Harmful or harmless? Cleaning product debate wages on


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As the world around us takes on a greener tinge, more of us are taking notice of what we put into our bodies and homes. This includes the cleaning products we use to wipe down the surfaces of our bathrooms, kitchens and bedrooms.

Of course, not everyone has taken the green movement to heart. While some of us will only empty our pockets for natural, eco-friendly products, others think that if those old-fashioned cleaners were good enough for our parents and grandparents, then they’re good enough for us.

Now a non-profit public-health advocacy in Washington, D.C., the Environmental Working Group (EWG), has published a Hall of Shame, which includes cleaners that the group says “could pose a concern for human health or the environment.”

Here’s what the EWG had to say on its website:

“In a ground-breaking initiative to uncover the truth about toxic chemicals in common household products, the has unearthed compelling evidence that hundreds of cleaners, even some of those hyped as ‘green’ or ‘natural,’ can inflict serious harm on unwary users. Many present severe risks to children who may ingest or spill them or breathe their fumes.”

Although the group is publishing the first edition of its database in fall 2012, its Hall of Shame highlights the “worst of the worst,” which are “loaded with extremely toxic compounds banned in some countries.”

Below are just some of the products and categories the EWG included in its Hall of Shame:

Category: Greenwashing
These are cleaners labeled "safe," "non-toxic" and "green" that can still contain hazardous ingredients, according to the EWG.
Product: Simple Green Concentrated All-Purpose Cleaner

Category: Banned abroad
Product: Mop & Glo Multi-Surface Floor Cleaner
This cleaner contains DEGME (also called methoxydiglycol) at up to 15 times the concentration allowed in cleaners sold in the European Union.

Category: Fatal if swallowed
“When is a clean house worth this risk?” asks the EWG.
Product: Lysol Disinfectant Power Toilet Bowl Cleaner with Lime & Rust Remover

In response to the EWG’s Hall of Shame, the American Cleaning Institute (ACI, formerly The Soap and Detergent Association) called it an “outrageous new publicity campaign designed to promote false fears about cleaning products that are used safely and effectively every day.”

"Cleaning products play an essential role in our daily lives," said Brian Sansoni, ACI VP Communication. "By safely and effectively removing soils, germs and other contaminants, they help us to stay healthy, care for our homes and possessions, and make our surroundings more pleasant. Consumers can continue using cleaning products with confidence.

"The Environmental Working Group's new publicity attack on practically every cleaning product category is really an assault on common sense. The group distorts the science and research about product and ingredient safety. It ignores the fact that an enormous amount of resources are dedicated to assuring the safety of products, including many millions of dollars in research, development and testing before products ever hit the shelves.

"And they seem to forget the three words on product labels that prevent potential real-life problems from occurring: Use as directed."

Sansoni added that consumers can find out more information on various product ingredients through the Consumer Product Ingredient Communication Initiative, gives companies a platform to share information through labels, websites, toll-free numbers or other non-electronic means.

Tell us: Do you think the EWG went too far? Or will you ban the Hall of Shame cleaning products from your home?