Writing for the Associated Press, Jennifer Peltz covers a push by environmental advocates for clearer labeling that lists the ingredients of household cleansers. The article was spurred by a recent attempt by advocacy groups to get a court to use a 1971 New York law to force cleanser manufacturers into disclosing ingredients. Peltz also looks into the industry’s voluntary disclosure efforts (a trade group has linked to companies’ ingredient lists here) and various efforts to require full disclosure nationwide.
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For its part, Peltz says industry representatives say “that the legal case is unwarranted, and that fears about health risks are misinformed.” Consumer advocates reply that current voluntary disclosures can be too vague, and that only government regulation will enable the sort of full disclosure necessary to ensure consumer safety.
If advocates win the New York case, cleanser contents would then have to be disclosed to the state. Other regulation efforts are significantly more ambitious.
The case comes amid growing concerns about potential toxins lurking in consumer goods, from the heavy metal cadmium in jewelry to the chemical bisphenol A in baby bottles. While lawyers argued the cleaning-products case in New York, a Senate subcommittee in Washington held a hearing to examine current science on the public’s exposure to toxic chemicals.
Some studies have linked cleaning product components to asthma, antibiotic resistance, hormone changes and other health problems. The industry’s major trade group, the Soap and Detergent Association, assails the research as flawed, says the products are safe if used correctly and notes that cleaning can itself help stop the spread of disease.
Federal environmental laws don’t require most household cleaning products to list their ingredients, though there are congressional proposals to change that. The Consumer Product Safety Commission requires hazard warning labels on some cleansers, and the National Institutes of Health offer some health and safety information for hundreds of cleaning products, drawn from data gathered for industrial use.
Related HHS product database
The National Institutes of Health maintains a database of health and safety information related to household products. It includes detailed information on ingredients and potential safety hazards, among other things.