Today, the Environmental Working Group released a new edition of its Guide to Healthy Cleaning, an online database detailing the health hazards and environmental concerns for more than 2,500 household products. With the addition of hundreds of new products, the updated Guide tells shoppers what they need to know to make healthier choices.
“Cleaning products expose Americans daily to chemicals linked to asthma, allergic reactions and even cancer, but no federal law or state law is in effect that requires companies to completely disclose their ingredients on the label or online,” said Nneka Leiba, EWG deputy director of research. “The Guide can help consumers choose products that have greater transparency and fewer hazardous ingredients, which will help push the cleaners market toward safer products.”
The guide grades laundry detergents, dish soaps, spray cleaners and other products on the hazards associated with ingredients and disclosure of contents. EWG researchers scoured product labels and analyzed hundreds of company webpages and technical documents to give consumers the information many manufacturers would rather keep secret.
“Consumers are demanding greater transparency in labeling so they can make informed decisions,” said Samara Geller, EWG database analyst. “But we found that secrecy still prevails: more than half of the products in our database rated poorly for ingredient disclosure.”
The products analyzed for the update contained an array of hazardous chemicals. For almost a dozen products, the chemical safety data sheets required by the federal government listed benzene or formaldehyde. Long-term exposure to benzene is linked to leukemia, anemia and bone marrow damage. Formaldehyde is a known carcinogen, respiratory irritant and allergen.
“Mandatory ingredient labeling is already required for food, cosmetics and drugs,” said Bill Allayaud, California director of government affairs for EWG. “Consumers should have the right to the same information when it comes to cleaning products.”
Bowing to increasing pressure from customers, most companies list at least some ingredients on their labels and websites. Recently SC Johnson & Son committed to disclose fully the composition of its fragrances for three products of a new scent collection. But some companies disclose nothing, and others list just one or a few of their ingredients or describe them in vague terms such as “fragrance,” “surfactant” and “solvent.”