How toxic cleaning products harm aquatic life

How toxic cleaning products harm aquatic life

From the everyday household cleaners sold in supermarkets to industrial-strength detergents used in public spaces, many toxic cleaning products contain ingredients that are harmful to the wildlife in our rivers.

However, the truth is these poisonous substances are not necessary, and there are plenty of toxin-free products that are just as effective at cleaning without damaging wildlife in the process.

Why toxic cleaning products are harmful to aquatic life

Toxic cleaning products contain a variety of harmful substances such as phosphates, chlorine bleaches, petroleum solvents and synthetic fragrances. When these substances are washed down drains or disposed of improperly, they can end up in rivers, lakes and oceans. The impact on aquatic life is profound.

This means checking the ingredients list of your cleaning products goes a long way to helping save the wildlife in our waterways. We take a closer look at which toxic ingredients to avoid in cleaning products and why.

1. Phosphates – disrupts the balance of the ecosystem

Phosphates are commonly used in detergents and dishwashing liquids due to their ability to break down grease. However, when released into bodies of water, they promote excessive growth of algae (a process known as ‘eutrophication’).

This algal bloom blocks sunlight from reaching underwater plants and depletes oxygen levels in the water. As a result, fish and other aquatic organisms suffocate and die off in large numbers.

2. Chlorine bleach and petroleum solvents – directly toxic to aquatic life

Chlorine bleach-based cleaners pose a direct threat to aquatic life due to their high toxicity. Even at at low concentrations, chlorine is lethal to many forms of aquatic life and can also cause long-term damage at non-lethal levels, disrupting reproduction and growth.

Petroleum solvents found in many cleaning products are also highly toxic to aquatic life. They can accumulate in the tissues of fish and other organisms over time ('bioaccumulation'), leading to chronic health problems or death.

3. Synthetic fragrances – causes endocrine disruption

Many synthetic fragrances used in cleaning products contain phthalates – chemicals known for their endocrine-disrupting properties. When released into bodies of water, they can interfere with the hormonal systems of aquatic organisms, affecting their reproduction and development.

4. Microplastics – an invisible threat

In addition to the direct chemical threats posed by toxic cleaning products, there is another, less visible danger – microplastics.

Many cleaning products contain tiny plastic particles known as microbeads. These microbeads are too small to be filtered out by waste-water treatment plants and end up in our oceans, where they are ingested by marine life. This can lead to physical harm and introduce more toxins into the food chain.

Reducing the impact and choosing eco-friendly alternatives

The damage caused by toxic cleaning products is alarming, but there are steps we can take to reduce the impact on the environment. One of the most effective strategies is switching to eco-friendly cleaning products.

Bower Collective’s range of products are guaranteed toxin-free. From our Washing Up Refills, Toilet Cleaner and Eco-Friendly Laundry Products to our Hand WashShampoo & Conditioner and Shower Gels, ingredients that you will NEVER find in our products include:

  • Ammonia
  • Animal-derived ingredients
  • Parabens
  • Formaldehyde
  • Synthetic dyes 
  • Phthalates 
  • Phosphates
  • Chlorine bleaches

Quick ways to shop for toxin-free cleaning products

1. Look for ‘Phosphate-free’ on the label

Choose detergents and dishwashing liquids that are labelled as phosphate-free. This simple switch can significantly reduce the risk of eutrophication in our waterways.

2. Avoid chlorine-based cleaners

Opt for non-chlorine bleaches and cleaners whenever possible. There are many effective alternatives available that do not pose a threat to aquatic life.

3. Choose fragrance-free or naturally scented products

Avoid synthetic fragrances by choosing fragrance-free or naturally scented products. Look for products scented with essential oils or other natural ingredients.

4. Say no to microbeads

Avoid personal care and cleaning products that contain microbeads. Look for products labelled ‘microbead-free’ or choose natural exfoliants instead.

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.