Here at The Mess Masters we really like to use environmentally-friendly products and equipment. Without getting on a soap box, (wink wink) here are some of the ways regular cleaners can be harmful to water, air and animals.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency names phosphorus, nitrogen, ammonia and chemicals grouped under the term “Volatile Organic Compounds” as the worst environmental hazards in household cleaners. Dishwasher detergents are 30 to 40 percent phosphorus. Ammonia is a multipurpose household cleaner that is found in many cleaning products that do everything from degreasing to sanitizing and removing allergens. VOCs whiten your clothes, clean your dishes and disinfect your bathroom, among other uses. Nitrogen is found in glass and surface cleaning products and floor cleaners as well.
In large quantities, nitrogen, phosphorus and ammonia are dangerous water contaminants. When we clean our sinks and toilets, these contaminants are rinsed down drains and flushed down toilets. Most contaminants are removed from our water by the waste treatment facilities before the water is returned to the rivers, streams, lakes and other waterways. However, those three household cleaning chemicals are not removed by waste treatment processes. Instead, they enter the waterways and build up, causing an accelerated growth of some types of plant life.
The result is excessive nourishment of some types of plant life in habitats native to aquatic animals. This can lead to dense vegetation that clogs waterways, crowding out animal life and other marine plants. At the end of these plants’ chemical-accelerated life cycle, they die in large masses, decaying and depleting the oxygen in the water. Algae then grows, and the animals – freshwater shellfish, fish and others – die off as well; the die-offs cause more decay. Soon, the water is no longer suitable for drinking, cooking or bathing.
Does this mean you have to throw out all your cleaning products? No, not such a drastic response is required. But if each of us, used less of these products and ultimately, none of the products containing these chemicals, it helps our environment and the other creatures living in it.