New York to Force Household Cleaner Giants to Reveal Chemical Ingredients

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext. 235

New York to Force Household Cleaner Giants to Reveal Chemical Ingredients

First-of-its kind disclosure cheered by health, consumer, worker, and environmental advocates

ALBANY, N.Y. - For the first time, the State of New York will begin requiring household cleaning companies to reveal the chemical ingredients in their products and any health risks they pose.

The move was triggered by public health and environmental advocates,
who urged New York's Department of Environmental Conservation to enforce
disclosure requirements dating back more than 30 years. Independent
studies show a link between many chemicals commonly found in cleaning
products and health effects ranging from nerve damage to hormone
disruption. With growing concern about the potential hazards of
chemicals in these products, the advocates mounted a campaign pressing
the State to uphold consumers' right to know and begin enforcing the
33-year-old law.

The first-of-its-kind policy could have national implications, as
momentum builds here and abroad for toxic chemical reform. Congress is
considering legislation to overhaul U.S. chemicals policy and in July
debated a bill forcing the chemical industry to prove the safety of a
chemical before it could be used in products. Internationally, companies
are preparing to comply with a similar European law (known as REACH)
already taking effect.

"Full ingredient disclosure is a critical step toward ensuring safer,
healthier products," said Kathy Curtis, policy director from Clean New
York.  "Consumers around the country will benefit from New York's
leadership."

Last year, on behalf of Women's Voices for the Earth, Environmental
Advocates of New York, New York Public Interest Research Group,
Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, and American Lung Association in New York, the
nonprofit law firm Earthjustice sued
household cleaning giants Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Arm
& Hammer parent company Church and Dwight and Lysol-maker
Reckitt-Benckiser for failing to submit required semi-annual ingredient
reports. A judge dismissed the lawsuit last month without ruling on the
merits of the groups' claims.  But during the court case, the companies
said they would file disclosure reports if asked to do so by the State.

DEC Commissioner Pete Grannis has now made that request by announcing the agency's new policy in an invitation to a stakeholders' meeting sent to groups late yesterday afternoon.   

 "By making the companies come clean about what is in their products,
New York State is initiating an age of greater transparency and is
empowering people to protect themselves and their families," said
Earthjustice Managing Attorney Deborah Goldberg, who will be handling a
likely appeal of the case against the cleaning product companies, which
have yet to file any reports.

The stakeholders' meeting, to be held on October 6, will bring
together DEC officials, public health and environmental groups, and
cleaning product companies to begin a process for specifying mutually
acceptable "content, format, and logistics" for disclosure of chemicals
in the products."We are incredibly pleased that the New York DEC is
requesting this information from product makers. Consumers have a right
to know what they are being exposed from cleaning products," said Erin
Switalski, executive director of Women's Voices for the Earth.  "Making
product ingredient information public is a critical step towards
protecting the health and well-being of all consumers."

"It's high time that New York State enforce the law and hold cleaning
product manufacturers accountable for the dangerous chemicals in their
products. We applaud the Department of Environmental Conservation for
taking this long-awaited action," said Saima Anjam, Environmental
Advocates of New York.

Cleaning product manufacturers are taking notice of the changing
climate toward toxics in products. In response to a letter sent by the
groups involved in the court case, several companies, including the
California-based Sunshine Makers, Inc. (manufacturers of Simple Green
products), filed reports
with the State for the first time. And three weeks after the disclosure
lawsuit was filed, household cleaner manufacturing giant SC Johnson
announced that it would begin disclosing the chemical ingredients in its
products through product labels and a website.

"We commend the DEC for requiring manufacturers to 'come clean' about
the ingredients in their products," said Laura Haight, senior
environmental associate with NYPIRG.  "Sunshine is the best
disinfectant."

Studies show links between chemicals in common household cleaners and
respiratory irritation, asthma, and allergies. Occupational exposures
to some ethylene glycol ethers, often used as solvents in cleaning
products, are associated with red blood cell damage, reproductive system
damage, and birth defects.  Some solvents in cleaning products are also
toxic to the nervous system.

"Everyone knows somebody with breast cancer," said Huntington Breast
Cancer Action Coalition President Karen Miller. "While researchers
are connecting the dots between toxic exposure found in products we use
every day, regulatory agencies must step up the pace to provide
consumers with the right to know what they are bringing into their
homes."

"Many chemicals in cleaning products and air fresheners are endocrine
disruptors which are suspected of having links to cancer, and which
alter mammary gland development in animal studies.  The public has the
right to know if some of the potentially harmful chemicals of concern,
such as alkyphenols, terpenes, benzene, some antimicrobial agents and
certain synthetic musks are in the products they use," said Capital
Region Action Against Breast Cancer! Program Coordinator Margaret
Roberts.

"This is a long-overdue protection that consumers need and deserve,"
said New York State United Teachers Vice President Kathleen Donahue.

"The State of New York's commitment to full disclosure of chemical
ingredients is a significant step," said Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter
Conservation Program Manager Roger Downs. "Now New Yorkers can make
educated choices about the household products that they use."

"With a New York law already in place to protect children at schools
from the toxic chemicals in cleaning products, the enforcement of this
disclosure requirement will give parents the opportunity to make their
homes as safe as schools," Grassroots Environmental Education Executive
Director Patti Wood.

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Earthjustice is a non-profit public interest law firm dedicated to protecting the magnificent places, natural resources, and wildlife of this earth, and to defending the right of all people to a healthy environment. We bring about far-reaching change by enforcing and strengthening environmental laws on behalf of hundreds of organizations, coalitions and communities.

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