Monday, 1 August 2011

Your shampoo is killing the Baltic and the planet

Bio Musings with Dr. Carin Bondar - Sticklebacks Episode from Matthew Hawkins on Vimeo.

Look at the back of your shampoo bottle.  You will see a list of ingredients.  They may sound something like this: Linear alkylbenzene sulphonic acid (LAS), Anionic, Sodium dodecyl sulphate (SDS), Alkyl sulphate (AS), Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS), Alkyl ethoxysulphate (AES), Quaternary ammonium compound (QAC), Cationic Benzalkonium chloride (BAC), Cetylpyridinium bromide CPB, Cetylpyridinium chloride CPC,
Amine oxide AO Amphoteric, Alkylphenol ethoxylate (APE) Alcohol ethoxylate AE Nonionic, Fatty acid ethoxylate (FAE)......did you see any of these?

So as you are washing yourself with a vast amount of soap or shampoo from any of the major manufacturers these chemicals are going down the drain.  This might not concern you until you travel down the road to order a plate of sushi.  It might not concern you until you to the beach.   The quantity that we are using to get our clothes, our car and ourselves clean is killing the environment slowly.

Concerns about ecotoxicity of surfactants arise from their tremendous exploitation in everyday life. Once the soap or detergent goes down the drain much of it might be degraded in wastewater treatment plants.  However, some of these surfactants may escape this and find itself in the general aquatic system where we get our fish and swim.  These surfactants may be found  in various levels in sewage effl uents, waste water treatment plant effluents, surface waters, dry sludge, sludge-amended soils, or sediment. Excessive use of any type of surfactants and their disposal in the environment, especially in aquaticbodies, could seriously affect the ecosystem. This is ever present in the Baltic where it is legal to flush grey water (water from your boat used for dishes) into the Baltic directly. 

Although the present risk is that these surfactants are below highly toxic level they still affect the aquatic system. The total amount of these surfactants present in the environment may be tested by a portable surface tension device or possibly some other instruments.  Even small amounts could disrupt some of the ecosystem bacteria in the water which are highly sensitive to surfactants.  The fish that we eat are also affected with anionic SDS (present in most shampoo) showed toxic effects in juvenile seabass.  Fish seem to take up anionic LAS through gills and another surfactant APE accumulates in trout (REF).  Lastly the plant life is affected by phosphates and surfactant from detergents that make themselves present in the water.  The Baltic has increased in the blue green algal blooms making it dangerous to swim due to the toxins. Not only is it dangerous for us to swim it is impossible for fish like the three-spined sticklebacks to find mates.  It is like trying to find a mate in a dimly lit nightclub.  (Watch video above).  Our detergents are killing the overall ecosystem affecting the bacteria, the fish, the plants which also affect the fish and now affecting us!!!   

So.....since stopping to wash yourself is probably not the best solution as I might have to sit next to you on the next train.  One solution would be to use less detergents and soap in your everyday life.  Also use detergents that do not contain APE and are more environmentally friendly.  For boaters they can put the gray water into their septic tank rather than right into the ocean.  Some of these measures might help save the Baltic and our planet a little longer.