Many products on the market are labeled as natural, eco-friendly or bio-degradable, but sometimes those labels are misleading. In 1960, the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act was passed allowing companies to put harmful chemicals in products, as long as side effects didn’t appear immediately after use. This made it easy for cleaners to have formaldehyde, ammonia and other toxic chemicals that give bathrooms that “freshly” scrubbed scent. Additionally, many terms like "all-natural" and "green" aren't regulated any governing agency, so many companies can easily make their products seem environmentally-friendly despite having a number of synthetic or harmful ingredients.
Despite the Federal Hazardous Substances Labeling Act , consumers need to take a closer look at details on a label to ensure the product is sustainably manufactured. Many common household products, like dish cleaner, toilet bowl cleaner and countertop sprays are poisonous and potentially deadly if ingested. According to Fox News, in 1989 the Environmental Protection Agency estimated that household cleaners are three times as likely to cause cancer than air pollutants, and the environmental effect is just as harsh.
TerraChoice Environmental Marketing released data recently from its 2009 study, which said 98 percent of green products are not entirely eco-friendly choices. With eco-labeling on the rise, this means consumers need to be aware and read labels closely. Look around before picking the next cleaning supply to spruce up the house, as there is a high probability that the label will be misleading and may still lead to toxins in the home.
Pro environment products
In recent years, the government has also begun to become more active in its regulations of cleaning products, however. In 2006, the EPA announced its program "Design for the Environment," or "DfE" label, which lowered the number of problem chemicals in products by 183 million pounds. When the logo is found on a product, that means it has passed the organization’s tests which ensures the safest ingredients from each class - i.e. the safest solvent available was used in the product.
There are a few things that can be checked to ensure a product is actually what it claims to be, like looking for the Material Safety Data Sheet. MSDS for products can be found online and tells consumers exactly what is in the product.
Other than the DfE label, checking for a Green Seal - the green circle with a blue check mark - will ensure a product has no harsh carcinogens, mutagens and is completely biodegradable.
Dr. Bronner's, Seventh Generation and Method are three great brands that can be found in stores and abide by eco-conscious rules. Seventh Generation, for instance, has guidelines that are stricter than Green Seal.
Disguised as earth friendly
Simple Green is a commonly used product that claims to be a leader in non-toxic cleaners, but the product's MSDS says differently. The product contains 2-butoxyethanol, which is can destroy red blood cells, cause birth defects and result in reproductive problems.
Not sure? Make it at home
Experts say the best way to make sure a cleaner is safe and healthy for the family and home, is to make it. By combining ¼ cup of baking soda, ½ gallon of water and ½ cup of vinegar, grease and grime will be eliminated without the use of harsh chemicals. For a refreshing scent, boiling 2 ½ cups of water with a teaspoon of cinnamon and a tablespoon of lemon zest will keep the home smelling fresh and clean.