that are commonly added to products to increase their flexibility, transparency, durability and longevity. These are hormone-disrupting chemicals and are linked to a long list of health ills ranging from infertility and trouble losing weight to birth defects in kids and even certain cancers.
Triclosan Triclosan, again, is used to fight the spread of germs. Triclosan is a major player when it comes to the problem of antibiotic resistance, which is becoming more common and more deadly with each passing year. It has numerous and severe adverse health and environmental risks, especially after the compound degrades to dioxin. Dioxin is a carcinogen and has been linked to different types of cancer. In fact, triclosan can manifest itself in the body as a producer of uncontrolled cell growth. When combined with chlorinated, toxic tap water, it was found to form chloroform, which is another carcinogen. Triclosan also alters testosterone and thyroid serum levels and affects estrogen adaptors. The hormonal effects impact the entire endocrine system, from vital organ growth and response to the release of essential chemicals in the body, making this dangerous substance an endocrine disruptor.
The term of ‘biodegradable’ can be very misleading as eventually, everything will be biodegrade, but the question is how readily the elements biodegrade. Petroleum-based surfactants will biodegrade much slower than vegetable based ones. If you want to protect the environment, chose product without these ingredients: Alkylphenol ethoxylates (APEs) Ammonia , Butyl cellosolve (aka butyl glycol, ethylene glycol monobutyl), Chlorine bleach/sodium hypochlorite, Diethanolamine (DEA), D-limonene, Glycol ethers, Nonylphenols (NPEs), Phosphates, Sodium hydroxide, Sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) ,Sodium lauryl sulphate.
Another aspect you should search on the label if the product is free of animal testing. This is not something that needs to be explained. Just look for the Leaping Bunny logo.
Bleach is working by oxidising, and thus sterilising which gives a very powerful antibacterial effect. It should never be poured to drains and toilets as when chlorine-based bleaches are mixed with ammonia they release dangerous chlorine gas. Bleach exposure can cause irritation in the eyes, mouth, lungs and on skin. Individuals with asthma or other breathing problems are particularly susceptible. It can burn human tissue, internally or externally, especially in small children. The better option is using toilet cleaners that rely on acids which dislodge waste rather than sterilise it. If bleach IS used, it should be used in diluted form.
Since the most common ingredient (up to 90 per cent) of general-purpose cleaners is water, it creates a need for more packaging and therefore more waste, bigger transport etc. Better option to buy concentrated products in smaller bottles.
Generally, cleaning product bottles are made from plastic. Try to avoid buying products in polyvinylchloride (PVC) containers. Look for a ‘3’ in a recycling symbol on the bottom of the bottle. Better options are: polyethylene (HDPE and LDPE), polypropylene (PP), polyethylene (PE) and polyethylene tetraphthalate (PET). They have fewer environmental issues with their manufacture and disposal than PVC.
Or just use vinegar, baking soda and lemon juice! They will do the job! 🙂
And finally, as promised, here is a somewhat surprising list of the best and worst eco cleaning products on the market. I admit, I had many disappointments reading this list.