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Westerners turn to coconut oil-based detergents for health reasons

Eye irritation, allergies and even difficulty in blood clotting are among the health problems that are now being linked to some of the ingredients in leading laundry detergents, according to a number of US-based researches. Consequently, more and more consumers in the US and Europe are turning to laundry soaps that are 100% natural.

In the search for natural ingredients, coconut oil from the Philippines as a soap base has recently gained prominence among manufacturers and retailers abroad, observes coconut oil advocate Aleli Pansacola. Ironically, Filipinos themselves have yet to fully appreciate the benefits of this abundant resource.

The chemicals in laundry detergent include hard alkyl benzene which firms up the soap's density but renders it non-biodegradable; optical brighteners which make clothes appear whiter; and phosphates which boost cleaning power but also causes growth of algae. Profuse algae lowers the oxygen level in bodies of water resulting in fish kill. Popular detergent brands also include fillers such as silicates, talc, soda ash and China clay among others.

In fact, hard alkyl benzene has been banned by R.A. 8970 which was enacted in 2000, according to Pansacola. But when the P40-billion local soap industry mounted a lobby, the authorities relented and allowed the deferment of the law's implementation for a few years.

The harmful chemicals remain in the fabric even after washing, hidden mostly in the folds and corners of the fabric, points out Pansacola who manufactures Victoria Herbal Granules, a fully biodegradable laundry soap. They enter the pores of our skin and react chemically, leading to skin rashes and allergies. In some cases, the chemicals make it more difficult for wounds to heal and for blood to clot, according to a US study.

Phosphoric acid from phosphates, when ingested or inhaled, causes irritation to skin, mucous membranes and eyes, notes another study. Because of phosphate's harmful properties, a number of detergent manufacturers have shifted to silicates. Nevertheless, industrial toxicologists believe silicates may be carcinogenic or cancer causing.

Meanwhile, epidemiologists who try to establish cause and effect relationships in diseases, have revealed a possible link between ovarian cancer and talc, a detergent filler. Women's undergarments washed with commercial detergents may still contain traces of talc, warns Pansacola.

Pansacola who began work with coconut farmers for a non-government organization in the early 80s has been pushing for the manufacture of 100% natural laundry detergent, which uses coconut oil as the main raw material. Her involvement with the farmers led her to produce Victoria Herbal Soap Granules. Victoria has since won a number of international awards - for its formulation, for its being utilitarian, and for its effect on the environment. Pansacola has also been a recipient of an award of recognition from 35 countries for water and environment.

Victoria is now available at the SM Supermarkets, Unimart, Makati Supermarket, CBC Supermarkets and other outlets, according to officers of Vitaliano Inc. (with tel. nos. 728-1896, 833-6845) which markets the product.

Users of coconut-based Victoria Herbal granules attest to its gentleness on the skin in contrast to other detergents. "You could actually use it as a shampoo or soap if you wanted to," according to Pansacola.

A number claim healing from allergies and skin ailments after switching to Victoria soap, which they use for laundry as well as for cleaning in combination with old-fashioned ingredients such as vinegar and baking soda . Business executive Weena Mendoza's two children, Anton, 12 and Sella, nine, are among those who have benefited health wise from this regimen.

Following the advice of her family doctor, Weena avoided as many chemicals as possible in the family diet and in their surroundings. Eventually Anton's daily bouts with severe rhinitis discontinued. Sella's asthma was healed, while the wart-like growths on her back and tummy vanished.

Because of coconut's healing properties, a US-based nutritionist encourages Filipinos to tap this abundant resource in our midst. Virgin coconut oil has unique and abundant antimicrobial properties that make it more superior over other kinds of oil, he wrote in his bestseller, The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil.

Pansacola's Daila Herbal Community Enterprises has even gone one step ahead. Victoria soap is now exported to the US, Taiwan and Malaysia. It has also been cited in a number of international expositions.

The Laguna-based company has grown from a two-man operation into a full integrated factory that produces 7,000 kg of soap daily.

Refer to: Berry P. Marfori, 0917-5399087; 809 1403

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