Is Your Detergent Doing More Harm Than Good? 

Anaya Balkcom 

Did you know the detergent you use could significantly impact your life? This is not a matter of whether or not your clothes will smell lemony fresh or a gentle ocean breeze. It is a matter of how the levels of carcinogens that are found in your detergent can affect your health. A carcinogen is a substance capable of causing cancer in living tissue. 

According to Mdlinx.com, “Recently, New York state banned laundry detergents that contain more than 2 PPM of 1,4-dioxane, a potential carcinogen. The ban affects many popular detergents—including  Arm & Hammer Clean Burst, Tide Original, Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear, and Gain Original + Aroma Boost.[1]”

Photo taken from dreamstime.com

According to prnewswire.com, “In recent tests, Arm & Hammer Clean Burst, Tide Original, Arm & Hammer Sensitive Skin Free & Clear, and Gain Original + Aroma Boost all contained more than 3 PPM of 1,4-Dioxane, over the NY State limit.”

Ethoxylation is a chemical process that occurs during the manufacturing stage of detergents. During this process, 1,4 Dioxane is released into the detergent. 

Mdlinx.com states, “1,4-dioxane is detected by lab equipment. When it’s not, people are left to guess whether or not their product is safe and risk blind exposure.[5]” 

     The products from the detergent lines created to be more sensitive were tested between .18 and 4 PPM making them acceptable under the guidelines of NY. However, they still somewhat contain 1,4 Dioxane. 

When tested, Seventh Generation Free & Clear tested for ethoxylated ingredients; however, Dioxane was not detected. Ingredients Matter Laundry detergent was also tested, and there were no traces of ethoxylated elements, meaning Dioxane was not present in this detergent. 

     As previously stated, high amounts of carcinogens are harmful not only to our health but to our environment. Doctor Ozbay, a current professor of an Intro to Environmental Science course held at Delaware State University, provided us with a greater insight into how this could affect our environment. 

“Regarding your question about banning certain detergents, I am completely supportive of it. When we think about it, many of those detergents we see contain several synthetic chemicals. It is tough to break them down in nature.” 

Dr. Ozbay also mentioned the prolonged effects as well. “Chemicals can also accumulate; aside from the chemicals killing the fish, they could also accumulate within their bodies and be passed on to humans. Delaware should ban these detergents as well.”

The damage caused by these chemicals can also surpass the means of contaminating the water supply. Dr. Ozbay discussed the further damage that could occur, “The high concentrations may kill the organisms, even the organisms in the soil. We are talking about healthy bacteria, worms, and everything that helps the soil. It’s also passed onto humans because of what we eat. We generally conduct a heavy metal detection on fishes, but I don’t think people conduct a carcinogen test on fishes.”

All of these factors leave customers wondering what they should do moving forward and how they can adapt after this situation. Since the banned detergents are household names and have been loved by families for years, customers find themselves in search of a new and adequate placeholder. Although relieved that the ban was implemented, many consumers are still frightened due to this discovery. 

Monique Mitchell was one of many New York customers, who were shocked that the product created to clean our clothes could potentially harm us. “We use these detergents to clean our clothes of germs, only to find out the detergents have a chance of making us sick with the ingredients that were used.” 

The photo was taken from ilovegain.com 

Ms. Mitchell was also not the only customer  left with lingering questions following this development, “It makes you think more about looking at the products you purchase as well as reading their ingredients for health and safety reasons.” 

Herman Thomas is a New Yorker, who was pleased that a ban was created yet feels there must be more steps implemented. “I was naturally very pleased with the decision as a native New Yorker. However, I am still fearful that these small measures taken are not solutions to toxic chemicals being released into our environment.” 

Additionally, Mr. Thomas stated, “The true solution would be too expensive to implement and shows public health is only an afterthought. The idea makes me feel anxious, frustrated, and vulnerable.” 

     With this new discovery, many are left questioning what else we use in our day-to-day lives that harm us.

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