Household Cleaner Debate Heats Up Congress

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The U.S. Government is introducing several new bills that would require household cleaning manufacturers to list all ingredients on the label, including proposed legislation in both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Just last month, the Senate introduced S. 1697, otherwise known as the “Household Product Labeling Act of 2009.” It was the second bill sponsored by newly elected Minnesota Senator Al Franken, who claims he has been concerned about the chemicals in these products for many years. His bill will compliment H.R. 3057, which was introduced in the House in June.

Photo: Flickr/BrittneyBush

According to the Clean Water Fund, the average American uses 40 pounds of toxic cleaning products, throwing away 12 percent of their leftovers in landfills and pouring a total of 32 million pounds down the drain. Photo: Flickr/BrittneyBush

The current system requires manufacturers to identify any ingredients that are immediately hazardous, but that doesn’t address chemicals that may cause health effects over time, such as phthalates and ether.

These chemicals have a beneficial use in the products themselves but have been linked through research to asthma, learning disabilities and even cancer.

For their part, some manufacturers have already stepped up to address the ingredients in their products. SC Johnson launched a Web site earlier this year that identifies chemicals used in its products, which include Glade, Shout and Windex.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services also maintains a database of health and safety information for household products.

The U.S. EPA has shown its support to updating labeling laws. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson has made this one of her four key areas of focus on the environment. Household cleaners have been linked to indoor air pollution and provide a disposal dilemma due to the hazardous ingredients.

Many companies now manufacture non-toxic cleaners made from natural products, which address both environmental and health concerns. Another option is to make your own cleaners with products you can find around the house.

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Trey Granger

Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.
Trey Granger