Friday, July 04, 2008

Arm & Hammer Essentials and Optical Brighteners

This is something I couldn't leave buried in the comments section for a post I did about a year ago on Arm & Hammer Essentials laundry detergent and the fact that they don't use petroleum products in their Essentials line. The commenter says:
However if you read the label closely there is a Warning and if you call their 800 line and ASK them if they add optical brightners the answer is yes. They won't tell you that unless you ask. Optical brightners bond irreversibly to the skin and pollute the enviroment. A & H also does their testing on animals. I for one love animals and think there has to be a better way to test products.

My friend Brenda told me about optical brightners in her research while using cloth diapers with her children. Apparently, most laundry detergents use optical brightners and it's really hard to find detergents that don't. I kind of thought I had found an exception in Arm & Hammer Essentials, but I was more concerned about petroleum products (which the product supposedly doesn't have).

A quick search on the internet confirms the commenter's claim that optical brighteners are bad for the environment. I found the topic detailed on the New England Regional Water Program website, and they state that:
Optical brighteners are less than benign from an environmental perspective. Many of the chemicals in this category are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Some are also capable of causing mutations in bacteria.

Seventh Generation has a page about optical brighteners which covers the same information but also adds:
Optical brighteners can also cause allergic reactions in people via a process called phototoxicity. When they rub off on our skin from laundered clothes and come into contact with sunlight, they can create a rash or irritation that’s mistaken for sunburn.

They also add that optical brightners are derived from benzene, not something you want in the water system. This also made me think, "isn't benzene derived from petroleum?" I looked it up and, sure enough, there's a post on Wikipedia about benzene and it is indeed derived from petroleum. So, what's the point of using Arm & Hammer Essentials if it has petroleum-derived products in it, anyway?

Dang. And I just bought two more jugs of it on sale at Publix. You know, if it's too good to be true and it costs less than Seventh Generation, it probably is (too good to be true).

I also posted about Seventh Generation when I asked why Sierra Club wasn't partnering with them, instead partnering with Clorox's new brand of "environmentally-safe" cleaning products.
Even though I'm still mad at Seventh Generation because they wouldn't let me enter their popularity contest to go to some Eco-leader training in D.C. (because I was too old), they are turning out to be the real deal as far as environmentally safe products for the home.
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