Household detergents, shampoos may form harmful substance in waste water

Apr 07, 2010
Dishwashing detergent is among the household cleaning products containing ingredients that could form a cancer-causing contaminant in wastewater. Credit: iStock

Scientists are reporting evidence that certain ingredients in shampoo, detergents and other household cleaning agents may be a source of precursor materials for formation of a suspected cancer-causing contaminant in water supplies that receive water from sewage treatment plants. The study sheds new light on possible environmental sources of this poorly understood water contaminant, called NDMA, which is of ongoing concern to health officials. Their study is in ACS' Environmental Science & Technology.

William Mitch and colleagues note that scientists have known that NDMA and other nitrosamines can form in small amounts during the disinfection of wastewater and with chloramine.

Although nitrosamines are found in a wide variety of sources — including processed meats and tobacco smoke — scientists know little about their precursors in water. Past studies with cosmetics have found that substances called quaternary amines, which are also ingredients in household cleaning agents, may play a role in the formation of nitrosamines.

Their laboratory research showed that when mixed with chloramine, some household cleaning products — including shampoo, dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent - formed NDMA. The report notes that sewage treatment plants may remove some of quaternary amines that form NDMA. However, quaternary amines are used in such large quantities that some still may persist and have a potentially harmful effect in the effluents from sewage treatment plants.

Explore further: Coral growth rate plummets in 30-year comparison

More information: "Quaternary Amines As Nitrosamine Precursors: A Role for Consumer Products?", Environmental Science & Technology.

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Study: Drugs from sewage not dangerous

Jul 14, 2006

A Canadian study has suggested adverse effects are unlikely on aquatic life from drugs passed through human waste released from sewage treatment plants.

Respiratory risk from hospital cleaning fluids

Mar 27, 2009

Cleaning fluids used in hospitals may pose a health risk to both staff and patients. A pilot study published in BioMed Central’s open access journal Environmental Health has found that potentially hazardous chemicals are cont ...

Lead leaching and faucet corrosion in PVC home plumbing

Jun 02, 2008

Scientists in Virginia are reporting that home plumbing systems constructed with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastic pipes may be more susceptible to leaching of lead and copper into drinking water than other ...

Recommended for you

Coral growth rate plummets in 30-year comparison

6 hours ago

A team of researchers working on a Carnegie expedition in Australia's Great Barrier Reef has documented that coral growth rates have plummeted 40% since the mid-1970s. The scientists suggest that ocean acidification ...

Environmentalists and industry duke it out over plastic bags

7 hours ago

Campaigns against disposable plastic shopping bags and their environmental impact recently scored a major win. In August, California lawmakers passed the first statewide ban on the bags, and Governor Jerry Brown is expected ...

Global change: Trees continue to grow at a faster rate

8 hours ago

Trees have been growing significantly faster since the 1960s. The typical development phases of trees and stands have barely changed, but they have accelerated—by as much as 70 percent. This was the outcome ...

User comments : 0