In 2015 a market analysis carried out by OC&C Strategy Consultants crowned Procter & Gamble (P&G) as the second largest and strongest of all fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies; having earned $83.00 billion in sales throughout the previous 2014 year alone (Consultancy U.K., 2017). P&G’s brand Tide – a popular laundry detergent –, on the other hand, is at the moment considered to be the leading liquid laundry detergent in the U.S. according to statistics portal Statista (Statista, 2017). It seems that up to now, for the year of 2017, Tide has managed to amass approximately $1 million worth of sales (Statista, 2017).
Behind the colossal corporation
Always, Guillette, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Old Spice, Oral-B and Vicks are simply a slight portion of the more than fifty brands that stand below gigantic P&G’s umbrella. Proclaimed by Forbes as the 89th most innovative company in the world (Forbes, 2017), this multinational corporation claims to be making its customers’ days better by making their lives easier (Procter & Gamble, 2017). According to its leaders, the company aims building a better world within and without its premises, while also aiming at becoming sustainable in the future (Procter & Gamble, 2017). Lately, P&G has agreed to disclose all fragrance ingredients that surpass a 0.01% concentration by the end of 2019 for its fabric, home and beauty care products (LaVito, A., 2017). A move that comes as a response to clients demanding more information with respect to the products they buy. Furthermore, P&G has also released an ad recently that touches upon the topic of racism against African Americans through history (Morgan, D., 2017).
Nonetheless, despite of the kindness with which it seems to act, P&G has proven over the years to be one the world’s most controversial companies. A few months ago, for instance, the giant was sued for violating New York’s deceptive and unfair trade practices act; as its deodorant brand Old Spice has apparently been causing irritation, injuries and rashes to some of its buyers (Brunsman, B.J., 2017). Similar lawsuits were filed against P&G a few years back due to side effects associated with its osteoporosis drug, Actonel (Jackson, I., 2017), which appears to have been linked to sudden bone fractures, bladder cancer and an uncommon bone condition named osteonecrosis of the jaw (Drug Dangers, 2017). In 2011, the European Commission fined P&G a total of €315.2 million for having had operated a cartel next to Unilever and Henkel, for household laundry powder detergents (European Commission, 2011); and in 2012 another punch was thrown at the giant after carcinogenic chemical 1,4-dioxane was found to be contained in its Tide laundry detergent without warning the public about it (Westervelt, A., 2012). This resulted in P&G reformulating laundry products by 2013, to contain lower levels of this toxic substance.
A deep look into Tide HE liquid laundry detergent
Tide offers an extensive range of laundry detergent products. From PODS® to a variety of powder detergents and from stain removers to laundry boosters; this well-equipped brand seems to cover it all (Tide, 2017). For the purpose of this review, however, we will be evaluating three of the Tide HE liquid laundry detergent’s components.
Tide HE liquid laundry detergent is made up of 28 main ingredients, consisting of the following:
|Disodium Diaminostilbene Disulfonate||Brightener||Make clothes appear brighter and whiter|
|Citric Acid||Builder||Adjusts detergent’s pH balance for optimal results|
|Diethylenetriamine Pentaacetate||Builder||Captures soils and helps remove stains|
|Liquitint Blue||Colorant||Provide color for aesthetic and differentiation purposes|
|Amylase||Enzyme||Breaks down starch-based soils and stains|
|Mannanase||Enzyme||Breaks down guar gums|
|Pectinase||Enzyme||Breaks down pectin-based soils and stains|
|Protease||Enzyme||Breaks down soils and stains containing protein|
|Sodium Hydroxide||PH Adjustment||Adjusts detergent’s pH balance for optimal results|
|Diquaternium Ethoxy Sulfate||Polymer||Lifts clay soils out of fabrics|
|Polyethyleneimine Ethoxylate||Process Aid||Lifts stains and soils out of fabrics|
|Calcium Formate||Process Aid||Stabilizes enzymes|
|Diethylene Glycol||Process Aid||Ensures ingredients are evenly distributed|
|Dimethicone||Process Aid||Prevent excess sudsing|
|Ethanol||Process Aid||Keeps other ingredients in solution|
|Ethanolamine||Process Aid||Keeps different types of surfactants evenly distributed and stabilizes enzymes|
|Propylene Glycol||Process Aid||Stabilizes enzymes and solvents to ensure ingredients are evenly distributed|
|Sodium Cumene Sulfonate||Process Aid||Keeps different types of surfactants evenly distributed and improves emulsifying and dispersing functions|
|Sodium Formate||Process Aid||Balances electrolytes|
|Alcohol Ethoxylate||Surfactant||Penetrates stains and extracts soils|
|Alcoholethoxy Sulfate||Surfactant||Penetrates stains, extracts soils and suspends stain particles|
|Lauren-9||Surfactant||Penetrates stains and extracts soils|
|Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate||Surfactant||Penetrates stains, extracts soils and suspends stain particles|
|Sodium Fatty Acids||Surfactant||Cleans many kinds of soils|
Optical brightener, Disodium Diaminostilbene Disulfonate, is commonly used in laundry detergents, softeners and bleach products. According to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), up until now, this substance has proven to be of moderate concern due to the fact that is not anaerobically degradable and that it has a moderate acute toxicity to marine life (EWG, 2017).
Borax, the salt of boric acid, is frequently used in cleaning products, personal care products and goopy toys such as Play Doh. Though it is usually sold as a “green product”, this substance is basically a pesticide that harms or kills fungus, weeds and insects. When it comes to its impact on human health, borax is known to cause irritation to the skin, eyes or when ingesting it and inhaling it. Boric acid, a relative of borax, has also been linked to the disruption of hormones and the harming of the male reproductive system (EWG, 2011). Borax is generally also known as sodium borate, sodium tetraborate or disodium tetraborate.
Despite the information surrounding this ingredient is fairly limited, a previous study on diethylene Glycol showed that both female and male rats were killed after a 10 day -short term- exposure and 14 to 84 days post exposure of the substance via inhalation (Mangelsdorf, I. & Boehncke, A., 2002). Whereas a similar short term oral exposure of the substance proved to produce changes in the rats male’s reproductive system (Mangelsdorf, I. & Boehncke, A., 2011).
A few other ingredients present in Tide HE liquid laundry detergent, which are listed as medium hazards by the goodguide.com are propylene glycol, diethylenetriamine and polystyrene (Good Guide, 2017).
Immediate impact on the natural world
Other than the negative effects mentioned above, Tide HE liquid laundry detergent has the additional disadvantage of being packed in plastic. As many people might already know, plastics are associated with a myriad of health and environmental issues. Not only do plastics not biodegrade like organic materials do; on top of this, many different kinds of plastics are not even recyclable. Consequently, plastics have managed to invade and contaminate our soils, waterways and oceans in the past few years. This situation has proven to be extremely detrimental to marine life and it poses a serious threat to us human beings too, as these materials release toxic chemicals like bisphenol A (BPA) and PS oligomer that often end up in our food our drinking water (Harris, W., 2017).
Safer and healthier substitutes
Homemade laundry detergents are without a doubt the healthiest and safest substitutes to commercial ones. By preparing them yourself, you don’t only have control over the ingredients you use, but also the container in which you put them. Usual ingredients used to make laundry detergents are bar soap (coconut oil-, tallow-, lard-based or castile), washing soda, essential oils and non-GMO white vinegar. Many websites now a days offer easy instructions on how to make and use these homemade recipes.
Soap nuts are another natural option. These are basically berry shells that are obtained from the Soap Berry Tree (Sapindus Mukorossi) in the Himalayas (Eco Nuts, 2017). Brands that produce natural detergents, on the other hand, include Molly Suds, Honest Free & Clear, Biokleen, Ultra, and Sun & Earth. The only drawback of these brands, however, is that they do use plastic as packaging. An alternative brand that uses carton instead of plastic is Seventh Generation for its natural laundry powder detergent.
Call to action
As customers we have the inherent right to knowing what we are exactly buying and who we are buying it from; especially if that which we buy ends up in our natural surrounding and eventually inside our bodies. Only by knowing about the ingredients, processes, actions and values that stand behind the products we buy, can we know if we are giving our money to the right companies. So let’s continue to strive for supporting those products that respect ourselves, our natural world and the magnificent creatures that inhabit it. Let each and every one of our purchases become a vote for life.
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