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Dangers in Household Cleaning Products to be Exposed

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Friday, September 10, 2010   

ALBANY, N.Y. - Environmental and health organizations went to court a year ago to try to force the makers of hundreds of well-known household cleaners to reveal what dangerous chemicals - if any - are in their products. Their lawsuit was dismissed in July, but growing public pressure appears to have prompted the New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) to bring all the parties together in October to discuss disclosure.

Earthjustice attorney Deborah Goldberg says the state looks to be willing to finally begin enforcing a law that technically has been in effect for 33 years.

"There hasn't been any place where you could easily go to get information about what these chemicals are and what they might do to you. We're hoping that a new website will be developed."

The DEC says that, in the past, it didn't have the staff and resources to collect the information.

Studies have linked chemicals in cleaning products to asthma, nerve damage and hormonal disruption, among other ailments, Goldberg says.

Trade groups maintain their products are safe. The American Cleaning Institute says its members have launched their own voluntary initiative. And the Soap and Detergent Association says a poll it commissioned showed that nearly nine out of 10 Americans believe cleaning products are safe when used as directed.

Mr. Clean, Swiffer, Murphy Oil Soap and hundreds of other household cleaners may now have to have to "come clean" about their chemical makeup. DEC spokeswoman Maureen Wren explains why the decades-old law wasn't enforced in the past.

"What the law said was that we had the ability and the authority to collect this information, but it did not mandate DEC collect it. The staff time and cost was not available at the time."

Goldberg says household cleaners are the subject of considerable suspicion.

"There's increasing evidence that a lot of the chemicals in cleaning products do have serious health impacts, particularly on children, who are exposed as they crawl around on the floors and put their hands in their mouths."





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