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10 Detergent Brands Test Positive for Cancer-Causing Nonylphenol: Why It Matters

Found in high quantity in samples taken from local markets and rivers across India, Nonylphenol adversely affects hormonal and reproductive systems. High time for a sustainable switch!

10 Detergent Brands Test Positive for Cancer-Causing Nonylphenol: Why It Matters

According to a study released by Toxics Link (an environmental NGO), named ‘Dirty Trail: Detergent to Water Bodies’ ten different detergents from Indian brands were tested to have found one of the most toxic chemicals for to both humankind and the planet.

The chemical in question is Nonylphenol, a chemical found abundantly in most of the detergents sold in the country because it has amphiphilic properties—which facilitate the mixture of hydrophobic compounds such as oil and grease with water, making cleaning easy— and acts as a surfactant, simultaneously.

Why is Nonylphenol Harmful?

Nonylphenol is known to be extremely toxic to wildlife, particularly aquatic organisms. There is also concern that it mimics the behaviour of animal hormones, and is an  “endocrine disruptor.” Additionally, exposure to high levels of nonylphenol can also cause irritation of the lungs, digestive system, skin and eyes.

While countries such as the US, UK, China already have regulations in place against Nonylphenol, India is horridly blind to its environmental and health implications.

Along with the detergents, Nonylphenol was also found in alarmingly high quantities in six rivers across the country—the Garh Ganga and Hindon in Uttar Pradesh, Krishna in Andhra Pradesh, Tapti in Gujarat, Bandi in Rajasthan, Mahanadi in Odisha and Ambazari Lake in Nagpur.

The reason why the usage of the Nonylphenol should be regulated is because the concentration was found to be almost 8 times more than the prescribed Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS) for phenolic compounds in drinking water or surface water, and over 100 times as compared to the US EPA safety standard.

cancer-causing detergent

What Can Be Done?

The study suggests that banning Nonylphenol would be the best move for both mankind and the ecosystem. If not, creating an inventory on the usage of Nonylphenol in different sectors in the country and introducing standards on Nonylphenol in drinking water and in food could also be a step in the right direction.


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Until that happens, you can do your bit by switching to eco-friendly, non-toxic, biodegradable detergents, like these floor cleaners, toilet cleaners, laundry liquids and dishwashing liquids that come with the promise of leaving the planet a little better than before. They’re completely natural, organic and biodegrade easily, leaving no harmful toxins behind and are completely safe for our sewer lines, groundwater, and large water bodies.

Also Read: Chemical Vs Eco-Friendly Cleaners: How Your Switch Can Save Our Water Systems

(Edited by Gayatri Mishra)

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