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  • Writer's pictureSophia Wang

Detergents and Chemical Water Pollution

Water is one of the most valuable resources on the planet, which is why chemical water pollution is a large concern. Per capita, the detergent consumption in the US is 10 kg per year, meaning the potential for substances in detergents to pollute water is very high, and does happen very often.

Detergents contain many different chemicals that are harmful to both human and environmental health. Nonylphenol, a dangerous chemical, can enter bodies of water and bioaccumulate in organisms throughout the food web, so far seen as causing reproductive and developmental effects in rodents. In addition, phosphate salts make up anywhere from 35%-75% of detergents, which slow the biodegradation of organic substances and cause eutrophication (algal blooms that deprive the water of dissolved oxygen). In terms of effects on fish, detergents can destroy mucus layers that protect the fish from bacteria and parasites. Based on previous studies, most fish die when detergent concentrations are around 15 parts per million, but 5 ppm can kill fish eggs. Other substances in detergents such as herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals can make the water murkier, blocking light and slowing the growth of plants, as well as clogging the respiratory system of some fish.

Contaminated water bodies can contain pathogens, causing disease for both organisms and humans.


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