Released this past week, the EWG's 2012 Guide to Healthy Cleaning exposes the hidden reality of toxins in household cleaning products. EWG scientists spent fourteen months compiling vetted data on more than 2,000 products, each of which received a grade from A to F.
The Guide goes to extraordinary lengths to arm consumers with transparent and thoroughly researched knowledge on chemicals. It devised an in-depth set of algorithms (the actual math is available for all to see) to quantify the extent of harm that a cleaning product can cause through its chemicals. To calculate the toxicity of the ingredients in a given product, the EWG created its own database of health and environmental reports, gleaning data from respected resources like California's Proposition 65 list of chemicals and the European Union's Cosmetics Directive list of allergens. The extent of EWG's investigative detective work reflects the difficulty of finding truthful, clear information about household products.
Chloroform, formaldehyde, boric acid, and potential carcinogen 1,4-dioxane: just a few of the harmful toxins that a cleaning product may legally contain without disclosure to consumers. Product labels themselves aren’t helpful, since only 7% of goods analyzed by the EWG provided completely disclose information about their ingredients.
Choosing to go with a brand or product you've grown to trust also fails to fully protect you from chemical danger. The Guide's Hall of Shame shines an unflattering light on many mainstream products that should actually be labeled "Beware." Among those that the Guide singles out: Finish Dishwasher Cleaner, Febreze, Glade, Comet, Ajax, Lysol, and Drano. Even several “green” or “biodegradable” products fall short in terms of consumer transparency and safety.
(Some cleaners that did pass muster with EWG? Whole Foods Market dish soap, Mrs. Meyer's bathroom cleaner, and the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser.)
Empower Yourself to Make Smarter Consumer Decisions
Yet again, the Guide emphasizes consumer empowerment. The Guide's Label Decoder educates readers on how to analyze cleaning product labels for risky ingredients. It also praises states who've taken measures to protect consumers and crack down on cleaning product manufacturers, like Illinois and Maryland’s requirement that only independently certified green cleaning products be used in educational facilities.
Both the federal government and the cleaning product industry should be faulted for poor regulation and lack of transparency, suggests the Guide. As for consumers, EWG’s message is clear: practice green cleaning habits, press cleaning product manufacturers for better information, and support more rigid policy regarding chemical exposure.
How will you use EWG's guide to safeguard your baby and your body?