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Detergent is a cleaning agent which is used for washing or cleaning purposes, in the form of bar, liquid or powder. Detergent has several uses in household and industrial purposes. They are primarily a mix of surfactants having cleansing properties. Even though they are known to be better cleansing agents, detergents also cause several health hazards to those who use it.
Detergents contain strong acids, alkalis or phosphates. There are 2 types of detergents, namely cationic and anionic detergents. Cationic detergents are used as antiseptics in hospitals (cleansing material on surgeon s hands) and anionic detergents are used as disinfectants (for carpet cleaning since they contain phenol).
When someone accidentally or unknowingly inhales or swallows these cationic or anionic detergents, poisoning occurs. Poisoning ingredients may include benzalkonium chloride acid.
Few symptoms of detergent poisoning are:
Effects of detergents on health
Affect reproduction organs and foetal development
Detergents contain a petrochemical called NonylphenolEthoxylate (NPE), mainly used as emulsifying and dispersing agent which enables removal of dirt from fabrics. It is an endocrine oxidant which is known to affect foetal development.
Usage of NPEs has been discouraged and completely banned by Canada and the European Union; the United States continues their use. (Read: 8 things in the environment that can harm your unborn child)
Many detergents contain optical brighteners such as chlorine bleach or sodium hypochlorite which are used to convert UV light wavelengths to visible light; this will help making the clothes appear white.
A study undertaken to understand the Indian consumer s knowledge of the harmful effects of detergents on the health showed that 77.6 per cent of respondents had experienced some kind of skin irritation due to the use of detergents. Of these, the majority were dhobis and rural women. (Read: 6 wonder home remedies for itchy skin)
Detergents contain certain artificial fragrances made from petroleum products that provide a fragrance to clothes after washing.
Most Indian advertisements on detergents propagate the use of fragrance in their products, because the customers always stay in an illusion that their clothes are dirt free because their clothes smell good. (Read: 11 tips to live well with asthma)
Packaging issues & affects on children
Compared to conventional detergent powder and liquid detergent, new detergent packets and pods prove to be even more toxic.
Laundry detergent pods sickened more than seven hundred U.S. kids and killed at least one in a recent two years, a new report reveals.
Detergents are known to contain carcinogenic agents such as 1, 4-dioxane a synthetic petrochemical carcinogen. These carcinogens are not listed on the product label and most customers are unaware of it since it is a by-product of ethylene oxide. It is also known to cause liver damage.
Treatment methods include breathing support through ventilators, irritation of the skin (washing for every few hours), and fluids by intravenous route.
Advanced techniques such as Bronchoscopy and Endoscopy are used to see burns in airways, lungs and oesophagus, stomach respectively.
Can you choose a detergent free from chemicals?
Detergents can never be devoid of harmful substances. Customers should be well aware of natural detergents which contain no colouring agents, fragrance and brightening agents. You only need three basic ingredients to prepare a natural detergent, namely washing soda, borax and bar soap. The natural detergents ensure safety and good health.
The Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) has laid down several guidelines which suggest replacing phosphates in detergents with any other environment friendly substance. But till date, there is not even a single compliant product that had made its way to the end consumer.
Photo source: Getty images
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