Water pollution by chemicals (such as detergents) is a big concern in the global context. Many laundry detergents contain approximately 35 percent to 75 percent phosphate salts. Phosphates can cause a variety of water pollution problems. For example, phosphate tends to inhibit the biodegradation of organic substances. Non-biodegradable substances cannot be eliminated by public or private wastewater treatment. In addition to, some phosphate based detergents can cause eutrophication. Over enrichment of phosphate can cause the water body to become choked with algae and other plants. Eutrophication deprives the water of available oxygen, causing the death of other organisms.
Detergents--The Main Pollutants
One of the main sources of chemical pollutants is everyday detergents. Specific contaminants leading to water pollution include a wide range of chemicals (such as bleach) and microbes. Several chemicals that we use our daily life are harmful elements and compounds. These could be magnesium or calcium based substances that affect water. Detergents sometimes could be carcinogenic, so they should be eliminated from the water. According to Enviroharvest Inc, “The detergents can contain suspected carcinogens, and ingredients that do not fully biodegrade.”
The Hazards of Detergents to Environment
Detergents also contain oxygen-reducing substances (“i.e.” a chemical compound that readily transfer oxygen atoms) that may cause severe damage to the fishes and marine animals. This may also lead to eutrophication. Eutrophication is a process by which a water body becomes enriched in dissolved nutrients (e.g., phosphates, calcium and magnesium). It has negative impacts on environment, especially on aquatic animals because water rich in nutrients stimulates the growth of aquatic plant life, resulting in depletion of oxygen. A few more harmful components of detergents such as anthropogenetic components such as herbicides, pesticides and heavy metal concentrations (e.g., zinc, cadmium and lead) can cause the water to grow murky thus blocking out light and disrupting the growth of plants. Turbidity also clogs the respiratory system of some species of fishes. Pathogens from these toxic water bodies bring about in human or animal hosts diseases, which may be fatal. Furthermore, these contaminants alter the chemical composition of water that includes electrical conductivity, temperature, acidity and eutrophication.
Hazard to Human Health
Chemicals could be a source of drinking water contamination. Drinking water contaminated by detergents can be hazardous to human health. Humans become ill with a range of symptoms such as:
- skin irritation
- sore throat
- stomach cramps
- liver damage
This can be poisonous and accounts to death in several cases. Such contaminated water is also not preferable for the growth of crops e.g., rice, wheat and soybean.
Detergents and Foams
Detergents are surface-active agents, which tend to produce stable, copious foams in rivers. These foams generally form a thick and dense layer over the surface of the water, extending over several hundreds of meters of the river water. These foams also prove to be an unhygienic source of domestic water.
Water pollution is a serious problem today. Many of the chemical substances which are disposed in water are toxic. Disease causing microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses are mainly responsible for waterborne diseases in both humans and animals. Apart from severe health hazards that these detergents pose, the elements (e.g., lead) present in them can lead to acidity. This could lead to many problems in a fit and healthy man too. The use of better, biodegradable detergents that are friendlier to the environment should be encouraged.