■ Melissa Diaz Hernandez / Reporter
Not only do we have a right to know exactly what is in our cleaning products – we need to know that our products are safe. On May 25, Congressman Raul Ruiz, M.D. (D-CA) introduced the Cleaning Product Labeling Act of 2017.
“Consumers, particularly parents, deserve to know what ingredients are in everyday use cleaning products. As an emergency physician and as a father, this is particularly personal to me,” stated Ruiz in a press release. “If my daughters accidentally ingested a toxic cleaning product, I would want the peace of mind to know that when I called poison control or the CDC, I could easily read the ingredients and save precious seconds in determining how to respond. Accidents unfortunately happen, and I have taken care of children in the emergency room who were exposed to chemicals in cleaning products.
“Knowing the ingredients in these products can help physicians make critical life-saving decisions,” continued Dr. Ruiz. “We must do all that we can to keep our children safe and ensure custodial workers have a better understanding of their exposure to potentially dangerous chemicals. Requiring ingredient disclosure of cleaning products will help us all have better health outcomes.”
“Chemicals in and around the home can poison people or pets and can cause long-term health effects. Every 13 seconds, a poison control center in the United States answers a call about a possible poisoning,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “More than 90 percent of these exposures occur in the home. Poisoning can result from medicines, pesticides, household cleaning products, carbon monoxide, and lead.
According to the CDC, the most common causes of poisoning among young children are cosmetics and personal care products, household cleaning products and pain relievers. Common causes among adults are pain relievers, prescription drugs, sedatives, cleaning products and antidepressants.
Pesticides, used to kill bugs or rodents, are used in about three out of four U.S. homes. They can also poison people or pets. Children can swallow detergents, bleach and other cleaning products. Breathing fumes from these products can also harm people.
Meaning, most of the products we are using – including cosmetics – can be harmful to our health.
However, cleaning product manufacturers are not required by law to list all their ingredients.
“Unlike food products, manufacturers of chemical products are not required to list ingredients on their containers or make them public,” according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s website. “At Safer Choice, we believe transparency is the key to helping consumers make informed choices. As of April 2011, we require that all ingredients, including fragrances, be listed for all products that carry the Safer Choice label.
“Ingredients must be listed either on the product or on an easy-access website. As manufacturers come into compliance with the listing requirement, consumers will be able to understand more about the Safer Choice products they use and their health and environmental safety benefits.”
Before Safer Choice decides to include a chemical on the Safer Chemicals Ingredients List (SCIL), a third-party profiler gathers hazard information from a broad set of resources, including the identification and evaluation of all available toxicological and environmental data. The third party profiler submits a report to Safer Choice, with a recommendation on whether the chemical passes the criteria to be listed as a Safer Chemical Ingredient. Safer Choice staff performs due diligence by reviewing the submission for completeness, consistency, and compliance with the Safer Choice criteria.
If more than one third-party has evaluated the chemical, Safer Choice also checks for differences in the profiles and resolves any conflicts. In some cases, Safer Choice may also perform additional literature reviews and consider data from confidential sources, such as the EPA’s New Chemicals Program. Safer Choice does not typically examine primary literature (original studies) as part of its review and listing decisions.
The site states that the list is not intended to be exclusive and that “chemicals may be removed from the list or have their status changed based on new data or innovations that raise the safer-chemistry bar.”
“Companies must apply for the label by submitting their products to Safer Choice for review. We carefully evaluate every ingredient against a stringent set of health and environmental criteria, which addresses potential health and environmental concerns, including, for example, if an ingredient is associated with causing cancer or reproductive harm, and if it accumulates in human tissue or in the environment.
“A product is only allowed to carry the Safer Choice label if each ingredient is among the safest in its ingredient class. Additionally, the product as a whole has to meet safety criteria and qualify as high-performing and be packaged in an environmentally friendly manner. Some consumers want to know which chemicals are in the products they use so, as a condition of labeling, all ingredients must be disclosed either on the product or the manufacturer’s website.”
Visit https://www.epa.gov/saferchoice/safer-ingredients#overview to view the Safer Chemicals Ingredients list.