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Spring Cleaning and the Danger Under The Sink

March 20, 2012

ALBANY, N.Y. - Spring came in at 1:14 this morning in New York, and for those who make a custom of doing spring cleaning, the dangerous chemicals in some household cleaners could turn this vernal quarter into a sad season. Twenty-one groups have sent a letter to New York's top environmental watchdog, urging action on enforcing a 40-year-old law requiring disclosure of harmful chemicals in cleaning products.

Deborah Goldberg of Earthjustice says DEC Commissioner Joe Martens needs to move forward on forcing manufacturers to list the ingredients in their products on a multi-state database.

"It's not only to the people who are down on their hands and knees scrubbing, it's for the little kids who are crawling around in this stuff and pushing their noses against the window and so, forth."

Goldberg says the state's burden can be eased somewhat by collaborating with a data base being used by several states for disclosure of a variety of toxics in many products. It's called the Interstate Chemicals Clearing House, or IC2.

"What DEC has to do is ensure that the companies provide the data on a real-time basis to the IC2 so that the IC2 can utilize it and display it in a way that will be helpful to the consumers."

Goldberg says one year ago, advocates were congratulating the DEC for finally beginning to act, but ultimately little has actually happened because of budget constraints and layoffs.

"There've been huge cutbacks at DEC and there's obviously fewer people to really move this forward. However, I do believe there's a real commitment there and that the Commissioner just needs to understand how much the New York public really cares about this."

She says studies have linked cleaning chemicals to asthma, nerve damage and hormonal disruption.

The DEC didn't return requests for a comment.

According to the EPA, cleaning products are among the top five most common exposures to poison for children. This week also happens to be National Poison Prevention Week.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY