Saturday, November 22, 2008
This from iVillage.com
The Dish on Your Dishwasher
A critical epicenter of activity in our kitchens is the dishwasher. Fifty-one percent of all American homes have one of these time- and labor-saving devices, yet it surprises many to learn that they're the most toxic appliances in the modern home.
Over the course of approximately 30 experiments, researchers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the University of Texas recently documented the dishwasher's role as a leading cause of indoor air pollution. Pollutants released by dishwashers include the chlorine added to both public water supplies and dishwasher detergents, volatile organic compounds like chloroform, radioactive radon naturally present in some water sources, and other volatile contaminants that have worked their way into public water supplies. When these materials are exposed to the piping-hot water that circulates through your dishwasher as it cleans, they are easily "stripped out" and evaporated into the air.
Depending on the material in question and your water temperature, dishwashers can reach 100 percent efficiency when it comes to transferring water pollutants and detergent chemicals to indoor air. Because these machines vent about six liters of air per minute into your home as they work, they're continuously releasing any water-borne toxins throughout each operating cycle. Even more problematic, the air pollution created by routine venting is often exceeded by the single large burst of contaminated steam that's released whenever a dishwasher is opened before its contents have cooled.
Although it certainly sounds a little odd to say, protecting yourself from your dishwasher means taking steps like these:
Ventilate your kitchen during and after dishwasher operation. This can mean opening windows, running your stove's ventilation fan (assuming it vents outside and not back into your kitchen) and using window fans.
If you're connected to a public water system that's using chlorine to treat drinking water, filter your home's water supply. An activated carbon filter placed where water enters your home will remove chlorine and most volatile chemicals. It will also filter water used in your washing machine and shower — two other hot-water sources of chlorine fumes.
Have your water tested for radon. If results are positive, seek solutions from radon abatement professionals.
Keep your dishwasher closed and sealed for at least an hour following a completed cleaning cycle. This will prevent the hot burst of pollutant-laden steam that escapes when dishwashers are opened immediately following their use.
If you have a "no dry heat" option on your dishwasher, use it. This prevents the activation of its heating coils. These coils heat up the inside of your dishwasher and quickly evaporate the final rinse water, which allows that water to transfer its toxic load to indoor air. Deactivating the heated dry cycle also saves energy.
Run your dishwasher only when it's completely full. Running a dishwasher when it's less than full means you're using it more often than necessary and increasing its contributions to unhealthy indoor air. And it means you're using more water and energy than needed.
Use a chlorine-free dishwasher detergent. This will greatly reduce the burden of chlorine and other chemicals in its water, which in turn reduces your exposure to them.
Make sure your detergent is phosphate-free, too. Contrary to popular belief, phosphate use is still legally permitted in dishwasher detergents, and phosphates may constitute as much as 20 percent of a product's formula. (Dishwasher detergents contain levels of phosphorus as high as 8 percent, which translates to a phosphate level of 20 percent.) Once phosphates are discharged into the environment, they promote massive algae growth in local waters. These sudden blooms of algae trigger a process called eutrophication, in which local waters become starved of oxygen and devoid of life. This issue is of special concern to anyone living near a lake or pond.
Posted by The Lady of the House at 5:20 PM