ECPI Responds

Response to stories about chemicals released into water from washing machines

Articles published on 11 August 2016 in The Sun, Daily Mail and Telegraph reported about a study from the University of Toronto claiming that clothing can trap certain chemicals – including phthalate plasticisers – which are then released into the water of the washing machine and may ultimately reach the sewerage system.

ECPI would like to point out that:

  • First of all, the study shows notable differences across the different phthalates being studied. When reporting about chemicals and their effects, it is important to avoid all-encompassing, generic terms like “phthalates”. There are many kinds of plasticisers and phthalates are just one type representing a wide range of chemicals. They are all different in terms of their properties and regulatory status.
  • Secondly, it is important to note that detection of the presence of certain substances at very low levels does not mean there is a risk for human health. Human biomonitoring research has shown that exposure to phthalates – regardless of whether they have been absorbed dermally, by ingestion or inhalation– does not exceed agreed health guidance values and what’s more, the five phthalates analysed are readily biodegradable. Exposure to such low levels as the ones described in the study poses no risk, and claiming the contrary is scaremongering.