ARE THE PRODUCTS REALLY GREEN?
Avoid cleaners marked “Danger” or “Poison” on the label, and look out for other tell-tale hazard warnings, such as “corrosive” or “may cause burns.”
Avoid products that list active ingredients of chlorine or ammonia, which can cause respiratory and skin irritation and will create toxic fumes if accidentally mixed together.
Protect water quality and aquatic life by refusing to purchase detergents containing phosphates, which may cause algal blooms, or alkylphenol ethoxylates, including nonylphenol and octylphenol. Unfortunately, these ingredients are rarely, if ever, disclosed on labels; however, the brands recommended in this report are, to the best of our knowledge, phosphate- and APE-free.
Beware of unregulated “greenwash” claims on labels! Terms such as “natural” and “eco-friendly” or “organic” shouldn’t be equated with safety unless they’re backed up with specific ingredient information, such as “solvent-free,” “no petroleum-based ingredients,” “no phosphates,” etc. “Non-toxic” has no official definition, so unless a third party has verified this claim, it is not considered meaningful. And don’t believe “organic” ingredients in cleaning and other chemical products are any safer than other substances. Although “organic” in the grocery store refers to foods grown without synthetic pesticides, in chemistry it refers to chemicals that are carbon-based, including some VOCs (volatile organic compounds) that release harmful fumes and may cause brain damage or cancer. Additionally, watch out for products labeled organic. Household cleaning products aren’t regulated by the Organic Foods Production Act, but some of their ingredients, such as plant oils, can be labeled Â“certified organic.Â” For more info, see ecolabels.org.
Be aware that some labels that may make a product appear eco-friendly are actually meaningless. For example, many aerosol spray cans are labeled “no CFCs” (chlorofluorocarbons), leading consumers to believe they are buying a more eco-friendly product by purchasing that brand. In reality, CFCs have been banned from aerosols since 1978, so none are permitted to contain CFCs. And think of all of the resources that would be saved if companies that advertise their packaging as “100% recyclable” actually switched to materials that are “100% recycled!”