Consumer Products: Putting Safety into Your Shopping Basket
Some products we use every day contain chemicals that could be a health concern especially for sensitive individuals. The chemicals may enter the air or dust in our homes and get into our bodies. Most people don’t realize that chemicals present in cleaning products, glues, carpeting, furniture and many other items can be released from the product. This can contaminate your home’s air and house dust.
In many cases, the chemicals used in products have not been thoroughly tested for safety and do not need to appear on product labels. Various governmental bodies have identified chemicals of high concern to children which appear in consumer products.
Chemicals of Concern are chemicals that are linked to adverse health effects but have not been studied enough to definitively conclude harm and so remain in products. Concerns have been raised by consumer groups, state governments and some researchers that the federal government does not have enough authority under the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) to properly regulate chemicals in consumer products. Examples of such chemicals of concern are: triclosan, parabens, phthalates, formaldehyde and certain flame retardants
Be a smart consumer. Learn about these products and the chemicals they contain. This web page will help consumers identify where toxic chemicals may exist in consumer products and how to find alternatives to the higher concern products and chemicals.
What's in the Product?
When buying a product check to see if it has a list of ingredients and warnings. You may be able to identify ingredients of concern if there is a list. Warning labels on items give important information about how to protect you and your family from the chemicals contained in the product. There are also useful resources online which list ingredients of products.
Web Sources of Product Ingredients:
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (DHHS) Household Data Base has information on the following product categories:
Inside the Home
Landscape & Yard
Arts & Crafts
The database can be searched by product name, product type, manufacturer, ingredients and health effects: USDHHS Household Products Database
Good Guide: Provides scientific ratings of many types of consumer products and indicate harmful chemicals if they exist in a product (University of California at Berkeley).
Some of the chemicals contained in consumer products can cause burning or itchy eyes, headaches, dizziness, or respiratory illnesses. Some are allergens that can trigger asthma attacks, are endocrine disruptors, or carcinogens. Others may contribute to learning problems. The degree to which this occurs depends upon the strength of the chemical, the amount in the product and the rate at which the product is used.
General Tips for Reducing Toxics
- Avoid unnecessary use of fragrances or antibacterial products
- Use the least amount of product to get the job done
- Dust often with a damp or microfiber cloth, damp mop and vacuum frequently using a vacuum with a HEPA filter
- Wash hands frequently, especially children
- Wash new clothes before wearing
- Limit the use of aerosol spray cans
- Read labels and choose products that avoid toxic chemicals
Products that may contain chemicals of concern
- Hair dyes, Soaps, Shampoo, Hairsprays, Hair straighteners, Lotions, Deodorants
- Upholstered furniture, Carpets, Draperies, Fabric care
- Polishes & waxes
- Carpet Cleaners
- Household cleaners
- Air fresheners and other fragrance products
- Household pesticides
- Pet Care