As I washed dishes in a house we rented with friends in Maine this summer, I pondered the dish soap (yes, I know many of you are avid label readers, too– what else is there to do when you wash dishes?).
It was Dawn dish soap, and on the label it had a picture of a mallard duck flying. It read, “Rescuing Wildlife for 25 years.” As I searched the label, I found no information about exactly what wildlife they were supposedly saving. Not even a link to a website for more information.
Apparently, us consumers are just supposed to see the wildlife, sigh, and think happy thoughts as we buy Dawn soap to use on our dishes. When in reality, Dawn dish soap is poisoning the very wildlife it is supposedly saving.
How? Dawn antibacterial dish soap contains the chemical Tricolsan, which is in everything from toothpaste, to hand soap, and many, many other household and personal care items, is toxic to both humans and the environment (according the Environmental Working Group).
The chemical bioaccumulates in humans as well as animals, and can cause problems with the functioning of the thyroid, and (according the the Environmental Working Group):
“Triclosan may also disrupt other critical hormone systems. A recent lab study found the chemical to exert both estrogenic and androgenic effects on human breast cancer cells (Gee 2008). Studies of fish suggest that triclosan may have weak androgenic (Foran 2000) or anti-estrogenic effects (Matsumura 2005), while a metabolite of triclosan may have estrogenic effects (Ishibashi 2004).”
This is yet another example of a chemical that may be contributing to the early onset of puberty in our children, or the increasing rate of breast cancer in our country.
But back to wildlife, and Dawn soap. Tricolsan is poisoning waterways, and effecting aquatic life there. According to Healthy Child, Healthy World:
“Since wastewater treatment plants fail to remove triclosan from the water and the compound is highly stable for long periods of time, a huge amount of triclosan is emitted into waterways. In a U.S. Geological Survey study of 95 different organic wastewater contaminants in U.S. streams, triclosan is one of the most frequently detected compounds, and in some of the highest concentrations.”
Once in the waterways, triclosan is toxic to aquatic life such as algae, invertebrates and fish. And as those organisms travel up the food web, I am sure even that lovely mallard duck depicted on the Dawn soap is affected.
A greenwash, pure and simple.
(I did find a link on Dawn’s website about how they are saving wildlife. Apparently, they donate bottles of their products to help clean up after oil spills. This is a great effort, and I applaud it. But I do think if the company is truly interested in saving wildlife, it will make its products less toxic for all humans, wildlife and waterways of the world.)