When laundry detergents (as we know them today) were invented in the early 1900s, whites were suddenly whiter and brights suddenly brighter. Laundry became synonymous with detergents and we were hooked since. But in recent decades, its been found that untreated laundry water causes eutrophication and disrupt ecosystems. Furthermore, research has found that even in minuscule doses, detergent residue cause health issues. Are laundry detergents really worth it?
The bubbles causing health troubles
It is widely known today that most detergents contain toxic chemicals (carcinogens, dyes, artificial fragrances, etc.) that can aggravate skin, especially for sufferers of eczema and other skin issues. Detergent is great at dislodging soil and covering up smells, but these suds are tough to completely remove. Rinse residue is often inevitable. Laundry detergent adheres to fabric fibers, building up over time.
Being exposed to such a microscopic amount of detergent seems insignificant at first. But a 2018 study published in the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology concluded that that laundry detergents and rinse residue show significant cell-toxic and directly disruptive effects on human bronchial epithelial cells, potentially causing allergies and asthma.
Most shockingly, detergent in this study was used at extremely high dilutions of 1:25,000 to 1:250,000, and the cells exposed for just 24 hours. Meanwhile, detergent residue is perpetually in contact with our clothed skin for days and years.
Allergies are on the rise, and today is one of the most common chronic diseases in the world. Though observed for centuries, allergies are a relatively recent discovery. The word "allergy" was only coined in 1906. Mankind is still searching to understand why allergies develop and, ultimately, for a cure. Could our dependence on laundry detergents be part of the problem?