What do you think happens as you drain the bath? Where does the water from the washing machine go? What about the water you’ve just washed your face with? Yes, it goes down the drain, but what next? Domestic households, and that refers to yours and mine, produce waste water that pollutes lakes, rivers and the sea. The waste water also includes sewage matter, i.e. urine, faeces and anything that gets flushed down the toilet.
Perhaps you’re wondering how water from your shower can pollute the environment. It’s just water, after all. You’re not far wrong. It is water BUT it has elements of the soap or shower gel you’ve just used to clean yourself. The chemicals within your shower gel, antibacterial hand soap, laundry detergent, dishwasher and even the sunscreen or lotion you applied earlier in the day all get washed into the drain and ultimately end up in the rivers or the sea. These affect aquatic life. For example, some chemicals mess up the reproductive systems of these animals. As a result, feminization of male fish has been known to happen.
Love a good scrub? Did you know that most of the scrubs in the market contain microbeads, which are small bits of plastic used to give that exfoliating functionality? After scrubbing your face, these microbeads go down the drain. They can’t be filtered out during the waste water treatment process so goes into the river, lakes and sea. Thinking that they’re food, fish and other aquatic life eat them and a lot of these end up on our plates too. Scientists in China have also found microbeads in table salt, so don’t think that this is a problem that only affects the sea life. You could be ingesting these little bits of plastic without realising it.
As you wash off yourself in the shower, anything you have applied during the day gets washed away with any dirt too. This includes any lotion you applied during the day. Some chemicals in your lotion can harm aquatic life too. For example, a lot of sunscreen products contain chemicals such as oxybenzone and octinoxate is toxic to coral.
So, when you next get your shower gel, soap, cleanser, scrub, toilet cleaner, laundry detergent or any personal and household care product, look at the ingredient list. The scientific names of ingredients is overwhelming? Then an easy way would be to check if the product has been certified organic or natural by a reputable body. This is a good indicator if the product contains toxic chemicals. Certified organic or natural products, especially by a reputable organisation such as France, usually do not contain these toxic chemicals. Only ingredients deemed to be safe to both humans and the environment can be included in the product, so this would be the easiest way to check. Another easy way? Take a photo of the ingredient list and post it in the Comments for us to get back to you!