Weekly column by Barbara Hirsch
It all comes out in the wash. Meaning either that everything will be okay in the end, or that the truth will eventually become clear . In our modern world, it also points to the fact that all of those magic liquids and powders and sprays we use to wash our clothes, dishes, cars, surfaces, ends up in our bodies, or others.
The Environmental Working Group is a champion for learning about the relative safety of products we use. Their consumer guides and databases are readily available, including Skin Deep for personal care products and their Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Products are rated with regard to their effects on asthma, reproductive and developmental toxicity, cancer, and environmental factors, including aquatic toxicity. Actual ingredients are rated.
Take laundry detergents. All Tide products fail – some are graded D but most get Fs, including their “Clean Breeze” and their “Tide 2X Ultra Pure Essentials with Baking Soda”. Same with Cheer, Fab, ALL, Trader Joe’s and some avowedly green cleaners. Dreft is advertised as for babies 0-18 months, and fails, due to chemicals of high concern for developmental toxicity! Hooray for Martha Stewart though, whose own brand gets an A.
The EPA also has a good page that discusses key characteristics of ingredients in detergents, those being surfactants, builders, bleaches, colorants, brighteners and solvents. But they left out fragrances, the most mysterious and often dangerous substances. And here is Grist’s latest word on the subject, although they offer many!
In the end, with all of that wash water flowing into our lakes and oceans, and even though petrochemicals have suddenly gotten much cheaper, plant based ingredients will probably always be more healthful for us and the fish.