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Cleaners’ ingredients would finally be disclosed under new bill

For Immediate Release: 
Thursday, November 17, 2011

Washington, D.C. – A ground-breaking consumer right-to-know bill introduced today by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) would close labeling requirement loopholes that have allowed manufacturers to hide untested and even carcinogenic ingredients in their cleaning products.

The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2011 aims to bolster confidence in a marketplace clouded with incomplete labels that keep consumers in the dark. It would close the loophole that has permitted manufacturers to shield numerous ingredients under the catch-all term “fragrance.” Every chemical in a product’s fragrance would have to be listed.

The bill would require cleaning products makers to list ingredients on the product labels while also maintaining comprehensive, up-to-date lists of ingredients on their websites in multiple languages.

“Our cabinets are full of soaps and cleaners that we assume improve our homes and health,” said Rep. Israel. “However, new research shines a light on the secret chemicals that might be doing more harm than good. You have a right to know what’s hiding in your household products. That’s why I’m introducing legislation to require full disclosure of the ingredients in everyday cleaning products.”

Environmental Working Group’s 2009 investigation of school cleaning products used throughout California uncovered 450 distinct toxic contaminants, some linked to increased risk of asthma and cancer.

“Consumers will be able to breathe easier knowing all the ingredients in their household cleaners,” Environmental Working Group senior scientist Rebecca Sutton, Ph.D., said. “Our research has shown that hundreds of contaminants are released when using a basic arsenal of cleaning supplies. Consumers have a right to know exactly what chemicals they are buying for themselves and their children.”

EWG also tested some common household cleaners and found red flags. For instance, Comet Disinfectant Powder Cleanser produced 146 air contaminants when used as directed, more than any other product tested. Comet fumes contained formaldehyde, benzene, chloroform and four other chemicals that the state of California has labeled carcinogens or reproductive toxicants.

Some small, innovative cleaning product manufacturers such as Seventh Generation honor the consumer’s right to know by making products with transparent labeling. Environmental Working Group hopes to see larger companies follow suit and support the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2011.

Consumers can take simple steps now to minimize their exposure to toxic cleaning product chemicals. Vinegar and baking soda can make affordable and effective replacements for store-bought cleaners.

For a full list of safer cleaning tips, visit EWG’s website.

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EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, DC that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. http://www.ewg.org