What Are Cleaning Product Manufacturers Trying to Hide?

Spring is upon us, and with it spring cleaning.  As people across the country begin to break out their mops and buckets, they shouldn’t have to worry about what’s in their cleaning products.

Today, New Yorkers—including CEH’s own Eastern States Director Ansje Miller—are pushing for the enforcement of a 40-year old state disclosure law for cleaning products.  Twenty-one groups delivered a letter to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens today asking him to enforce a law (nearly four decades old!) that requires manufacturers of household cleaning products to disclose all of the chemical ingredients in their products.

Because cleaning products sometimes contain dangerous and toxic chemical ingredients, companies are also required to disclose the health risks that the chemicals pose. A growing body of evidence associates exposure to such chemicals with long-term effects such as cancer and hormone disruption.

“What are cleaning product manufacturers trying to hide?” said CEH’s Ansje Miller.  “Under the status quo, the only ones left in the dark are the consumers and workers who use cleaning products on a regular basis.  If these products were truly safe, disclosing their ingredients shouldn’t be a problem.”

Though passed in 1971, the law has not been enforced.  Household cleaning products manufacturers have gotten away with posting industry-selected information voluntarily on individual company websites.

This is not enough.  The public has a right to know what these products contain, so they can make informed decisions as consumers.

To solve the problem, all chemical ingredients must be listed on product labels. There must also be a user-friendly, searchable, centralized database of product and chemical data, that consumers can search so that they know the health risks of the chemicals they are being exposed to when using certain products.

If New York succeeds in enforcing this largely forgotten law, we hope the state will lead the rest of the nation in passing similar household cleaning right-to-know laws.  Because everyone should have the right to know what’s in the products they use.