The writers and editors at Inhabitots pride ourselves on walking the eco-friendly walk and not just talking the talk, and most of us found ourselves staring with mouths agape in horror while looking up the ratings for our favorite store-bought cleaning products on the Environmental Working Group‘s newly expanded Guide to Healthy Cleaning with ratings of more than 2,500 products with regard to health and environmental effects. Several of the brands we swear by ourselves, including Seventh Generation and Method, received D’s and F’s on EWG’s ratings scale, proving that greenwashing is rampant and even the most eco-savvy of us can fall prey to these claims. Method, one of our go-to brands because it is affordable and available in places like Target — and which purports to have a line of naturally-derived, non-toxic products, scored C’s and D’s with a few outlying F’s. Decades-old company Seventh Generation has a more scattered record, earning A’s for several of its laundry products and D’s and F’s for others, making it completely confusing for consumers to suss out whether to buy the brand’s offerings or not (we’re trending towards not). Read on for more of the frustrating and appalling results from this latest cleaning product database update.
Here’s a summary of the findings:
- Almost three-fourths of common cleaners contain ingredients that may have worrisome effects on respiratory health.
- More than one-fourth received scores indicating moderate to high health concerns because they contain ingredients or possible impurities that have been linked to increased cancer risk.
- One-fifth of products got scores indicating moderate to high health concern because they have ingredients associated with developmental, endocrine or reproductive harm.
- Almost half of the products were rated “poor” on disclosure because their ingredients are not adequately listed on product labels and company websites.
Lack of ingredient disclosure was a definite problem for many companies, but even when the ingredients were labelled, it’s not just the typical offenders like formaldehyde that were found in these items. Many of them are sneaky and mysterious and most consumers (including some of us) don’t spend hours checking each and every weirdly named substance listed on a bottle or box, although now we’re thinking that a much closer look is essential. Considering that Windex and Mr. Clean (not companies we associate with eco-friendly ingredients at all) were given the same score as Seventh Generation with regards to certain surface cleaners, we think it’s time to evaluate each and every product we bring into our homes… and whether the extra cost of these supposedly green brands is truly worth it or just lip service.
It does bear noting, however, that lavender oil was given a score of a C for “some concern” regarding areas such as skin allergies/irritation and cancer, despite the fact that it has been shown to have medical benefits including reducing stress, improving sleep, and healing burns. So, the troubling ratings definitely deserve a closer personal look since each of us has a different tolerance for the chemicals and substances that we allow in our homes, bodies, and environments. Brands that generally scored well (A’s and B’s) included Dr.Bronner’s Magic Soaps, Bi-O-Kleen Industries, and Greenology’s Green Shield Organics products.
The only positive out of this discovery is that now you can toss/recycle (or return for store credit) all the products with hidden toxins and replace them with EWG’s safer, healthier versions, using the EPA’s Safer choice site and label system, or following these helpful hints for spring cleaning when you don’t know which companies to trust. This news has some of us so shaken, we’re going old school and making our own cleaning products.