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Just What Is In Household Cleaning Products? - Trial Today

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October 15, 2009

NEW YORK - Mr. Clean, Murphy Oil Soap and Swiffer get their day in court today, as the makers of those and many other household cleaning products answer a lawsuit demanding disclosure of what dangerous chemicals - if any - they contain. Representing a half-dozen health and environmental groups, Keri Powell of Earthjustice will argue in New York State Supreme Court that Proctor & Gamble, Colgate Palmolive and two other companies are ignoring a 30-year-old regulation.

"We're trying to enforce a law that's already on the books. It's one of the few laws, and the only law that we've seen throughout the country, that requires cleaning-product manufacturers to disclose their ingredients."

The Soap and Detergent Association, a trade group, says its products are safe and that it's addressing concerns with its own, voluntary initiative. But Keri Powell says the makers of household cleaners continue to ignore a New York state law that took effect in 1976, requiring twice-yearly ingredient disclosures. She says that makes the recent promise of new transparency by the manufacturers' association insufficient.

"They don't even attempt to argue in their legal papers that their voluntary initiative is enough. It doesn't go nearly far enough. It doesn't guarantee disclosure of all ingredients."

Nina Personius, who works with pre-school and elementary children in the Hudson Valley and is the mother of a two-year-old, says the allergic reactions that forced her to stop using some cleaning products cause her to worry about her children's health.

"I myself know that prolonged levels of exposure to certain cleaning products inhibit my overall health and well-being. So while the intention behind using these cleaning products is to protect the children from unwanted germs, the toxic chemicals in them may be causing them further health and learning problems."

Hormonal disruption, nerve damage and asthma are among the ailments that studies have linked to chemicals sometimes found in cleaning products.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY