Controversial Bill Could Mask Harmful Chemicals on Cleaning Product Labels
WASHINGTON — A new bill has been introduced—The Cleaning Product Ingredient Communication Act—which will allow cleaning companies to hide certain ingredients from their formulas.
Although it’s written under the guise of creating transparent labeling requirements, one specific clause of the act stands out:
“(Labels must require) a list of each intentionally added ingredient that is present in the cleaning product, unless the ingredient is confidential business information, in which case the manufacturer shall provide the information required under subsection (c);”
The bill defines “confidential business information” (CIB) as any intentionally added ingredient or combination of ingredients for which:
- A claim for protection against disclosure has been asserted under certain sections of the Toxic Substances Control Act or the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, in accordance with the rules established under these acts.
- A manufacturer or a supplier of a manufacturer has obtained relief under section 1836(b) of title 18, United States Code, in a civil action brought under that section, or a civil action under the same is pending in a district court of the United States.
These labeling requirements would make it even more confusing for consumers to know which ingredients are in their cleaning products.
Sponsored By The Cleaning Industry
It may come as no surprise that the bill is heavily supported by trade associations of the cleaning industry.
The Cleaning Institute—whose members include many of the largest cleaning product companies in the United States, including Unilever, SC Johnson, Clorox, and Colgate-Palmolive—publicly support the bill.
Unsurprisingly, the Cleaning Institute talks about the bill with language talking about how “Consumers have a right to know, understand and trust what ingredients are in the cleaning products they use and keep in their homes.” — although contradictorily, the bill would actually reduce transparency.
These companies have a vested interest in reducing ingredient transparency. Calling the ingredients “trade secrets” is laughable—this is not the reason for the bill.
The true reason is that
Rolling Back Progress
In 2017, California passed a groundbreaking new law to pull back the curtain on cleaning product ingredients.
The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017 (SB 258) requires manufacturers of certain cleaning products to disclose specific information about product ingredients on labels and websites.
The Act was passed by the California legislature in 2017 and signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown. It went into effect in phases – online disclosures started January 2020, while product label disclosures went into effect January 2021.
The law requires disclosure of all intentionally added ingredients present above 0.01% on product labels and websites. It also mandates listing of chemicals on authoritative hazard lists like Prop 65 that are present above 0.01%
At that time, the bill was supported by many of the companies that are now supporting the new bill. It was universally seen as a huge step toward labeling transparency, and the fact that the new bill has been introduced is very troubling.
If The Cleaning Product Ingredient Communication Act is passed into law, it will preempt state law, effectively neutering SB 258 and taking us back nearly a decade in transparency requirements for cleaning products.
The Dangers of Cleaning Products
A September 2023 study of 30 cleaning products—some of which were also labeled “green”—released a total of 530 unique volatile organic compounds (VOCs), 193 of which were identified as hazardous.
These hazardous VOCs pose significant health risks, including potential damage to the respiratory system, increased cancer risk, and developmental and reproductive impacts.
In certain cases, products can emit VOCs for extended periods, ranging from days to weeks, or even months.
Cleaning products can also contain a number of other hazardous ingredients, such as triclosan, Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (QUATS), MEA (monoethanalomine), DEA (diethanolamine), TEA(triethanolamine), and more.
The health risks associated with VOCs in cleaning products underscore the importance of full ingredient disclosure. Reduced transparency under the new bill could limit consumer knowledge and ability to make informed decisions regarding these risks.
For this reason, any step back from transparency in ingredient labeling is a huge step back for consumer safety.
Where To Find Safe Cleaning Products
At BetterGoods.org, we maintain a list of verified safe cleaning products. Each product has had its ingredients fully analyzed by our team of experts, so you can trust that they’re safe for your home and your family.