Monday, December 28, 2009

Water Pollution Of A River And The Clean Up 33 Years Later

by Donnalynn Polito

In checking out the news today, I saw that  the Ottawa River in Ohio is finally being cleaned up of its pollution.  What, I wondered, was in the Ottawa River that made its waters polluted and why now to clean it up.  A further read into the article produced some toxic chemical names that we all have heard of before.

Polychlorinated biphenyls or PCPs, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, called PAHs; and heavy metals.

What struck me was that PCPs were outlawed in 1976.  Isn’t the year 2009?  You mean to tell me it has taken 33 years before this chemical is getting cleaned up from a river in Ohio?

In Toledo, Ohio, the Ottawa River will have 260,000 cubic yards of contaminated sediment removed in an effort to reduce the impacts on human health and the environment.

And where does all the 260,000 cubic yards of contamination go?  To the landfill where, I suspect, it can seep for another 30-some years.  Well, funny you should mention it. 

The article goes on to state that about 5% of the contaminated sediment is too dangerous to put into landfill, so it will go to specialized licensed landfills.

While the city and its representatives are really happy about this step forward, it took the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s lawsuit against the City of Toledo and 13 businesses before any action was taken.

So what are these chemicals and how do they get into the water?

Let’s start with polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs.  PCBs were widely used in many industrial applications.  They were used as coolants, as the oil in transformers, as plasticizers in paint and cement, in flame retardants, lubricating oils, sealants such as caulking in schools and commercial buildings, adhesives in floor finishes, on and on.   It seems like PCBs were used everywhere.

PCBs are fairly inert chemically and are very stable compounds.  They do not degrade very easily.  Their toxicity, however, was recognized as early as 1937.  It took until the 1970s for PCBs to be outlawed.

Because they were used in so many applications and because they do not degrade very easily, PCBs still remain in the environment and are a concern to everyone.

Polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons or PAHs are one of the most widespread organic pollutants.  PAHs are found in fossil fuels and tar deposits.  They are also produced as byproducts to burning fuel as hydrocarbon emissions.

Because of their molecular structure, different types of combustion produce different types of pollutants or mixtures of PAHs.   PAHs are produced by the incomplete combustion of carbon contained in fuels like wood, coal, diesel, fat, tobacco or incense.  So, coal burning would produce a different type of PAH from a motor fuel combustion. 

Heavy metals are anybody’s guess and the term is often called meaningless or misleading since a large variation of heavy metals exist in the environment and some are actually required for human health.   As trace elements, humans need heavy metals for our metabolic systems. 

Our concern is with the heavy metals that don’t have any benefit to the environment.  In fact, over time, the accumulation of these heavy metals become toxic and can cause considerable damage to living organisms.

The pollution from heavy metals can come from many sources.  A common source is the smelting of copper, the preparation of nuclear fuels, electroplating, and the mining and refining of metals. 

Heavy metals accumulate over time, lay dormant and do not decay.  This makes clean up particularly difficult and worrisome.

Lakes Don’t Do Much Better and Are In Poor Health

In our natural and man-made lakes, we have similar issues.  Mercury in game fish is still an issue as well as PCBs  which are also found in lakes. 

Nitrogen and phosphorous are found at high levels in many lakes.  Excess amounts of these elements produce algae blooms, weed growth, reduce water clarity and make other lake problems. 

As survey work continues to be done, we can evaluate the progress we are making in cleaning up our waters and restoring the quality of our lakes and waters.

Cleaning products are a source of significant amounts of phosphorous in our water.  Alternative cleaners are safe and effective.  Why use less phosphorus-containing compound cleaning systems when you don’t need it at all? 

Find out why wowgreen cleaning products are like no other cleaning product.  They are safe for you, your family, your pets and the water!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Safe Drinking Water Facts Reveal Contamination

by Donnalynn Polito

“A glass of safe drinking water, please” in response to the waiter, hardly!  Do you mutter to yourself on a hot, dry day, ‘ah, at last, a glass of safe drinking water to quench my thirst’.  I doubt it.

Or, as a visiting guest at someone’s home, when they offer you a glass of water, do you think, ‘hmmm, is this drinking water safe for me to drink?’

Knowing that our water systems are regulated, we gulp down what comes before us with hardly a thought about its performance in and to our bodies.  We believe our drinking water to be safe drinking water.

On closer look, recent research has revealed our safe drinking water is contaminated.  In fact, after millions of tests by water utilities, 315 pollutants have been identified to be in our tap water. 

Recent studies have shown that an estimated 64 million Americans are exposed to and drink contaminated tap water.  To find out more about what’s in your drinking water, sign up for our DYI Greenstyle Tips.

“Only 91 contaminants are regulated by the Safe Drinking Water Act, yet more than 60,000 chemicals are used within the United States, according to Environmental Protection Agency estimates.”  That Tap Water is Legal but May Be Unhealthy by Charles Duhigg, New York Times, published December 16, 2009.

EcolivingGreenstyle has been following Charles Duhigg’s series on Toxic Waters.  You can watch his video on Tainted Tap Water here.

Federal regulations are outdated and do not keep up with the thousands of chemicals added each year to our world and ultimately to our water supply. 

Perhaps some hesitation now comes over you before you gulp down that glass of water whether it comes from the tap or from bottled water.

Purifying your water at home is a start.  Seeing that some of these pollutants don’t reach the water is another step that you can take.  Non toxic household cleaning products is an easy place to start.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Enzyme Green Cleaning Products

by Donnalynn Polito

Enzymes have changed cleaning products both in how they work in our homes and how they work in the environment. Enzymes have made our cleaning products green.

Using enzymes in our cleaning products bring a lot of benefit because they eliminate the need for chemicals to do the job. Enzymes are non-toxic to us and the world around us and have the potential of reducing tons of carbon dioxide that’s pouring into our atmosphere.

So what are these enzymes that do so much of the heavy lifting to green our world?

Often I hear people ask if enzymes and green cleaning products do the cleaning job that we’re accustomed to and looking for. The answer is a resounding Yes!

In this article, I am going to give a simplified explanation of enzymes, what they are, how they work and their role in greening our household cleaning products.

Why Think Enzymes For Green Cleaning?

Enzymes were brought on board for household cleaning products because they break down the large stuff, like soil and stains, which are insoluble and turn them into smaller water soluble pieces of soil and stains. This breakdown allows the actual mechanics of the cleaning action to then wisk away the dirt.

Also, enzymes don’t stop working.  In other words, they continue to work, stain after stain. Because they continue working, a small amount of enzymes can do the job of a much large amount of chemicals.

Enzymes don’t require a high temperature to begin their action, like lots detergents do. Recently, chemical detergents have been reformulated to work in cold water, but they still contain other toxins that we need to watch out for.

There are about four enzymes used in household cleaning products and each enzymes works on a specific task. Some household cleaning products only contain one or two enzymes. Others have figured out a way to combine more enzymes that produces a product completely non-toxic.  A product you could eat, not that you’d want to.

And, of course, enzymes are fully biodegradable, which we all love and are grateful for.

Enzymes Speed It Up And Break It Down

Enzymes are proteins that speed up biological reactions and break down molecules to smaller, molecules that are easier to handle within a system. Just like our digestive systems, enzymes are responsible for breaking down the foods we eat which then get wisked away into our bloodstream.

Enzymes are found in all living organisms and are responsible for many of the biological reactions that happen within these organisms. Enzymes are made up of amino acids which are necessary for all metabolic processes or chemical reactions.

Because enzymes speed up chemical reactions, they are called biological catalysts. In order to manufacture products that contain the enzymes, a fermentation process is used. This fermentation process multiplies and harvests these biological catalysts which can then be used in a variety of industrial products, including our household cleaning products.

With cleaning products, enzymes break down the larger components or molecules into smaller ones which then get wisked away by the mechanical washing action.

The really cool thing about enzymes is that they speed up the metabolic process but do not get used up in the process. So, they go from stain to stain doing their work.

Enzymes used in household cleaning products include the following. Proteases work on soils and stains that contain proteins. An example would be grass and blood. The proteases enzymes work to breakdown long-chain proteins into smaller-chain proteins which are then washed away.

Stains from sauces, ice cream and gravies are broken down by the Amylases enzyme that removes starch-based soils. Again these enzymes breakdown larger molecules into smaller ones to be wisked away in the cleaning process.

The Lipases enzyme removes oil and grease, while the Cellulases enzyme provides general cleaning benefits like whitening and softening the fabric.

Putting Enzymes To Work For Us

Because the work of enzymes can be done in lower water temperatures than traditional chemicals, less water and energy is used in the cleaning process. Using less energy always cascades to less environmental pollution.

Enzymes are very cost effective. Enzymes can be used over and over, so more work can be done using less product.

Enzymes have a high efficiency rate because they replace the larger amounts of chemicals required in traditional cleaning products for the same amount of clean.

Enzymes are beneficial to the surfaces they are cleaning. They aren’t as abrasive so they don’t destroy the fabric.

Enzymes are fully biodegradable and save large amounts of raw materials. Enzymes also save energy and water because shorter washing cycles are required.

Enzymes work faster because they cause natural reactions to occur faster.

We can see why enzymes increase the performance of our household clean products and why it’s not only beneficial to the planet and frees our world of toxins, enzyme based products make our workload easier and saves us time, something we all are in need of.