Household Detergents and Shampoos Form Harmful Substance in Wastewater

Certain ingredients in shampoo, detergents and other cleaning agents may help form a suspected cancer-causing contaminant in water. The poorly understood water contaminant, called NDMA, is of ongoing concern to health officials.

NDMA and other nitrosamines can form during water disinfection with chloramine. Substances called quaternary amines, which are found in cosmetics and household cleaning agents, may play a role in the formation of nitrosamines.

Eurekalert reports:

“... laboratory research showed that when mixed with chloramine, some household cleaning products -- including shampoo, dishwashing detergent and laundry detergent -- formed NDMA ... quaternary amines are used in such large quantities that some still may persist and have a potentially harmful effect in the effluents from sewage treatment plants.”

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