It seems obvious that exposure to powerful cleaning products, including bleach, isn’t ideal, but now there’s powerful evidence of just how harmful they can be.
Using them just once a week could increase a person’s chances of developing chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) by nearly a third, according to a recent 30-year study from Harvard University and the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research. This isn’t the first time a link has been shown between serious health problems and everyday spray products. The culprit used to be phosphates, once the heroes of gleam, and omnipresent in laundry and dishwasher detergent. But in water, phosphates caused toxic bacteria growth. They were stopped, primarily by us – revolting consumers (in every sense).
But still we yearned for the sparkling cleanliness brought by phosphates, so they were reinstated – a pyrrhic victory if ever there was one. In 2015, the EU-mandated detergent directive finally removed them from our grasp. I bet few noticed.
So let’s not cling on to bleach with the same desperation. Remember we already have a coterie of excellent ecological alternatives.
At the top of this tree is Ecover (the company also acquired Method in 2012), whose full range of products (including a bleach-free loo cleaner) makes use of plant-based ingredients (as opposed to oil-based) that are truly biodegradable.
I prefer to pay a few pence extra to those with a pioneering history in the R&D of ecological cleaning chemistry, as Ecover does. My money goes here rather than to ersatz supermarket own-brand “green” versions that carry a strong scent of greenwash.
The big picture: the Ugandan gold rush
Ian Berry’s images portray the lives of artisanal gold miners trapped in an endless cycle of poverty in Busia, Uganda. Here they search in terrible conditions for tiny amounts of gold as a source of a few pence a day. Recently efforts have been made to bring Fairtrade certified gold to market. The first few symbolic grains will be presented during Berry’s exhibition at Goldsmiths’ Centre, London (until 27 October, fairlux.co.uk).
Well dressed: fabric inspired by coral reefs
It’s more than a decade since designer Deborah Milner collaborated with cosmetics brand Aveda to create her Ecoture collection. The project took inspiration from the belief that companies can profit without exploiting others. That collaboration was groundbreaking, showing the fledgling ethical fashion movement that sustainable design could also be beautiful and made with great precision. After many years spent running the bespoke McQueen Couture Studio, Milner now returns with Regenerating the Reef, her own couture collection, created by working with silk weavers in Sussex (aotextiles.com). Linking the collection to one of Milner’s concerns, the destruction of coral reef, 10% of sales from the launch will go to fund work by MARfund.org to help to preserve the Mesoamerican Reef.
Regenerating the Reef: Contemporary fabrics by deborahmilner.net
Email Lucy at email@example.com or follow her on Twitter @lucysiegle
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