Report Reveals Hidden Chemicals in Common Household Cleaners
New independent lab testing on 20 top household cleaning products reveals that top-selling cleaning products and detergents, including Tide Free & Gentle, Pine-Sol and Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner, contain toxic chemicals not revealed to the consumer. The results show that cleaning products commonly contain hidden chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and pregnancy complications. The tests were commissioned by the national nonprofit Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE).
This report, Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in Your Cleaning Products?, came the same day Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY) introduced the Cleaning Product Right-to-Know Act—national legislation to change the lax regulations around the disclosure of cleaning product chemical ingredients. Currently, cleaning products are not required to list ingredients on the label, so unlike personal care products and food, there is no way for consumers to know the full list of ingredients in cleaners.
“Our cabinets are full of soaps and cleaners that we assume improve our homes and health. However, new research shines a light on the secret chemicals that might be doing more harm than good. You have a right to know what’s hiding in your household products. That’s why I’m introducing legislation to require full disclosure of the ingredients in everyday cleaning products,” said Rep. Israel.
WVE commissioned tests of 20 cleaning products including laundry detergents, dryer sheets, air fresheners, disinfectant sprays and furniture polishes manufactured by Clorox, Procter & Gamble, Reckitt Benckiser, SC Johnson and Son and Sunshine Makers (Simple Green), at an independent laboratory. The test results revealed:
- Tide Free & Gentle detergent, a fragrance and dye-free product marketed to people with sensitive skin and mothers of infants, was found to contain 1,4-dioxane, a probable human carcinogen
- Simple Green Naturals was found to contain phthalates, a chemical associated with reproductive disorders and birth defects
- Allergens were found in products marketed as “fragrance-free”
- Hidden reproductive toxins and carcinogens such as phthalates, toluene, 1,4-dioxane and chloroform
- None of these chemicals were listed on the product label
“We’d like to see consumers have the freedom to make informed choices in the store, to protect their families from toxic chemicals,” said WVE director of science and research and report author Alexandra Scranton. “The system we have now is broken—it’s unnecessary for these risky chemicals to be used in products we use every day. Companies need to phase out these harmful chemicals, and we need a policy that standardizes labeling guidelines for cleaning products, so companies can’t keep these toxic chemicals a secret.”
More than 80,000 chemicals are on the market today, but nearly 20 percent of them are kept secret, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Consumers have been uncertain about the safety of chemicals in cleaners, even in products marketed as “green.” There has been a decline in the sale of cleaning products nationally, environmental and health concerns being one of the contributing factors. Some consumers are favoring homemade cleaners using vinegar and baking soda, for safety and cost reasons.
“I’ve heard complaints from hundreds of people who said that air fresheners and other fragranced household products made them sick—causing headaches, breathing difficulties, seizures, asthma attacks and other health problems,” says Dr. Anne Steinemann, professor of civil and environmental engineering and public affairs at the University of Washington. “This report does a tremendous service by revealing the hazardous chemicals that can be hidden in cleaning products, so that consumers can know to avoid fragrances and other chemicals that are linked to serious health problems.”
WVE’s 2007 report Household Hazards found that Latina women are particularly at risk for overexposure to toxic chemicals through cleaners. Nationally, more than one-third of domestic cleaners are Latina women. “Latino families want to protect their families from toxic chemicals, but that’s really difficult when ingredients are kept secret, and companies like P&G are aggressively marketing to Latino consumers,” says Lorena Garcia, executive director of the Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “We will be working to educate Latina women specifically about the hazards and risks associated with using these kinds of products.”
WVE has engaged the five major companies investigated in this report in an effort to encourage full disclosure of chemical ingredients and removal of toxic chemicals in cleaning products. WVE has been one of the lead advocacy groups calling on Congress to strengthen ingredient disclosure requirements for cleaning products. The Cleaning Product Right-to-Know Act of 2011 will require companies to list all of the product ingredients directly on the label and will create a uniform system for labeling.
To download the report, click here.
For the fact sheet with the table of products tested and results, click here.
For more information, click here.
Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that impact women’s health by changing consumer behaviors, corporate practices and government policies. www.womensvoices.org
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
By Danielle Nierenberg
Following the murder of George Floyd by police in Minneapolis, people around the United States are protesting racism, police brutality, inequality, and violence in their own communities. No matter your political affiliation, the violence by multiple police departments in this country is unacceptable.
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By Jacob L. Steenwyk and Antonis Rokas
From the mythical minotaur to the mule, creatures created from merging two or more distinct organisms – hybrids – have played defining roles in human history and culture. However, not all hybrids are as fantastic as the minotaur or as dependable as the mule; in fact, some of them cause human diseases.
When Looking Through a Microscope Isn’t Close Enough.<p>For the last few years, <a href="http://www.rokaslab.org/" target="_blank">our team at Vanderbilt University</a>, <a href="https://www.researchgate.net/lab/Gustavo-Goldman-Lab" target="_blank">Gustavo Goldman's team at São Paulo University in Brazil</a> and many other collaborators around the world have been collecting samples of fungi from patients infected with different species of <em>Aspergillus</em> molds. One of the species we are particularly interested in is <a href="https://doi.org/10.1006/rwgn.2001.0082" target="_blank"><em>Aspergillus nidulans</em>, a relatively common and generally harmless fungus</a>. Clinical laboratories typically identify the species of <em>Aspergillus</em> causing the infection by examining cultures of the fungi under the microscope. The problem with this approach is that very closely related species of <em>Aspergillus</em> tend to look very similar in their broad morphology or physical appearance when viewing them through a microscope.</p><p>Interested in examining the varying abilities of different <em>A. nidulans</em> strains to cause disease, we decided to analyze their total genetic content, or genomes. What we saw came as a total surprise. We had not collected <em>A. nidulans</em> but <em>Aspergillus latus</em>, a close relative of <em>A. nidulans</em> and, as we were to soon find out, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.cub.2020.04.071" target="_blank">a hybrid species that evolved through the fusion of the genomes</a> of two other <em>Aspergillus</em> species: <em>Aspergillus spinulosporus</em> and an unknown close relative of <em>Aspergillus quadrilineatus</em>. Thus, we realized not only that these patients harbored infections from an entirely different species than we thought they were, but also that this species was the first ever <em>Aspergillus</em> hybrid known to cause human infections.</p>
Several Different Fungal Hybrids Cause Human Disease.<p>Hybrid fungi that can cause infections in humans are well known to occur in several different lineages of single-celled fungi known as yeasts. Notable examples include multiple different species of <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/yea.3242" target="_blank">yeast hybrids</a> that cause the human diseases <a href="https://rarediseases.info.nih.gov/diseases/6218/cryptococcosis" target="_blank">cryptococcosis</a> and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/candidiasis/index.html" target="_blank">candidiasis</a>. Although pathogenic yeast hybrids are well known, our discovery that the <em>A. latus</em> pathogen is a hybrid is a first for molds that cause disease in humans.</p>
(Left) Candida yeasts live on parts of the human body. Imbalance of microbes on the body can allow these yeasts, some of which are hybrids, to grow and cause infection. (Right) Cryptococcus yeasts, including ones that are hybrids, can cause life-threatening infections in primarily immunocompromised people. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention<p><a href="https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1008315" target="_blank">Why certain <em>Aspergillus</em> species are so deadly</a> while others are harmless remains unknown. This may in part be because <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.fbr.2007.02.007" target="_blank">combinations of traits, rather than individual traits</a>, underlie organisms' ability to cause disease. So why then are hybrids frequently associated with human disease? Hybrids inherit genetic material from both parents, which may result in new combinations of traits. This may make them more similar to one parent in some of their characteristics, reflect both parents in others or may differ from both in the rest. It is precisely this mix and match of traits that hybrids have inherited from their parental species that <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/14/science/14creatures.html" target="_blank">facilitates their evolutionary success</a>, including their ability to cause disease.</p>
The Evolutionary Origin of an Aspergillus Hybrid.<p>Multiple evolutionary paths can lead to the emergence of hybrids. One path is through mating, just as the horse and donkey mate to create a mule. Another path is through the merging or fusion of genetic material from cells of different species.</p><p>It is this second path that appears to have been taken by our fungus. <em>A. latus</em> appears to have two of almost everything compared to its parental species: twice the genome size, twice the total number of genes and so on. But unlike other hybrids, which are often sterile like the mule, we found that <em>A. latus</em> is capable of reproducing both asexually and sexually.</p><p>But how distinct were the parents of <em>A. latus</em>? By comparing the parts contributed by each parent in the <em>A. latus</em> genome, we estimate that its parents are approximately 93% genetically similar, which is about as related as we humans are with lemurs. In other words, <em>A. latus</em>, an agent of infectious disease, is the fungal equivalent of a human-lemur hybrid.</p>
How A. Latus Differs From its Parents.<p>Elucidating the identity of closely related fungal pathogens and how they differ from each other in infection-relevant characteristics is a key step toward reducing the burden of fungal disease. For example, we found that <em>A. latus</em> was three times more resistant than <em>A. nidulans</em>, the species it was originally identified as using microscopy-based methods, to one of the most common antifungal drugs, <a href="https://www.drugbank.ca/drugs/DB00520" target="_blank">caspofungin</a>. This result provides a clear example of the potential importance of accurate identification of the <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogen causing an infection.</p><p>We also examined how <em>A. latus</em> and <em>A. nidulans</em> interact with cells from our immune system. We found that immune cells were less efficient at combating <em>A. latus</em> compared to <em>A. nidulans</em>, suggesting the hybrid fungus may be trickier for our immune systems to identify and destroy.</p><p>In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, our quest to understand <em>Aspergillus</em> pathogens is becoming more urgent. Growing evidence suggests that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/myc.13096" target="_blank">a fraction of COVID-19 patients are also infected with <em>Aspergillus</em>.</a> More worrying is that these <a href="https://doi.org/10.3201/eid2607.201603" target="_blank">secondary <em>Aspergillus</em> infections</a> can worsen the clinical outcomes for those infected with the novel coronavirus. That being said, we stress that little is known about <em>Aspergillus</em> infections in COVID-19 patients due to a lack of systematic testing, and none of the infections identified so far appear to have been caused by hybrids.</p><p>So, when it comes to hybrids, some are fantastic (the minotaur), some are helpful (the mule) and some are dangerous (<em>Aspergillus latus</em>). Understanding more about the biology of <em>Aspergillus latus</em> may help in our understanding of how microbial pathogens arise and how to best prevent and combat their infections.</p>
This Saturday, June 6, marks National Trails Day, an annual celebration of the remarkable recreational, scenic and hiking trails that crisscross parks nationwide. The event, which started in 1993, honors the National Trail System and calls for volunteers to help with trail maintenance in parks across the country.
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By John Letzing
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The Navajo Nation covers the corners of three different states. Google Maps
Growing Contribution<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMzM3NDY5Ny9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0NjM4MTgyM30.IuQTKQs1stvYYKD6vaVTrqAyoBsUG0BhDvlhxsyKwPA/img.png?width=980" id="02a05" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="2841f82b1785df5d5ed7bf64d3bb882b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />
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It's a different kind of World Environment Day this year. In prior years, it might have been enough to plant a tree, spend some extra time in the garden, or teach kids the importance of recycling. This year we have heavier tasks at hand. It's been months since we've been able to spend sufficient time outside, and as we lustfully watch the beauty of a new spring through our kitchen's glass windows, we have to decide how we'll interact with the natural world on our release, and how we can prevent, or be equipped to handle, future threats against our wellbeing.