Bill Would Make Ingredient List on Cleaning Product Crystal Clear

In most cases, it takes more than a glance at the bottle to find out what's in cleaning products.
In most cases, it takes more than a glance at the bottle to find out what's in cleaning products. | Photo: Judy/Flickr/Creative Commons

Do you know what's in the cleaning products you spritz on your floor, toilet, or windows? In most cases, it takes more than a glance at the bottle to find out. Cleaning product labels are not required to disclose the ingredients within. And though some companies choose to make the ingredient list available online, not all do, making it difficult or impossible to be an educated consumer.

"There is very little oversight of these products," said Nancy Buermeyer, a spokesperson for the Breast Cancer Fund, backer of a proposed bill that would require cleaning product ingredients to be listed on labels and a webpage. AB 708, also backed by the Environmental Working Group, was introduced in late February by Los Angeles Assemblymember Reginald Jones-Sawyer.

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"This doesn't limit what can be put in cleaning products, it only requires the listing of chemicals so we can do the research we need to do as consumers to make better choices," Buermeyer said, adding that California would be the first state to pass a law of this kind.

The bill would apply to all manner of soaps, cleaners, and detergents for homes or cars.

The industry group American Cleaning Institute doesn't see the need for such legislation, given that some companies already volunteer ingredients online.

"There is a vast array of information already available about the cleaning products that people use safely every day," said institute spokesman Brian Sansoni. "If a consumer has a question about an ingredient in a product, he or she has a variety of sources to find out more about that product," he said, noting resources such as this, which can be used to find ingredient lists for some products, but not others.

Sansoni said that cleaning products are safe when used as directed, and that the size of some product bottles would prevent the listing of lengthy ingredient lists.

Buermeyer said consumer safety advocates are eager to see full disclosure of ingredients to better understand potential risks. "The problem is we don't know the full range of what we're concerned about because we don't know what's in them," she said. "Once we know, we can be more focused about our concerns."

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