[Pharmwaste] Groups to sue cleaning product makers for ingredient
Laurie.Tenace at dep.state.fl.us
Wed Feb 18 08:43:12 EST 2009
Groups to sue cleaning product makers for ingredient disclosure
Environmental and health activists want lists and research results from such
firms as Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive.
By Susan Carpenter
February 18, 2009
The makers of Tide, Ajax and other common household cleansers are being asked
to come clean about their ingredients.
Environmental and health activists announced plans Tuesday for a lawsuit to
make Procter & Gamble Co., Colgate-Palmolive Co. and two other major firms
reveal the chemical ingredients of their cleaning products and their research
on the products' effects.
The suit, to be filed today in New York, seeks to use a little-known 1976 New
York law passed to combat phosphates in detergent.
The activists "say people deserve to know whether the products they use to
wash their dishes and clean their homes could be harmful," said New York
lawyer Keri Powell, an attorney for Earthjustice, a nonprofit public interest
The lawsuit is being filed on behalf of six state and national environmental
and health groups, including the Sierra Club and American Lung Assn. in New
Responding to the lawsuit, the Soap and Detergent Assn. expressed
disappointment that activist groups were "using an arcane New York state
regulation as a way to disparage cleaning product formulators whose products
are used safely and effectively by millions of people every day."
The industry plans a major push next year to make more information available
about ingredients, said Michelle Radecki, general counsel of the
Washington-based group. It represents 110 cleaning product manufacturers that
together make more than 90% of U.S. cleaning products.
"The cleaning product industry is committed to providing more information
than ever before on cleaning product ingredients," she said.
Last September, the coalition of groups sent letters to several manufacturers
informing them of the New York law and its requirement that they file
semiannual ingredient and research reports with the state's Department of
The letters asked the manufacturers to comply within 30 days.
"Eco-friendly" cleaning product manufacturers Method Products Inc., based in
San Francisco, and Seventh Generation Inc., in Burlington, Vt., were among
the companies that complied with the request.
Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble, New York-based Colgate-Palmolive and
Princeton, N.J.-based Church & Dwight Co. (maker of the popular Arm & Hammer
products) all refused to comply; Britain-based Reckitt Benckiser Group (which
makes Woolite) did not respond.
The lawsuit seeks to invoke Article 35 of New York's Environmental
Conservation Law -- a statute that's seen little action since it was passed
in 1976 to combat phosphates, a family of chemicals once widely used in
detergents until they were associated with negative health effects.
Health issues are central to the new lawsuit as well. Many of the activist
groups in the lawsuit link the chemicals in household cleaning products to
asthma, skin sensitization and other human health issues, as well as
reproductive problems in aquatic life.
The Consumer Product Safety Commission is the federal agency charged with
overseeing home cleaning products, but it doesn't require cleaning product
manufacturers to provide comprehensive ingredient lists, so few companies do.
And although the federal Toxic Substances Control Act was enacted in 1976 to
regulate the introduction of chemicals, it grandfathered in most of the
existing chemicals on the market.
In California, two laws were approved in 2008. Together they require the
state to identify "chemicals of concern," to evaluate safer alternatives and
to create a scientific clearinghouse for information on chemicals' effects,
but environmental and health groups say it will be years before consumers see
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