How do Cleaning Products Damage the Environment?

Who doesn’t love a sparkly clean home? Cleaning and hygiene in general have taken centre stage in almost every household as we grapple with the global pandemic that is COVID-19. But as we do our weekly shop and stock up on essential cleaning products, it is important to consider the environmental impact of some of these products. Many household cleaning products are pumped full of toxic chemicals that are not only detrimental to the environment, but also to your health.

So, let’s take a quick look at the three main ways in which cleaning products are damaging the environment.

1. Air Pollution

A wide variety of household cleaning products contain volatile organic compounds or ‘VOCs’. VOCs are organic chemicals that are emitted from certain liquid and solid materials. Some common examples that are often found in cleaning products include: benzene, ethylene glycol, formaldehyde, methylene chloride, tetrachloroethylene and xylene.

These organic chemicals can contribute to air pollution. VOCs have a high vapor pressure, meaning they evaporate easily. When they evaporate into the atmosphere, they interact with other chemicals to produce fine particulate matter known as PM2.5. Large quantities of PM2.5 in the air can be harmful to humans as it can greatly impair lung function and lead to respiratory problems.

2. Water Contamination

Nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia are three of the most hazardous toxic chemicals that are found in cleaning products. Nitrogen is an odorless, inert gas that can be found in products such as floor cleaners and surface cleaners. Phosphorus is a highly reactive chemical element that is found in the vast majority of dishwasher detergents. Ammonia is a colourless gas that is made up of nitrogen and hydrogen. It is considered a multipurpose cleaner and can be found in a wide variety of cleaning products, such as surface cleaners and degreasers.

These chemicals flow to water treatment facilities when we wash them down our sinks and drains. Although most contaminants are removed through wastewater treatment, some chemicals get left behind and produce a build up over time in rivers, streams, lakes and canals. Excessive amounts of these chemicals in water can lead to dense vegetation and eventually, the formation of algae. Algae can be determinantal to wildlife such as fish as it depletes oxygen levels from water, causing them to either die of or leave the area.

3. Plastic Waste

The vast majority of cleaning products come in plastic packaging. Which means that most of this packaging will end up in a landfill. According to National Geographic, in 2018 79% of plastic worldwide was found to be either amassing in landfills or polluting the environment as litter. The leftover chemicals and VOCs in these plastic containers will eventually be released into the environment and cause further pollution.

Fear not – this does not mean that you have to abandon cleaning products altogether. There are plenty of brands that offer eco-friendly cleaning products. Here are some of our favourites:

Ecoleaf offer a wide variety of non-toxic cleaning products, derived from plant extracts. Their products include hand soap, washing up liquid and toilet cleaner.

Lilly’s Eco Clean manufacture high quality cleaning products that are safe for animals, humans and the environment. They have a wide variety of products such as multipurpose spray cleaner, degreaser and laundry liquid.

Ecoegg offer chemical free laundry and cleaning products. Their Lanundry egg uses natural mineral pellets that lift away dirt without leaving chemical residue on clothing.

4. TippTop - EcoElite Range

The brand TippTop have made an EcoElite cleaning range. Eco Elite products are 100% natural, made from a natural blend of non-toxic biodegradable plant extracts, oils and herbs They have been laboratory tested and are proven to kill bacteria, pathogens, mould and germs.

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