How ‘Clean’ Are Your Cleaning Products?

By Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff
Executive Director/CEO, Healthy Child Healthy World

Cleaning used to be a simple thing. You learned what to use from your parents and bought the same products when you moved into your own house. But new reports just emerging may make you rethink choosing some of those brands.

In March, a report conducted by the Silent Spring Institute in Newton, MA and published in the online Environmental Health Perspectives Journal revealed chemicals linked to asthma and hormone disruption in 200 common household products.

Personal care products such as soaps and lotions, household cleaners, sunscreens, air fresheners, vinyl shower curtains and pillow protectors—even kitty litter—were found to contain chemicals such as phthalates (linked to reproductive abnormalities and asthma) and parabens (linked to hormone disruption and associated with breast cancer), among others.

Many chemicals were not listed on labels of the products, which were manufactured by conventional and “alternative” brands. However, some brands and industry groups disagree with the study’s findings. A U.S. News & World Report story quoted spokespeople for the American Cleaning Institute and the Consumer Specialty Products Association, both of whom claimed the report was misleading and pointed to the Consumer Product Ingredient Communication Initiative, which companies voluntarily provide product ingredients on a label, website or through a toll-free phone number.

A story in USA Today quoted a representative from Seventh Generation, which manufactures six of the alternative products tested, said the company uses none of the chemicals the study found in three of its products. “The fact that trace amounts were found raises questions” about possible cross-contamination in either manufacturing or testing, he says. “There are so many dirty chemicals in this world that they’re finding their way into everything.”

Want to be sure you know what’s in the bottle? Fill it yourself. Baking soda and vinegar are star players in the DIY healthy cleaning products category.

You can’t get an easier shopping list than that.

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