What we wash down the drain

Just because it’s down a sink doesn’t mean it’s gone for good. So many conventional shampoos, conditioners, skincare and cleaning products end up in our waterways as general wastewater. In most places wastewater is filtered, but this filtration doesn’t often remove synthetic fragrance compounds. That means thousands upon thousands of fragrance compounds free-flowing into our rivers, lakes and into the sea completely undetected!

Synthetic musk is a common, potent fragrance ingredient and is particularly hard to break down in the environment. In 1999 the EPA (United States Environmental Protection Agency) sponsored a review that concluded synthetic musks were ‘toxicologically significant’. The review describes musks as ‘ubiquitous, persistent, bioaccumulative pollutants that are sometimes highly toxic’. It highlights the fact that these musks are constantly renewing in the environment, so even if some molecules cause no problems, there’ll always be more to take their place.

This isn’t just a concern for water quality, but for the creatures that call it home too. The review also confirmed that synthetic musks can accumulate in the fatty tissue of aquatic life.

Vicki Lamb