Like millions of Americans, you might have wondered what chemicals are in those cleaning bottles under the kitchen sink.
Are they safe to use when time comes to mop floors, wipe counters and scrub a toilet? Are their strong vapors toxic, and can they hurt your skin?
Thanks to a federal labeling program, shoppers can now find products that meet the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standard as a Safer Choice for families – and pets. The program won’t child-proof products, or necessarily make chemicals harmless, but it will help ensure that their ingredients are safer.
2,500 products labeled so far
The voluntary Safer Choice program seeks to recognize and bring consumer awareness to products that are leading the way when it comes to safer ingredients.
For a product to carry the Safer Choice logo, all its ingredients must pass the program’s health and environment criteria. It must also meet requirements around packaging, performance and ingredient disclosure.
Today, there are shockingly few federal ingredient disclosure requirements for cleaning products. So Safer Choice makes a big step in the right direction here, but we’d like to see the program go even further when it comes to requiring disclosure of fragrances.
Currently, shoppers can choose from more than 2,500 Safer Choice products, most of which are household and industrial cleaners.
Leading retailers such as Wegman’s, Safeway, Staples, Office Depot, and Costco have made significant strides toward offering Safer Choice products on their shelves. At the same time, Walmart is working on getting its private label products recognized by the program per its sustainable chemistry policy, and Target rewards points to products with Safer Choice certification through its sustainable product index.
Kids need a Safer Choice
There is growing evidence that certain chemicals in common use can harm our health, and children whose bodies are still developing are especially at risk.
Children typically eat, drink and breathe more relative to their body weight. They are often on the floor where dirt and dust that contain toxic substances settle, and they love to put those little hands in their mouths.
The truth is, our current chemical safety law doesn’t do enough to keep children safe from chemicals in our homes. Even for a chemist like myself it can be hard to always know which product ingredients are cause for greater concern.
Safer Choice is a step in the right direction, but we also know that more needs to be done to keep toxic chemicals out of everyday household products.
We know labels work
The Energy Star program showed the power of an EPA-backed label. For years, it’s helped consumers find more energy efficient appliances and encouraged companies to meet the demand for such products.
As shoppers now seek out the Safer Choice label and ask retailers to carry products carrying that label, more companies will participate by adding more certified products to the shelves. This will, in turn, spur innovation and development of safer chemicals and products for everyone.
So, next time you’re looking to restock those cleaners under your kitchen sink, be on the lookout for that label.