When you’re shopping for cereal at the grocery store, you can read a list of all the ingredients in the box before making a purchase. You’ll also have the peace-of-mind in knowing that the FDA requires that every food ingredient has been tested and found to be “Generally Regarded as Safe” or GRAS.
It’s an entirely different story when it comes to household cleaning products. Manufacturers are not required to list all the ingredients on their labels, just those of “known concern.” The problem is, among the 3,000 top-selling chemicals in the United States, over 90% have no basic toxicity information and the testing required to determine safety is usually voluntary. More than likely, there are many compounds in your home that have never been tested for safety on their own, not to mention in combination with the others.
These facts make what little we do know about household chemicals all the more unsettling. The average household contains numerous toxic chemicals, say environmental experts. We’re exposed to a chemical soup—from phthalates in synthetic fragrances to the noxious fumes in oven cleaners. Ingredients in common household products have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity.
A First Step
Starting in 2010 industry groups began making more ingredient information available to consumers - but not on the product label itself. The program called, the Consumer Product Ingredient Communication Initiative covers four product categories: air fresheners, automotive care, household cleaners, and floor polishes and allows consumers to get a full list of ingredients online or on the phone.
Legislation was introduced in 2009 that would have required manufacturers of household cleaning products to list all ingredients on the product label. The legislation stalled in committee and never came up for a vote. The legislation may be reintroduced during the 2012 session.
In the meantime, many consumers have switched to “green” household cleaners or their own home-made solutions. According to a survey by the American Cleaning Institute, more than 28% of Americans say they’ve mixed their own cleaners and that they were more effective than their commercial counterparts.
Find out how to reduce your “toxic burden” and clean your home without chemicals with our guide: How to Deep Clean Your Home Naturally.
Environmental Working Group