Hazard warning on home cleaners / Study says many use chemicals linked to fertility problems
July 24, 2007|Jane Kay, Chronicle Environment Writer
Dozens of common household cleaning products contain hidden toxic chemicals linked to fertility disorders in lab animals, according to data gathered by a women’s research group.
A type of glycol ether is frequently found in popular cleaning products such as Windex Aerosol, Formula 409, Lemon Fresh Pine-Sol and Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner, says the report released today by Women’s Voices for the Earth, a Montana-based nonprofit working to eliminate or reduce toxic chemicals in the home.
The chemical, called ethylene glycol butyl ether or EGBE, is on California’s list of toxic air contaminants. Some animal studies indicate that it produces reproductive problems, such as testicular damage, reduced fertility, death of embryos and birth defects. People exposed to high levels of EGBE for several hours have reported nose and eye irritation, headaches, vomiting and a metallic taste in their mouths, studies show.
It’s difficult for consumers to know whether their favorite cleaner contains the chemical because manufacturers aren’t required to list it on the label. Neither the state nor the federal government regulates indoor air pollution, for instance how the cleaners might degrade air inside a home.
“These are products that women are using in their households on a daily basis, and they use them around their children,” said Alexandra Gorman, the group’s director of science and research and an author of the report.
The group wants to help people become aware of chemicals they might want to avoid.
Scientists say most people spend about 90 percent of their time indoors. Babies, elderly people and sick people spend almost all of their time inside.
The women’s research group pored through federally mandated Material Safety Data Sheets pertaining to household cleaning products. The data sheets, which are prepared by the manufacturers and are widely available online, contain information on chemicals used in products.
The group found that EGBE, also known as 2-butoxyethanol, was a common ingredient. It’s a colorless, biodegradable chemical with a fruity odor that acts as a degreaser.
The researchers found about 50 products containing varied amounts of the chemical. Some manufacturers, like Sunshine Makers Inc., which makes the Simple Green brand, didn’t report how much of the chemical is used in its products. . .
What you can do:
- Check labels and pick cleaners that contain green alcohol instead of other solvents.
- Choose fragrance-free items and don’t pick antibacterial soaps that unnecessarily rely on chemicals.
- Pick detergents based on plant oils rather than petroleum, and plant-oil disinfectants such as eucalyptus, rosemary or sage.
- Mix your own cleaners using items such as plain soap, water, baking soda, vinegar or lemon juice.
Cleaning products reported to contain 2-butoxyethanol
- All-purpose cleaners
- America’s Home Value AllPurpose Cleaner
- Aroma Clean by Simple Green
- Clean Swipe Spray Cleaner
- Crystal Simple Green Cleaner/ Degreaser
- Formula 409 All Purpose Cleaner Grease & Grime
- Formula 409 All Purpose Cleaner Lemon Fresh
- Formula 409 All Purpose Cleaner Lemon Fresh Antibacterial
- Formula 409 All Purpose Cleaner Degreaser (trigger spray)
- Formula 409 Spray All Purpose Cleaner
- Formula 409 Daily Kitchen Cleaner
- Lemon Fresh Pine-Sol Cleaner & Antibacterial Spray
- Pro Formula 409 Degreaser
- Savogran Dirtex Spray Cleaner
- Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner Lemon Scented
- Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner Foam
- Simple Green BBQ Grill Microwave Cleaner
- Simple Green Concentrated Cleaner, Degreaser, Deodorizer
- Simple Green Extreme Clean
- Simple Green Multi-Purpose Cleaner
- SOS All Purpose Cleaner Lemon Scent
- Whistle All Purpose Cleaner
- Bathroom Cleaners
- America’s Home Value Bathroom Cleaner
- Aqua Mix Heavy Duty Tile and Grout Cleaner
- Magic American Marble & Granite Magic Tile & Grout Magic Cleaner
- Carpet/Rug Cleaners
- Aroma Clean by Simple Green Carpet, Fabric and Upholstery Cleaner
- Carpet Stain Remover
- It’s Magic Carpet Cleaner
- Simple Green Carpet Cleaner
- Spot Shot Instant Carpet Stain Remover, aerosol and trigger sprays
- Spot Shot Large Area Multi-Purpose Cleaner
- Floor Cleaners
- Fresh Scent Pine-Sol Spray & Mop Floor Cleaner
- Lemon Fresh Pine-Sol Quick Floor Cleaner
- Aroma Clean by Simple Green Floor Cleaner
- Break Up Floor Stripper
- Glass Cleaners
- America’s Home Value Glass Cleaner
- Easy Off Glass Cleaner
- Lemonized with Ammonia
- Formula 409 Glass & Surface Cleaner
- Glass Plus Mirror & Glass Cleaner
- Sparkle Glass Cleaner
- Windex Aerosol Wipes
- Aroma Clean by Simple Green All Purpose Cleaner Wipes
- Formula 409 Cleaning Wipes
- Simple Green All Purpose Towelettes
- Simple Green Lemon Scented All Purpose Wipes
- Simple Green Safety Towels
- Source: Manufacturers and Women’s Voices for the Earth