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Environmentalists Use Old NY Law to Force New Disclosure on Home Cleaners

February 8, 2010

NEW YORK - Manufacturers of household cleaning products are being asked to come clean - as to what exactly goes into their products and what risks they pose. Environmentalists say New York law requires manufacturers to give up the goods on what goes into household cleaners.

Kathy Curtis, policy director of Clean New York, says the law is not being enforced, however. As things stand now, she says, consumers have no idea if many of the common products in the grocery store are unsafe.

"In the long run, I would like this to be a world in which babies are born without toxic chemicals in their bodies. One way to get to that is to reform the broken chemical-management system."

New York has been a leader in crafting laws that require disclosure, she says, adding that environmentalists are only asking the court to require enforcement of a 1971 law they say is largely ignored.

Chemical manufacturers say such action is not needed, because they have been increasing efforts to disclose product ingredients on a voluntary basis. Although they contend the health risks are being blown out of proportion, Kerri Powell, staff attorney with EarthJustice, says there is scientific reason to be concerned about many common household cleaning products.

"The studies suggest that there might be links to long-term illnesses like cancer and reproductive damage; some of these chemicals might increase the risk of miscarriage."

Right now, makers of household cleaners are not required by federal law to disclose what goes into their products, but there are proposals in Congress to require them to list those ingredients.

EarthJustice filed the case on behalf of the Sierra Club, American Lung Association and several other groups. The case was heard was heard by the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan last week.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - NY