Household chemicals are some of the most damaging products of human life for the environment. Every day we wash dishes, do laundry, put on make-up, and spray unwanted insects, but we have no idea how much we are harming ourselves, wildlife, and the earth. Let’s take a look at the risks and the consequences and what we can do to either solve them or lessen the negative impacts we have on the environment.
Included under the category of household chemicals are cleaning products (some of which contain bleach, chlorine, and ammonia), pesticides, fertilizers, paints, automobile fluids, candles, fragrant sprays, and many other domestic items that can be dangerous for the environment. Household cleaners, detergents, batteries, and garden pesticides have effects on the environment when they contaminate soil or water. Even continuous exposure to small amounts of the many harmful substances in homes can pose long term health risks to humans and animals.
Many laundry detergents contain phosphates, which can greatly pollute oceans. Phosphates in smaller bodies of water can encourage excessive growth of algae, which depletes the supply of oxygen in the water and creates harmful living conditions for animals. Households with septic tanks are discharged directly into the environment and can possibly reach water bodies without being treated.
Household chemicals are made of ingredients that can be harmful or life threatening upon skin contact or ingestion. Bleach and ammonia in various cleaning products can pose respiratory health problems with excessive exposure. Some toxic household substances can cause birth defects, brain damage, coma, or death. Common household chemicals are also linked to many common health problems such as headaches, joint pain, loss of sleep, asthma, allergies, and depression. Housewives are at greater risk of getting cancer from their greater exposure to the harmful chemicals they use in their homes every day.
Not only are there risks, but there are also proven negative effects of these household chemicals on both the environment and our health. The overuse of antimicrobial cleaning products is proven to result in the growth of antibiotic-resistant germs, which can only be eliminated with more harmful chemicals. Pesticides damage the environment with harsh chemicals that are intended to only harm certain pests. The propellants in sprays contain chlorofluorocarbons, which have been recognized as damaging to the earth’s ozone. We sacrifice a small part of the rich environment each time we use pesticides at home. The negative effects continue as we look at all that we damage in the environment that also affects our own lives.
Cleaning agents, detergents, pesticides, and weed killers frequently find their way into the soil and then into water bodies. These chemicals as well as runoff can be either harmful or deadly to the animals and plants of the seas. Chemical residues of household chemicals can seep into soils and contaminate groundwater supplies after being disposed of improperly. Everyday household drugs, cosmetics, and chemicals are harmful to the reproductive and immune systems of fish and turtles that become exposed to the harmful ingredients. Weed killers and non-biodegradable chemicals in soaps and shampoos are also harmful to aquatic life when they reach waters. Contaminated waters affect diversity and growth of sea life and continue to jeopardize water bodies for the use of drinking or recreation. Wastewater is also emptied into water bodies frequently, which results in human exposure to these harmful chemicals.
What We Can Do About It
As you can see from all these risks and proven effects of our chemical use, there are many improvements to be made in our lifestyles. You can start contributing to a better environment by making small changes around your home. Buy an all-in-one cleaning product to take care of all your cleaning needs, or try using baking soda, alcohol, or vinegar as an effective alternative. Whenever possible, purchase natural cleaning products that are without the common hazardous chemicals. In times of disposing of your household cleaning products and their containers, take them to your local hazardous waste center to be handled properly in an eco-friendly way.
Remember the effect you have on our environment every time you reach for those chemicals in your home. Think twice and take environmentally friendly actions that benefit, you, your neighbors, the world and its beautiful creatures.