Why We Need Ingredient Labeling for Cleaning Products

iStock

Imagine you have a kid with allergies, and those allergies are acting up like crazy. You’ve tried everything from HEPA filters to changes in diet but none of it made a difference. Now, you are trying to figure out what could be causing the problem. You are turning over the products in your house to look at their ingredients. After going through the food containers and the cosmetics products, you turn to the cleaning products under your sink—and that’s where you could literally come up against a blank. Because unlike the vast majority of ingredients in food, retail cosmetics, and drug products, ingredients in cleaning products don’t have to be listed on the label (with minimal exceptions).

You are dependent on the manufacturer’s choice. If you choose products from a manufacturer which has made commitments to or has chosen to list its ingredients (like Seventh Generation or Honest Co.), you’ll know what’s in your product. The rest of the time you can’t be sure what’s in the bottle. Sometimes manufacturers will place a partial list of ingredients on the products, but you might not get the full picture. Other times, there may no ingredients at all.

The scenario is even more dire for domestic workers and janitors who work with these products on a regular basis and are far more exposed to the chemicals in these products. Consider these stats:

  • According to the California Department of Public Health, about 10 percent of all work-related asthma cases are associated with cleaning products.
  • A study co-authored by New York State Department of Health scientists found that children born to women who held cleaning jobs while pregnant have an elevated risk of birth defects.
  • The US EPA notes that about six percent of janitors experience a job-related injury from chemical exposures to cleaning products every year.

We believe we all have the right to know what’s in the products that we bring into our homes or work with. Consumers overwhelmingly support ingredient disclosure. It’s only common sense.

Chemicals in cleaning products can pose a risk to our health, and ingredient labeling can help people avoid the risks.

That’s why NRDC is supporting California Senate Bill 258 (Lara), the Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017. We are working closely with other supporters of the bill and with the author’s office to move the bill forward. SB 258 requires cleaning product manufacturers to fully disclose product ingredients on the label and online to help protect workers and consumers and to include images to communicate the potential health impacts. It would be the first law in the nation to do so.

California has a history of being on the forefront of protecting consumers, their health, and their right to information, and the state’s leadership is even more important now in the face of a president and congress hostile to public health protections.

This blog provides general information, not legal advice. If you need legal help, please consult a lawyer in your state.

About the Authors

Avinash Kar

Senior Attorney, Sustainable Agriculture and Antibiotics and Western Toxics, Health and Food, Healthy People & Thriving Communities Program

Join Us

When you sign up you'll become a member of NRDC's Activist Network. We will keep you informed with the latest alerts and progress reports.