What's in Your Household Cleaner?Sep 17, 2009 | Parker Waichman LLP
The makers of household cleaners are facing increasing scrutiny over the chemicals contained in their products. According to The New York Times, the industry - which includes companies like Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive and S.C. Johnson - favors voluntary disclosure of product ingredients, but many consumer groups and lawmakers favor legislation that would require companies to come clean about the chemicals they use.
According to the Times, many of the chemicals in household cleaners have been associated with health problems, including birth defects. While most products contain only small amounts of a given chemical, the concern is that exposure to these small amounts over a lifetime could impact health Current government regulations only require that manufacturers disclose chemicals that pose an 'immediate' danger, The New York Times said.
Manufacturers of household cleaners worry about keeping the details of product formulas from competitors, but know consumers are worried about potential toxins. To ease such worries, the Consumer Specialty Products Association, an industry group, has been working with consumer advocates to devise a voluntary disclosure strategy, the Times said.
Starting in January, manufacturers will begin to disclose some ingredients through either toll-free numbers, Web sites, or product labels. Ingredients would be listed in order of highest concentration. But ingredients that are present in amounts of less than 1 percent would not have to be ranked. What's more, preservatives, fragrances and dyes would be exempt from disclosure, the Times said.
For critics of the industry, such a voluntary program does not go far enough. In New York state, consumer groups have filed lawsuit aimed at forcing more complete disclosure, and in California, one state legislator has threatened to seek a mandatory disclosure law if the industry plan doesn't go far enough, the Times said.
There's also movement at the federal level. According to The new York Times, a measure has been introduced in Congress seeking full disclosure of all product ingredients. Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), who introduced that bill, told the Times that it was "nonsensical that we have labels on food, but not on the cleansers on kitchen counters."