While we know that most household cleaners can be dangerous – which is why we put the safety latches on the cabinets to keep babies out– we may not realize just how dangerous they are even when properly used.
These days a lot of greenwashing (labeling products as natural) and other safety claims are made in advertisements to sell products by putting consumers’ minds at ease. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), a consumer advocacy non-profit group, decided to take a look at these claims and found some frightening results.
Jane Houlihan, EWG senior vice president for research and co-author of the EWG Cleaners Hall of Shame, said that, “Cleaning your home can come at a high price with cancer-causing chemicals in the air; having an asthma attack from fumes; or getting serious skin burns from an accidental spill.”
“Almost any ingredient is legal and almost none of them are labeled, leaving families at risk,” she added.
This Cleaners Hall of Shame is a preview of a more comprehensive EWG Cleaners Database project that is due for release in fall 2012.
The current report defines greenwashing as cleaners being labeled non-toxic, green, or safe, while containing hazardous ingredients.
Among the worst offenders is Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner, which the EWG says is labeled non-toxic and biodegradable, but contains the solvent 2-butoxyethanol that can irritate eyes and if absorbed through the skin, can damage red blood cells.
“Worse, the company website instructs the user to dilute the product significantly for even the heaviest cleaning tasks. Yet it comes in a spray bottle that implies it should be sprayed full-strength. Such use would result in higher exposure (and risk),” said the report.