For several years, laundry detergent companies were fighting to win the title of the brightest colors and whites. To make the fabrics appear brighter and cleaner, a lot of famous companies utilize optical brighteners in the formulas of their detergent.
However, what should you know about optical brighteners? How do these work and what are the environmental repercussions may stem from their use?
Optical Brighteners and What Should You Know about Them?
Optical brighteners are also known as brightening agents, optical whiteners, and fluorescent bleaches, which are the chemicals made to help the fabrics appear to be much cleaner, lessening the fabric’s natural yellowing, and brightening colors of the fabric over time.
The ingredients like benzoxazolyl and coumarins are frequently shown on the labels of the laundry detergents. Yet often are basically omitted.
How Optical Brighteners Work?
You can recall your mother or your grandmother using the product known as bluing liquid in their laundry to make the whites appear much brighter.
These bluing agents get rid of the yellow light to lessen yellow tinge. While the optical brighteners work in a different way. Such agents absorb the ultraviolet light and emit them back as visible blue light.
The blue light masks yellowing that can be present in the treated materials. And make these seem whiter and brighter than it would appear naturally to the eye.
Your clothes are not cleaner than they would be once you used a detergent without the brightening agents. Yet they appear to be.
The optical brighteners are not effective unless they remain on fabric after washing. The clothes washed in the detergents containing such agents will have chemical residue that is left behind on the fabric.
That is the reason why the line-dried clothing feels stiff often unless fluffed in the dryer. The laundered clothing in the detergent without the optical whiteners feels soft right off the fabric’s line.
Are Optical Brighteners Safe for You and Your Family?
When it comes to your family’s health, the exposure to the optical brighteners that remain on laundry by design may cause skin reactions and eye irritations in sensitive people.
A lot of times, the skin rashes blamed on the dyes and fragrance commonly are caused by optical brighteners. So such detergents must not be used by people who have sensitive skin.
The brightening agents bind irreversibly to your skin and while it has not been shown to affect health negatively. This has not been proven safe. There isn’t enough information available to evaluate how safe the optical brighteners when used over a long period of time.
How Safe Optical Brighteners to the Environment?
The optical brighteners are less benign in terms of environmental perspective. The optical whiteners contain some chemicals, which can be toxic to the fish and some plant and animal life.
Some have been shown to cause bacteria mutations. Aside from that, such chemicals are slow to biodegrade into their less dangerous component parts. That is why the pollution remains in the wastewater for a long period.
It only means that when they are introduced into the local waterways through household wastewater. They will remain there as the pollutants for quite some time. Which can affect the animal or plant life and water quality negatively.
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