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What’s in a label? Not enough

Call it the dirty not-so-little secret in the cleaning cupboard: When conventional cleaning products are used, they can spread suspected carcinogens, endocrine disruptors, reproductive and developmental toxicants, and other harmful substances throughout your house thanks to the stunning variety of chemicals they typically contain.

Testing of the top 20 cleaning products, commissioned by Women’s Voices for the Earth, revealed hidden toxic chemicals such as toluene, 1,4-dioxane, phthalates, chloroform, a synthetic musk, and several known allergens. But because cleaning product companies are not required to disclose ingredients, consumers have no way to know that these chemicals are lurking in the products they use in their homes.

{mosads}If that’s news to you, you’re in good company. The majority of consumers are blissfully unaware of just what is in their household cleaners because no laws require manufacturers to reveal the ingredients they contain – and under the guise of protecting “trade secrets,” most don’t. That is why the Breast Cancer Fund, Women’s Voices for the Earth, and our advocacy partners have been working for years to advocate for ingredient disclosure in the full range of consumer products and to educate our stakeholders on how to keep their homes toxic free.

Seventh Generation shows the business community that coming clean by disclosing ingredients in cleaning products is also good for business: it has been disclosing its ingredients for over 25 years, and its consumers have responded strongly to that transparency. In a secretive industry that relies on tepid voluntary disclosure programs to create a sense of transparency that’s murky at best, its business model proves that you can be transparent and profitable.

We are teaming up now as part of a coalition of businesses and organizations in environmental health and allied communities to make Congress aware of this problem. We are organizing in support of legislation just introduced by Congressman Steve Israel, the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, which would require manufacturers to fully list the ingredients cleaning products contain on their label and online.

We believe that honoring the fundamental right to know is the right thing to do by any measure: it’s good for consumers, good for health and the environment, and good for the strength and credibility of business. With the passage of this legislation, consumers will know for the first time exactly what manufacturers put inside every cleaner and be able to make genuinely informed purchasing decisions. We support the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, and urge every member of Congress to do the same.

John Replogle is CEO of Seventh Generation; Jeanne Rizzo, R.N. is President and CEO of Breast Cancer Fund and Erin Switalski is the Executive Director of Women’s Voices for the Earth



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