Cleaning products made by Clorox, SC Johnson and Reckitt Benckiser are among hundreds that received failing grades in an online safety and disclosure guide published by the Environmental Working Group.
The online guide covers more than 2,000 household cleaners.
The non-profit’s staff scientists spent 14 months examining product labels, company websites and technical documents to determine chemicals used in household products. EWG staff reviewed each ingredient against 15 US and international toxicity databases and numerous scientific and medical journals.
Just 7 percent of cleaning products adequately disclose their contents, EWG said. Of the 408 all-purpose cleaners reviewed, 18 products scored an A, eight scored a B, 33 scored a C, 160 scored a D and 189 products scored an F.
Greenology Products, which makes Green Shield Organics cleaners and laundry detergents, Seventh Generation, The Honest Co., and Method Products were companies that consistently received the best grades in the online guide. Reckitt Benckiser, which had numerous failing grades, did receive a B for its Lysol Cling Clip-on Toilet Bowl Deodorizer and Lysol Professional Disinfectant Basin Tub and Tile Cleaner.
EWG found 53 percent of cleaning products it assessed contain ingredients known to harm the lungs. About 22 percent contain chemicals reported to cause asthma to develop in otherwise healthy individuals.
EWG also found the chemical 1,4 dioxane, a suspected human carcinogen, is a common contaminant of widely-used detergent chemicals. It said formaldehyde, a known human carcinogen, is sometimes used as a preservative in cleaning products. And EWG said sodium borate, which can disrupt hormone function and also is known as borax and boric acid, was added to many products as a cleaning agent.
EWG recommends avoiding air fresheners that contain unknown fragrance mixtures; antibacterial products, which the group says can spur development of drug-resistant superbugs; fabric softeners and dryer sheets; and caustic drain cleaners and oven cleaners, which EWG says can burn eyes and skin.
But the American Cleaning Institute, which represents the $30 billion US cleaning products market, called EWG’s online guide a scare campaign that promotes false fears about cleaning products. ACI said EWG distorts the science and research about cleaning product and ingredient safety. The group said EWG ignores that ingredients can be used safely at the levels present in cleaning products.
ACI also said that more information is available than before on cleaning product ingredients, which companies provide on labels, websites, through toll-free numbers and by other non-electronic means.