August 22, 2007

safe cleaning

I was happy to read about The Safe Cleaning Products Initiative. It is a national effort intended to reduce women's exposure to toxic chemicals in cleaning products, organized by a group called Women's Voices for the Earth. As you may know, many cleaning products contain dangerous ingredients (for both people and the planet). There are many products which seem to be better options (they say they are non-toxic and such). The concern seems to be that there are no rules about listing ingredients on the labels of cleaning products. Instead, many companies claim the specific ingredients are proprietary secrets.

The initiative is asking companies to list the ingredients of their cleaning products on the package, and to replace potentially hazardous chemicals with safe alternatives.

You can read the full report here, or look at the executive summary instead. I appreciated the list of 20 companies which WVE wrote to about ingredient policies. Only a handful have responded. Makes you wonder about those that don't - what do they have to hide? Unfortunately, some of the companies not answering are ones I like (such as Ecover, Method and Mrs. Meyers). In fact, I've always wondered why Method is not sold in natural/health food stores. Is it politics or ingredients?

Some of the companies that did respond are Shaklee, Seventh Generation, Biokleen (love their laundry powder!) I've never tried Shaklee products but have heard some good things about them. Interestingly, Shaklee does not disclose all their ingredients yet they do provide information on products which they do NOT use (which did put my mind at ease since it covered so many). Hopefully I can cover all the good brands in future posts.

Meanwhile, WVE has a list of things you can do to help reduce your exposure to toxic chemicals from household cleaning products. I also found this good advice from Washington Toxics Coalition:

"In recent years there has been a trend towards products marketed for their environmental qualities. They may claim to be non-toxic, environmentally safe or environmentally friendly, recycled, biodegradable, or all of the above. The claims may be true, or they may not. Remember that the production of any product places a burden on the environment. The best products are just those that are least damaging.

Be skeptical when shopping. Look for products with specific rather than general claims. For example, “90% biodegraded in 3 days” means more than just “biodegradable.” “Contains no phosphates” is more specific than “environmentally-safe.” If the product seems too good to be true, perhaps it is.

Look for contradictory claims. If the product says “non-toxic” on one side
and “vapor harmful” on the other, something is wrong. Is there such a thing as a “non-toxic” product? Any chemical is toxic if you ingest enough of it."


Luke Davis Pedersen said...

I was so disappointed to see Mrs. Meyers did not respond. I love their products!
I did find some interesting info on their website:

I have decided to switch to Aubrey cleaning line. I will keep you posted.
Thanks for all your work!

mom go green said...

I didn't know Aubrey had a cleaning line. I'll check it out. Thanks!

Unknown said...

Mom Go Green and Commenters,

In response to the comment that not all companies responded to the report you mentioned...

Pulled directly from page 31 of the "Household Hazards" report by Women's Voices for the Earth:

"Disclaimer: This list does not represent a complete survey of all U.S. household cleaning products and/or manufacturers."

The reason that some manufacturers may not responded is based on the fact that the people who wrote it didn't take the time to go through each manufacturers website and information. Rather, they researched a selection of products and manufacturers.

I happen to love Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day products and think that they probably weren't included because they aren't as well known.

Hope your "going green" is going well!


mom go green said...

hi michelle,

i don't know. i don't think it is too much to ask of the company to participate in the survey - it would only make them look good. the survey was essentially asking them to describe their ingredient policy. mrs. meyers does do this in a favorable way on their website:
i think formally answering the survey would have been a much better PR move.

I did find a review of the Mrs. Meyer products on the green guide, which seems to have been ablet o learn a bit more about the ingredients:

essentially, mrs. meyers products seem better and safer than "traditional, chamical" cleaning products. i believe they do use some synthetic ingredients, although many of the ingredients are plant based and all are biodegradable.

in the end, for me the issue is just not being duped. i want to know what i'm using is as good and safe as it is marketed to be.