Other than running down the grocery aisle and tossing some cleaning products into a cart, most people don’t spend much time considering cleaning products. Most of us assume products are safe because of government regulation and product safety testing, but the truth is, there are harmful cleaning products on the market. In a recent independent laboratory test commissioned by Women’s Voices for the Earth, 20 popular cleaning products from the top five consumer products companies were tested. The study found reproductive toxins, carcinogens, hormone disruptors, and allergens in the products tested.
Even worse, none of these unsafe chemicals were listed on the product labels. For example, a popular air freshener contained Galaoxide, a hormone disruptor, while a top brand laundry detergent contained 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. Both ingredients are unsafe, and neither was listed on the product label. It is important to avoid these harmful cleaning products.
You can’t rely on product labels to identify unsafe products. Why? Because the Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC), the regulator of cleaning and laundry products, has lax labeling regulations. CPSC does not require manufacturers to disclose product ingredients. As a result, product labels do not accurately represent the product contents.
Worse still, buying products with labels that seem to suggest a safer product like “green” and “all natural” does not necessarily mean a safer product. Companies are free to use the terms “green,” “eco-friendly,” and “natural” as marketing terms without providing proof. These terms have no legal, regulatory meaning or standards. The Women’s Voices study also looked at products with these labels and found undisclosed, harmful ingredients, proving that marketing can be deceptive.
Clearly, if you are trying to avoid toxic, harmful chemicals, reading labels isn’t the solution.
Since you cannot rely on the CPSC and labels aren’t the solution, how do you avoid harmful products? You have several options:
If you have a cabinet of toxic cleaning and laundry products, start with one product category. Find a new product that you like and move on to the next one. Trying to replace all products at once can be overwhelming!