Some fluorescent whitening agents create various harmful elements, including carcinogenic ones, which lead to different diseases
A new study has found fluorescent whitening agents (FWAs) over the expected level — which is hazardous to public health — in most of the laundry detergents currently being sold at the markets in Bangladesh.
These agents play roles in developing different types of ailments, including allergies, skin and kidney diseases, and affecting genes in human body, according to the study’s preliminary findings.
It said that some of these FWAs or optical brighteners, which are added to detergents to make the clothes appear cleaner, even create carcinogenic elements after going through chemical reactions with the ultraviolet ray.
The study was conducted by Jahangirnagar University (JU) student Nahin Mostofa Niloy, who recently completed his masters in environmental sciences from JU.
His teacher Prof Dr Shafi Mohammad Tareq supervised the research, which was funded by and conducted under the University Grants Commission (UGC).
Niloy told Dhaka Tribune that they conducted tests on detergents of 10 popular brands that are being sold in the markets at present. “Amount of fluorescent whitening agents and their intensity in most of them are over the expected level, which is 0.15%.”
He declined to reveal the names of the brands and the excessive percentage of the FWAs for the time being in line with their research policy.
“These are our preliminary findings. We are sharing them now to bring them into public concern. Further testing is pending and we’ll share the final results after we get them,” he said.
However, if any government agency wants to look into the matter, they will help them by sharing the research data, Niloy added.
How is this happening?
Niloy said they used spectrophotometer and excitation emission matrix to verify the FWA intensity level in the detergents.
He said most of the brands use a whitening agent named Tinopole in their detergents, which ends up in the water bodies and rivers from homes and industrial zones after clothes are washed.
These hazardous FWAs, such as Tinopole, mixes with water and marine biology, and ends up in human body through the food chain and develops the diseases, he said.
FWAs were found in Padma River and the water bodies in Jahangirnagar University during the research.
Citing a US study, Niloy said that these chemicals are so strong that water treatment plants are unable to purify the water by discarding them. They also create carcinogenic elements by reacting to the chemicals used to purify water in the final stage of the process.
JU’s Environmental Sciences Department teacher Prof Dr Shafi Mohammad Tareq told Dhaka Tribune that this preliminary result of their study, which was submitted to the UGC last month, was very important.
“People didn’t consider before the existence of such hazardous elements in detergents. This will now alert the people,” he added.