What is it? Nonylphenol ethoxylates (or NPEs) are a mix of cleaning agent that find their way into laundry detergents, dryer sheets, soaps and degreasing agents. They are excellent surfactants, meaning they lower the surface tension of water allowing for a deeper clean each time they are used. While toxic in their natural state, the most scary thing about NPEs are that as they break down, they metabolize into an even more dangerous compound. They have been banned in Canada and Europe, but the rest of us are still pouring a load of toxins in with that load of laundry.
Health Risk: The distinguishing factor between NPEs and other toxic cleaning agents is their ability to morph into an even more powerful toxin as they start to break down. This toxin, called nonylphenol, is a major endocrine disruptor and can cause early puberty, reproductive system complications, and major hormone imbalances.
The buck doesn’t stop with humans, however. NPEs enter our lakes, rivers and oceans via our sewer system and stay there – for a while. Since they break down very slowly, the amount of time our marine life is exposed to NPEs is extremely high. It is putting their reproductive growth in danger, making them develop multiple genders of sex organs, lowering sperm count, turning males into females and slowly increasing their mortality. All this for a clean load of laundry? We – and our ecosystem – deserve better.
What To Do: We were thrilled to hear that Proctor & Gamble, one of the largest corporations around when it comes to keeping your space tidy, has already voluntarily opted to keep their products NPE-free. It is a step in the right direction!
Non-Toxic Alternatives to Try: One of our absolute favorite household cleaning brands, Caldrea, is NPE-free and comes in an array of luxurious scents like Rosewater Driftwood and Palmarosa Wild Mint. Suds up!