Speaking of Not Disclosing Ingredients...

>> Thursday, October 2, 2008

I mentioned in my last post that one of the reasons I make my own cleaners is that it bothers me that commercial cleaners don't disclose their ingredients. Let me explain more about why I think that's important.

I'm assuming that none of you are purposely ingesting your household cleaners, but they still get into our bodies in other ways: inhaling them, touching them, drinking them in our water. It's even worse with our hair and body products (which also don't disclose ingredients). We purposely rub shampoo into our scalps, lotion onto our skin, deodorant onto our underarms, etc. And most people never give a second thought to what they're putting on their bodies.

I tend to be pretty cynical when it comes to harmful chemicals. Let's face it. Everything is harmful. Everything causes cancer. There's not really much you can do about it in our modern society. You're going to be poisoned in some way.

What bothers me, though, is that the companies making these products have no accountability for the things they're making. They have no need to feel accountable because the government has basically given them a free pass on this.

Our government has a sort of "innocent until proven guilty" attitude when it comes to chemicals. In 1976, they created the Toxic Substances Control Act, which requires a company to submit a new chemical notification to the EPA before putting the chemical into a commercial product. The EPA then reviews the notification, but little (if any) testing is done to determine if the chemical is safe, and the company does not have to prove the chemical is safe before getting approval. Then the company is allowed to use the chemical in commercial products until it is proven dangerous. So first the EPA has to suspect the chemical is dangerous, and then it has to prove its suspicions are true before the chemical will be taken off the market. Also, the 62,000 chemicals that were already in use before the act was passed were automatically assumed to be safe, without any additional testing.

I'm sure I'm oversimplifying things here. I don't work for the EPA and definitely don't have firsthand experience in this area. Most of my knowledge about this subject comes from the Enironmental Working Group, which is certainly a biased organization. Maybe I'm falling prey to conspiracy theories. So let me get back to my first point about disclosing ingredients.

If a chemical is even suspected to be dangerous, we as the consumers have a right to know if it's in our shampoo or our soap or our toilet cleaner so we can make our own educated decisions about the products we use. Maybe we'll choose not to believe the hype about parabens or sodium laureth sulfate, but we have the right to make that choice for ourselves.

I'm a big believer in voting with your dollar, and that's why I think it's important to support companies that list their ingredients on their packaging. The really cool thing about doing that is that after awhile you start to get familiar with the ingredients and what they do, and then you can make choices about the type of shampoo you use based on what ingredients will work best on your hair, for example.

If you're looking for a more organized way to voice your complaints with the current system, the aforementioned Environmental Working Group has teamed up with Seventh Generation to campaign for chemical policy reform through the Kid-Safe Chemicals Act. You can sign the declaration here.


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