Are the products we use to clean our homes and workplaces—dish soaps, laundry detergents, disinfectants, glass cleaners, carpet cleaners, stain removers, air fresheners, all-purpose cleaners, and more—truly safe?
When we breathe in a fresh scent, most of us don’t realize, and the labels won’t tell us, that chemicals found in some ordinary cleaning products are known or suspected to cause serious health effects including cancer.
A glance at the back of most cleaning products reveals a surprising fact: very few cleaning products include a complete list of ingredients. Federal and state laws don’t require companies to list the ingredients in cleaning products, which means we often have no idea whether a given product contains chemicals linked to breast cancer or other chronic health concerns.
While the absence of state or federally mandated ingredient disclosure makes it difficult to know what’s in a specific cleaning product, some companies voluntarily reveal product ingredients on their product labels and websites. This has offered some insight into the kinds of ingredients used in cleaning products. Surprisingly, many cleaning products contain some of the same industrial chemicals used in personal care products.
Some of these ingredients are linked to breast cancer. These include triclosan, bisphenol A, phthalates, parabens, alkylphenols, and UV filters like benzophenones that may mimic estrogen. In addition, several ingredients used in cleaning products may include or be contaminated with chemicals linked to breast cancer. For instance, polystyrene may contain residual styrene, ingredients like nonoxynols and those with the suffix –eth may contain residual ethylene oxide which is used to make the chemicals less irritating, and fragrance can indicate the presence of dozens to potentially over 100 undisclosed ingredients.
Here’s how to protect yourself and your family from exposure to toxic chemicals present in everyday cleaning products.
What’s happening in policy
BCPP supports federal and state legislation that would promote consumer and worker right-to-know by requiring full disclosure of the ingredients in cleaning products.
Cleaning product manufacturers are not legally required to disclose ingredients on their product labels. Without this information, consumers can’t make safe and informed purchases of household cleaning products. This is even worse for those who work in the cleaning industry and don’t know what’s in the products they work with daily.
Fortunately, this could change due to a bill introduced in California that we hope will serve as a model for the nation. California Senators Ricardo Lara and Ben Allen have introduced SB 258 that requires full ingredient disclosure on the labels of cleaning products sold in California.
BCPP is leading the effort, along with our partners at the Environmental Working Group and Women’s Voices for the Earth, to secure passage of this important legislation.
BCPP also strongly supports the passage of federally mandated cleaning product ingredient disclosure. We expect a bill to be introduced in Congress soon that would make full ingredient disclosure the law of the land.
Check out our partners in prevention who are working to raise public awareness about the importance of cleaning product ingredient disclosure.
Californian’s for a Healthy and Green Economy (CHANGE) Coalition, Environmental Working Group, Women’s Voices for the Earth, Service Employees International Union (SEIU), Seventh Generation