Toxic Chemicals in Cleaning Products Need More Regulation

Unlike foods, beverages, or drugs, which are produced to be ingested, cleaning products are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), although manufacturers must list certain ingredients, as mandated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). HealthNewsDigest explained that lists must include active disinfectants or possibly harmful ingredients.

To maintain competition, manufacturers tend to keep ingredient lists secret to preserve formulas; however, consumer advocate, Sloan Barnett, who wrote Green Goes with Everything, has issues with this practice. “Call me suspicious, but I honestly don’t think it’s because the recipe is top secret…. If it was, there wouldn’t be so many competing products with identical ingredients,” quoted HealthNewsDigest. Instead, says Barnett, manufacturers probably don’t want to frighten shoppers by actually listing all of the potentially <"">toxic chemicals in their products.

“The government only requires companies to list ‘chemicals of known concern’ on their labels. The key word here is ‘known’,” she says. “The fact is that the government has no idea whether most of the chemicals used in everyday cleaning products are safe because it doesn’t test them, and it doesn’t require manufacturers to test them either,” Barnett added, quoted HealthNewsDigest.

Barnett also points out that the EPA, under the 1976 Toxic Substances Control Act, “can’t require chemical companies to prove the safety of their products unless the agency itself can show that the product poses a health risk—which the EPA does not have the resources to do since, according to one estimate, it receives some two thousand new applications for approval every year,” quoted HealthNewsDigest.

“All household cleaners that contain known hazardous chemicals must carry a warning label that spells out potential risks, along with precautionary steps and first-aid instructions,” said Consumer Reports’ Greener Choices website, reported HealthNewsDigest. But, according to Barnett, a recent study by the non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG), revealed that the EPA approved most applications within three weeks, despite that most makers never provided any toxicity information, noted HealthNewsDigest.

We recently wrote that some fairly common items have been linked to increased risks of breast cancer, such as some cleaning products. According to a recent study, “Women who reported the highest combined cleaning product use had a doubled risk of breast cancer compared to those with the lowest reported use. Use of air fresheners and products for mould and mildew control were associated with increased risk,” wrote the team, quoted The Independent. According to the authors, the study is the first of its kind to look into the potential association between the cancer and cleansers.

We also just wrote that an announcement made by the President’s Cancer Panel states that the link between environmental carcinogens and cancers are much greater than ever realized. The panel said, quoted NBC News, that the “the true burden of environmentally induced cancer has been grossly underestimated. With nearly 80,000 chemicals on the market in the United States—many of which are used by millions of Americans in their daily lives and are un-studied or under-studied and largely unregulated—exposure to potential environmental carcinogens is widespread.”

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