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The Dirt on Soaps and the Environment

Posted on September 4, 2018 by Matt Tomasino There have been 0 comments

I looked down at my soap and thought, “Darn, is this an environmental concern too?” Looks like it is. With high consumer demand, the free market responds with a host of quantity over quality toxic choices, and soap has joined the anti-green corporate machine. Quite a bummer given that everyone loves their fine smelling loofah bar, or colorful liquid lather. Who knew that so many popular soaps have the potential to slowly accumulate chemicals into our bodies, as well as into our soil, oceans, lakes, rivers and streams?

Frothy Foes

In 2013 Ecowatch posted a study by the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) reporting of, “…finding a cancer-causing chemical in 98 shampoos, soaps and other personal care products sold by major national retailers.” Pretty sobering stats.  According to the study some big brand soap products sold in big box stores contain the carcinogens, DEA (Diethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine), MEA (Cocamide DEA; Laurimide DEA; Linoleamide DEA, Oleamide DEA) These are compounds derived from coconut oil and used to create a frothy lather however they also have the potential to embed themselves in human tissue as well as local water sediment.

Anti Anti-Bacterial

Even antibacterial soaps that got so much attention when first brought on the market are tainted. MIT or methylisothiazolinone, another cocamide, used in antibacterial soaps has shown to have the same chemical spectrum as Agent Orange, a devastating nerve agent used in the Vietnam War. Anti-bacterial soaps also contain triclosan. A 2013 Michigan Radio report stated that, “The FDA says triclosan is not known to be hazardous to humans. But the agency is re-evaluating the safety of triclosan in light of animal studies showing the chemical alters hormone regulation... and also because of studies suggesting that triclosan contributes to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.” They go on to cite that, “A new study [by the University of Minnesota, et al] in the journal Environmental Science and Technology finds triclosan is showing up in freshwater lakes, including Lake Superior.”

Soap Continues to Bombard Your Planet

Now that we know dangerous chemicals from certain soaps can seep into our bodies, either directly or through their long residue chain within the ecosystem, here are a few more environmental hits:

  • Once in our water, triclosan can disrupt algae photosynthesis.
  • Bottlenose dolphins have been reported as having triclosan in their blood.
  • Benzophenone-2 (used in soaps, colognes, perfumes and shampoos) is killing coral reefs.
  • Polyethylene and polypropylene, major chemicals used in body scrub micro-bead soaps are now found in our natural waterways. “The Attorney General's Office says this plastic pollution is disrupting New York waterways, accumulating toxic chemicals on the surface that threaten fish, animals, and public health. The micro-beads last in the environment for hundreds of years.” (CNYCentral)

So with all this in mind, we urge you to reevaluate your soap purchases, and look for greener choices such as N-42 Natural Body Wash, and Pure Soap Flakes Laundry Powder.

This post was posted in Blog and Green Library, Green Cleaning, Health and Safety and was tagged with environmental education, NON-TOXIC, soap


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Green Home is the original online ecostore, based in San Francisco, California, in the heart of both the environmental and cleantech industries. Since 1999 Greenhome.com has played its part as one of the most comprehensive online resources for greening your home and greening your business. Our company is on a mission to green the world, one person (and one business) at a time. While all of our products are eco-friendly, we are especially passionate about compostable plates, cups, bowls, cutlery & utensils, take out containers and bags.  If more businesses and individuals switched from disposable to compostable we could make a real impact on the world!

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