What, exactly, is in your household cleaning products—and is it harmful for you and your family? Two recent bills aim to make the labeling of household products clearer and safer for families. Here's what you should know:
1. To sum it all up: "Each covered product introduced or delivered for introduction into interstate commerce shall bear a label that states completely, accurately, and legibly all of the ingredients of such product."
2. Introduced over the summer, the Senate bill is the second by Sen. Al Franken. Said Franken:
"How many times have you heard on the news or read in the paper about a new drug or chemical that has been recently linked to health or environmental hazards? It happens all the time. An ingredient that a company claims is 'perfectly safe' today could be reclassified as 'dangerous' tomorrow. And an ingredient that is safe for most people could be a major irritant for a child with asthma. Eventually, I hope that manufacturers will take pre-emptive action and eliminate potentially harmful chemicals from their products. In the meantime, this legislation is a common sense step in the right direction."
3. The House bill has been introduced by Rep. Steve Israel, who said in a statement:
"Like big tobacco, the big chemical industry in American has gotten away with too much for too long. They’ve deprived us of basic information about the chemicals being used in our homes and workplaces, some of which are downright dangerous. The people who are the most at risk are the ones who spend all day with these chemicals at work and we can’t let big chemical take advantage of them anymore."
4. The products covered by the acts include household cleaning products, air fresheners and deodorizers, floor and furniture polish, dishwashing soap, drain cleaners, laundry detergent and dryer sheets, epoxies, paints or stains, and any other similar consumer product designated by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.
5. Some of the dangers associated with common household products include respiratory problems and asthma. Commonly-used chemicals may even be carcinogenic, and can cause reproductive and developmental problems.
6. If passed, the new rules won't go into effect for at least a year. In Franken's version, makers of household cleaning products have 540 days after the enactment to bring their product labeling up to the new standards.
7. For those who don't comply: Under the acts, a product without a proper label would be treated as a misbranded hazardous substance under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.
8. One way to keep chemicals out of your cleaners is to purchase eco-friendly products made from all-natural ingredients. The EPA publishes a guide for consumers. When buying a green cleaner, look for low toxicity, biodegradability, low VOC content, and a minimal presence of harmful chemicals.
9. Another solution is to make cleaning products from scratch. Here's a guide. The main ingredients you'll need are baking soda, vinegar, and water. Seventh Generation, a nontoxic cleaning product manufacturer, also offers this guide to cleaning green.
10. Method, a maker of all-natural cleaning products has shown their support for the bill with a campaign called "People Against Dirty," that bears the slogan, "When did clean become so dirty?" A viral video of some raunchy cleaning products has raised further awareness.