Why Should Companies List All Ingredients?
The cleaning product industry argues against listing all ingredients on the product label. Read some of their claims, and WVE’s position on why you deserve to know what’s in the cleaning products you use in your home.
Industry argument: A website is the best place to list ingredients, as full listing on the bottle would take away essential space from usage directions and hazards warnings.
- The product label is the best place to provide ingredient information when and where we need it. The label is easily accessible when we’re in the store shopping—the manufacturer’s website is not. Also, certain demographic groups have considerably less access to the Internet.
- Full labeling is already standard practice in the food and personal care product industries. If a full ingredient list can fit on a tube of mascara, then it can certainly fit on a cleaning product bottle without interfering with other information.
- Companies like CleanWell and Seventh Generation have developed peel-back labels to accommodate spacing for full ingredient listings. The methods are already out there to list all ingredients.
Industry argument: consumers would have to be chemists to understand all the ingredients.
- We’re reading labels more and more, and are already accustomed to navigating chemical names on food and personal care product labels. Consumers, especially women, are increasingly interested in this information. The overwhleming response to WVE’s 2007 Household Hazards report shows that consumers want information about the chemicals they’re being exposed to through their cleaning products.
- This is a reproductive justice issue. Even if we don’t know what every single chemical is on a label, we have a right to know what we’re being exposed to in our own homes, especially if it may impact our reproductive health. Women who are pregnant, or trying to get pregnant, may want to take extra precautions to avoid exposures that may impact the healthy development of their child.
- We may not know what every chemical on the label is, but we should be able to avoid certain chemicals that we do know cause harm. For example, chemicals like phthalates, parabens, and BPA are publicized as chemicals of concern, but unless the chemical names appear on the label, we have no way of avoiding them.
- Individuals affected by conditions such as asthma or allergies often look to avoid substances that may trigger or exacerbate their symptoms. Individuals with chemical sensitivities or various other diseases are also concerned about controlling exposures to certain substances.
- If you do have an acute reaction, or someone in your family does, you can take that bottle with its label to your doctor so that they can select the best treatment. Currently, the doctor has to call the company, wait several hours for the company to send over a list of ingredients, and often has to sign a confidentiality waiver.
- Organizations like WVE can help women sort through chemical names. We have scientists to identify chemicals of concern for you—if we know what’s in cleaning products, it’s much easier for us to pass on information about what chemicals you might want to avoid.
Industry argument: Listing all ingredients will compromise trade secrets by revealing the formula of the product.
- Companies interested in pirating formulas have far more sophistocated methods of copying products if they wish to do so. A simple ingredient list does not reveal a formula.
- Fragrances are currently protected by trade secrets. Many components of fragrance are allergens or are highly toxic. For example, synthetic musks, commonly used in fragrance, are linked to increased risk of breast cancer, break down the bodies’ defenses against other toxic exposure, and are showing up in blood, breast milk, and newborns. Chemicals like this shouldn’t be protected by trade secrets.
Bottom line: You have a right to know what’s in the products you’re using in your home, and to avoid chemicals of concern if you wish to.