The Environmental Cleaning Group (EWG), a U.S-based anti-establishment, consumer rights group, came out with the results of its regular Healthy Cleaning Guide. The guide reviews and rates more than 2,000 popular household cleaning items based on the safety of their ingredients and the information they disclose about their contents.
The EWG asserts that there are just too many dangerous industrial chemicals in popular cleaning materials and products used by Americans – of which some of these products also filter down to Third World countries like the Philippines. Dedicating some 14 months to researching on product labels through online data and technical documents, including researching potential contaminants in 15 government and industry databases, the following are the highlights of the results they gathered:
* About 53% of the cleaning products analyzed by the EWG have ingredients that are known to harm the lungs. Some 22% also have chemicals that are known to trigger asthma in usually healthy persons.
* The chemical 1,4-dioxane which is a suspected human carcinogen, is a common contaminant found in popularly used detergents.
* Chloroform, another suspected human carcinogen, is present in chlorine beach with its escaping fumes harmful to human health.
* Sodium borate, commonly known as borax or boric acid, are known household cleaners. They are also known to disrupt the hormone system.
* Formaldehyde, known traditionally as a preservative, is known to be inclusive in cleaning products. It is also a human carcinogen when it reacts with ozone in the air.
* Quaternary ammonium, known as “quats” like benzalkonium chloride, are found in antibacterial fabric softeners and spray cleaners. They can also trigger asthma.
* Some green brands like Green Shield Organic and Whole Foods’ Green Mission brands may claim to be environmentally-friendly but do not fully disclose their ingredients on their labels. Considering that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration only mandate food, drugs, and cosmetics to fully list their ingredients on their labels, it is important for so-called “green manufacturers” to be transparent about their products’ ingredients.
EWG recommends not buying certain products because one can live without them or have no safer alternatives. Some of these are —
- Antibacterial products can trigger development of drug-resistant superbugs.
- Air fresheners have secret fragrance mixtures that can cause allergies and asthma. You’re your windows or fans when using them.
- Fabric softener and dryer sheet ingredients can potentially irritate the lungs and stimulate the body to develop allergies. Try a little vinegar in the rinse cycle.
- Caustic drain cleaners and oven cleaners have the potential to burn eyes and skin. Use a drain snake or plunger in drains. Instead, make your own do-it-yourself paste of baking soda and water to clean the oven.
When some companies claim their products to be “natural”, it would be better to test their products yourself before recommending to others or using long-term. Some chemicals used in “green” product lines have not been thoroughly tested and get very low points for the lack of safety information.
EWG urges consumers to tell manufacturers and legislators they want these products labeled with a complete list of ingredients, including specific and detailed chemicals used in fragrance and any unknown ingredients used.
What do you think of the list of chemicals featured here? Share your tips and information with us in the comments below.