The Environmental Working Group is such an amazing tool, that I want to keep highlighting their resources one by one and sharing them with you! Today’s focus will be on their Guide to Healthy Cleaning. The household cleaning product industry here in the states is very similar to the personal care product industry. Ingredients do not need to be tested for safety on their own or in combination with any of the other ingredients in the product. And they don’t have to be listed on the label. The FDA would like you to think otherwise and so would the household cleaning product industry. But the real truth is that household cleaning products can contain a whole host of potentially problematic ingredients that you can absorb through your skin or easily inhale while cleaning.

Why should you care? Because anything that touches your skin gets absorbed into your body, and gases that you can’t see can easily be inhaled into your body.  Toxins contribute to many potential health problems, including cancer. “Environmental Working Group’s investigation of more than 2,000 cleaning supplies on the American market has found that many contain substances linked to serious health problems. EWG concludes that:

• Fumes from some cleaning products may induce asthma in otherwise healthy individuals. A large and growing body of evidence links frequent use of many ordinary cleaning supplies at home or on the job with development of asthma and other respiratory problems. It is already known that cleaning product fumes may trigger attacks in persons previously diagnosed with asthma.
• Common cleaning ingredients can be laced with the carcinogenic impurity 1,4-dioxane. Independent tests have detected the presence of 1,4-dioxane in numerous name-brand cleaning supplies. Other products contain preservatives that release low levels of cancer-causing formaldehyde.
• Children born to women who held cleaning jobs while pregnant have an elevated risk of birth defects, according to a 2010 study by the New York State Department of Health.
• Some cleaners can cause chemical burns and poisonings as well as less severe irritations and allergies. Severe physical reactions signal that consumers should take care anytime they use these products.
• Despite these health concerns, cleaning product labels often do not give consumers enough information about their ingredients to allow people to make informed decisions on which ones are safer and which ones might harm their health.

Government agencies and independent research institutions have not adequately evaluated the safety of numerous substances found in cleaning products. Although government scientific and regulatory agencies have focused considerable attention on chemicals suspected of causing cancer, they have devoted far fewer resources to evaluating substances that may be toxic to the brain and nervous system, the hormone system and other organs. Investigating the full range of risks of cleaning products to public health and the environment should be an urgent priority. Yet the problem remains largely hidden from the view of the American consumer.

Inadequate assessment of the long-term health consequences of chronic exposure to potent chemicals in cleaning products stems in large part from the absence of federal regulations requiring safety tests and setting legally-binding upper limits on toxic ingredients and impurities. The Consumer Product Safety Commission is nominally responsible for overseeing dangerous cleaning products but has focused on child-safe packaging and other measures to prevent accidents.”

I urge you to make a list of all the products that you use, even if only for occasional use, and look them all up on the EWG’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning. Since there are so many toxins in and around us that we can’t control, and all toxins can create and contribute to health struggles, controlling the things you can is money and time well invested! Since food is expensive and non-negotiable, I try to be more frugal with my household cleaning purchases. I actually have very few cleaning products in my house, as many are multitaskers that can be used to tackle multiple jobs.

What EWG has undertaken with this database is a significant task. I imagine there are weaknesses or gaps in their review process, but it is the best tool we consumers have for evaluating and finding less toxic products. Their online database is user friendly and uses a rating system similar to report cards, ranking products from A to F. A is the highest rating and my personal goal is to aim for those that are A rated, but to absolutely stay away from anything rated C or lower.