By Healthy Child Staff 

#1 – Ingredients are privileged information.

Sixty-seven percent (67%) of adults believe that companies are required to disclose all of the chemical ingredients contained in their products, which isn’t true. Manufacturers are only required to list the ingredients that are active disinfectants (because these are technically pesticides) or known to be acutely hazardous (which to them includes ingredients that cause fires or explosions but not those that cause cancer or developmental diseases). There is a voluntary ingredient disclosure program in the cleaning product manufacturing world, but it’s just that: voluntary. And it allows a couple of loopholes (like withholding the chemical makeup of fragrances, dyes and preservatives and omitting ingredients that are “incidental” and not functional to the product).

#2 – Labels can (and often do) lie.

With awareness about potential health and environmental impacts on the rise, consumers have an increased desire to buy products that are safer. To profit from this desire, manufacturers have begun using all sorts of marketing tactics to get us to believe their products are better. When it comes to conventional cleaners, manufacturers can make claims that are neither independently verified nor government regulated. According to Consumer Reports, some of the most common claims include:

#3 – Cleaning with antibacterials does not necessarily protect your health.

#4 – Many conventional cleaning products are not safe when used as directed.

The average American home is a danger zone for families, harboring at least 63 toxic chemicals within easy reach. Many of these are our cleaning products, the second leading cause of childhood poisonings. Manufacturers stand by the rules of proper usage – they’re safe when used as directed – but this depends on your definition of safe. Their definition of safe implies a lack of danger during a very small window of time – while you are using the product. During this window of time, if you use the product correctly, you will not experience any immediate harm.

Our definition of safe is much broader. Is it safe for the workers who make it? Is it safe for the developing fetus or baby? Is it safe to be exposed to small amounts of this chemical repeatedly for many years? Is it safe for the ecosystem it eventually ends up washed into? Why do some products say to wear rubber gloves? And vacate the room after use?

Commercially formulated products can contain a host of harsh chemicals, including 1, 4-dioxane and methylene chloride, which are carcinogens, or phosphoric acid, a skin toxicant. Wood polish often contains toxins like nitrobenzene and laundry detergent may contain bleach and other corrosives. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the air inside the typical home is on average 2 to 5 times more polluted than the air just outside—and in extreme cases 100 times more contaminated—largely because of household cleaners and pesticides. That doesn’t sound safe.

#5 – Simply because a product is for sale and on store shelves does not guarantee a governmental agency or regulatory body has declared it safe for your health and safe for use in your home.

The government only regulates cleaning products to the degree that it does what it says it does (e.g. if the product is supposed to whiten something, it whitens it) and not to the degree that it may harm human health or the environment. In fact, our own government regulations are so lax that some cleaning products contain ingredients banned or restricted in other countries—including common surfactants called nonylphenol ethoxylates (NPEs) and alkylphenol ethoxylates(APEs).

 

Now that you know the dirty little secrets of the conventional cleaning industry, what are you going to do? You can buy safer products like those from our Shop Healthy guide. And you can make your own by using simple kitchen ingredients like baking soda and vinegar.

 

Special thanks to Christopher Gavigan, Healthy Child’s former CEO, who originally wrote some of this post.

This post appeared originally in The Huffington Post