Down the Drain
Water pollution caused by cosmetic chemicals, cleaning supplies and plastics
» in the Home
Down the Drain: » in the Home
Choosing household products that do not contain hormone-disrupting chemicals may benefit your health and the health of your family, and can reduce the amount of these chemicals entering San Francisco Bay. You can make safer choices at home each time you prepare a meal, wash dishes, wash clothes, or take a shower.
•We tested 2 residential samples.
•We detected 4 of 5 phthalates.
•We did not detect bisphenol A or triclosan.
Hormone-disrupting contaminants were detected in Residential Wastewater (parts per billion)
|Sample 1||Sample 2|
Phthalates in the home
Phthalates are found in many typical household products. We detected 4 of 5 phthalates in wastewater from 2 residential samples. Studies show phthalates are common contaminants of people as well as streams and rivers (Kolpin 2002; CDC 2005; Wolff 2007).
- Phthalates are widely used in cosmetics and personal care products. Dibutyl phthalate (DBP) is used in some types of nail polish – check the list of ingredients. Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is a component of fragrance in many personal care products – in this case, you won't see the phthalate listed as an ingredient, only the word "fragrance" will appear on the ingredient list. Phthalates may also be used as skin moisturizers and skin penetration enhancers in cosmetics, and as ingredients in liquid soaps, detergents, and other cleansing products.
- Phthalates are widely used to make plastics, especially PVC or vinyl plastic. Many plastic products commonly found in the home or garden can contain phthalates, including food wraps and containers, toys, garden hoses, dentures and orthodontic appliances, building materials, shower curtains, home and garden furnishings, and clothing.
- Phthalates may also be components of a variety of other household products, including pill coatings for pharmaceuticals and nutritional supplements; lubricants, waxes, inks, and adhesives; and insecticides and insect repellants.
To reduce exposures to phthalates in your home:
- Use nail polish and other beauty products that do not contain "dibutyl phthalate" – check the ingredient list.
- Use personal care products, detergents, cleansers, and other products that do not contain "fragrance" in the ingredient list – "fragrance" commonly includes the phthalate DEP.
- Avoid cooking or microwaving in plastic.
- Use a non-vinyl shower curtain.
- Use paints and other hobby products in well-ventilated areas.
- Give children wooden and other phthalate-free toys, and don't let children chew on soft plastic toys.
Bisphenol A in the home
Bisphenol A (BPA) is found in many typical household products. We did not detect BPA in wastewater from 2 residential samples, but studies indicate people are exposed to this chemical in their daily lives (CERHR 2006). Bisphenol A is commonly detected in people, and in streams and rivers (Kolpin 2002; Calafat 2005; Wolff 2007).
- Bisphenol A is used to make a plastic coating, called BADGE, that is applied to the inside of food and beverage cans to keep food from reacting with the metal of the can. This coating appears as a solid color on the inside of the can, and can leach into the food stored inside.
- Bisphenol A is used to make polycarbonate plastics – used in such products as hard plastic baby bottles, 5 gallon water cooler bottles, hard water bottles, plastic silverware, and Lexan products. You can check for the type of plastic on the bottom of the bottle – polycarbonate bottles may be labeled with plastic number 7 ("Other" type of plastic) or may contain the letters "PC" below the recycling symbol. Bisphenol A can leach out of these types of bottles into your beverage or food.
To reduce exposures to bisphenol A in your home:
- Cut down on canned foods, especially liquid infant formula in metal cans.
- Avoid eating or drinking from polycarbonate plastics. Alternatives include bottles and other materials made from glass, ceramic, stainless steel, or polypropylene plastic – labeled plastic number 5 on the bottom (translucent, not transparent).
Triclosan in the home
Triclosan is found in many typical household products. We did not detect triclosan in wastewater from 2 residential samples, but studies indicate people are exposed to this chemical in their daily lives (Adolfsson-Erici 2002; Tan 2002; TNO 2005; Wolff 2007). Triclosan is commonly detected in people, and in streams and rivers (Adolfsson-Erici 2002; Kolpin 2002; TNO 2005; Wolff 2007).
- Triclosan is used in a broad array of cosmetics and personal care products with antibacterial properties, including liquid hand soap, deodorant, toothpaste, and hair care products.
- Triclosan is also used in plastic and foam products labeled "antibacterial," including plastic cutting boards, bath mats, and shoe insoles.
- Triclosan is also used in pesticides and "antibacterial" household detergents and other cleansing products.
To reduce exposures to triclosan in your home:
- Avoid unnecessary use of "antibacterial" products – read the list of ingredients. The American Medical Association recommends against using products with antibacterial ingredients in the home (Tan 2002). Studies indicate that households that use antibacterial products are no healthier than those that use soap and water and other typical cleansing products (Larson 2003; FDA 2005).
- If you use an antimicrobial skin disinfectant, use an alcohol hand rub instead of a product containing triclosan.