Studies carried out by the University of Gothenburg, in Sweden, The Baylor University in the US and a joint study by the Birmingham and Warwick Universities in the UK, point to potential hazards caused by pollution from a range of household products.
The findings of these studies have all been published in the last month, and are likely to be jumped upon by the media and environmental bodies as one of a number of growing threats to the ecosystem.
Packaging is environmental target No. 1
Until now packaging from personal care products has been viewed as the number one threat to the environment, and many personal care players have reacted to this problem by cutting back on packaging, using more environmentally materials and encouraging recycling.
If the issue of chemical pollution escalates into a bigger cause for environmentalists, the personal care industry is likely to come under attack for the many substances used in products such as shampoos, soaps and anti-bacterial washes that seep into the environment through waterways.
The study at the University of Gothenberg concentrated on the idea that personal care chemicals on their own may pose no specific risk, but when combined in polluted waterways, the resulting cocktail can be hazardous.
Cocktail of five chemicals impacts ocean life
The research found that a cocktail of five chemicals, including anti-bacterial agent triclosan and Zinc pyrithione, found in anti-dandruff shampoos, acted in combination on ocean ecosystems to have a direct effect on the growth and reproduction of micro-organisms such as microalgae – an essential part of the oceans eco system.
The study at the Baylor University pointed to the fact that low level residues from personal care products was found to be polluting effluent dominated waterway in the US, resulting in confirmed contamination of marine life.
Specifically the study found that fish in the waterways were contaminated with 2 different compounds originating from fragrance chemicals used in personal care products, found to be at levels that could potentially influence breeding patterns.
Pollution and antibiotic resistance
The study at the Birmingham and Warwick universities was concerned with the direct effect pollution has on humans, and points to the fact that a cocktail of chemicals from a number of household and personal care products can ultimately cause antibiotic resistance.
The UK scientists underlined the fact that sludge and slurry derived from UK sewerage is used to fertilize arable and grazing farming land all of the UK.
This sludge and slurry contains quarternary ammonium compounds from household and personal care products which the study linked to genetic elements known to carry antibiotic genes into the soil.
Although all of these scientific studies are still in the early stages and will need further investigation, further research is likely to make personal care chemical pollution an increasingly important issue in the future.