Access to information is essential to understanding what is in the products we bring into our homes and use in and on our bodies — and it is vital in helping protect the health and well-being of ourselves, our families and our planet. It is almost entirely up to corporations to decide what is “safe” to use in their products, and unfortunately their definition of “safe” doesn’t always match our own. Everyday products routinely contain chemicals of concern linked to reproductive and developmental harm, cancer, allergies and more. And as WVE’s new report on cleaning products once again demonstrates, many times ingredient information is unclear, inconsistent, or even kept secret from the people who use these products.
The free app, Clearya, is working to change this, to make ingredient information — particularly ingredients of concern — more available and accessible to the public, especially when you need it most: at the time of purchase.
In the upcoming months, WVE plans to work with Clearya in including ingredient information in tampons, menstrual pads, menstrual cups and period underwear in their database with the implementation on New York’s new law (and first in the nation) requiring the disclosure all intentionally added ingredients in period care products.
Below co-founder, Chen Rosner Orbach, shares her personal story of how and why Clearya came to be. While WVE works to hold corporations accountable and ensure toxic chemicals don’t end up in products in the first place, we hope you will find Clearya a helpful tool in protecting yourself and your loved ones from harmful exposures.
|Chen Rosner Orbach
I can hardly believe it has been 5 years since I was woken up by breast cancer. Needless to say – it was an earthquake, I was 38 years old, with 2 young kids trying to juggle the usual home-career-life. But when I got the cancer diagnosis, my mind became focused on one thing: HEALTH. After going through the full treatment protocol (surgery, chemotherapy, radiation and preventive medicines) I realized that it might not be enough. I wanted to minimize the chances for recurrence to the lowest possible level. Exploring scientific literature, I learnt that the environmental factors are the most prevalent cause of cancer; and started a series of changes in our daily life to support our health. One major factor was figuring out what kind of chemicals I am willing to let into my home and even more – to apply on my family’s bodies.
That’s when I realized that in this specific domain I just didn’t have the capacity to make sound choices: it seemed as if these ingredient lists were intended to be indecipherable by us, the consumers. Where to start? Google doesn’t make it too easy to discern between facts and opinions, and the databases we found online were helpful, but left us with questions. These questions kept me awake at night. I shared my pain with my husband, who in a beautiful gesture of love told me that he would use his tech experience and academic background in computational biology to develop a solution: an automatic “ingredient safety assistant” based on science and regulatory information. It took two years of research and software development, before “Clearya” was born: for my family, and for everyone else to use: www.clearya.com
Clearya is a free iPhone and Android mobile app, as well as a Chrome browser plug-in for computers. Once installed, it works automatically while you shop online at shops like Sephora, Amazon, Walmart and iHerb. Clearya analyzes the ingredient lists of personal care products, make-up and other beauty products, baby care, and household cleaning products, and displays alerts on potentially unsafe chemicals – so people can find products with safer ingredients more easily.
Clearya spots unsafe chemicals by matching the ingredient names to official chemical hazard lists created by the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Government of Canada, the European Union’s Commission, the European Chemicals Agency, the United Nations Environment Programme, and others. Evidently, the U.S. cosmetics regulation is so permissive, that Clearya often alerts on ingredients contained in products that are sold online despite being classified by California EPA and European regulators as linked to cancer, hormone disruptors, reproduction toxicants which may harm fertility, developmental toxicants which can cause birth defects and other harm to the developing child, not to mention allergens, and other banned or restricted ingredients.
Clearya’s technology powers a collective community effort: every time a Clearya user browses a new safe or unsafe product online, the system gets a little smarter, and these cumulative insights then serve everyone else.
Through recent collaboration with nonprofit organizations such as Ecology Center and Center for Environmental Health, Clearya now flags potential hazards in products also based on lab testing carried out by our partners, which have detected PFAS in disposable foodware, and in baking and cooking pans.We hope to alert shoppers to potential hazards in menstrual products later this year.
My takeaways from our family’s journey? Legal doesn’t mean safe. Marketing words like “Natural” don’t warrant safety either. Sadly, regulators haven’t yet closed the gaps between what scientists know is harmful, and the ingredients in products that brands are still allowed to sell. In the meantime, our mission at Clearya is to empower people to make safer choices for their families. Give it a try, it’s free! Download Clearya to your iPhone, Android phone, or computer. You might be surprised by what you discover.
Now, imagine what would happen if a million people like you and I verified every ingredient and stopped buying unsafe products. How would a wave of well-informed consumers impact the industry’s safety standards?
Check out: Clearya’s 1 minute demo video starting with Chen’s intro: https://youtu.be/bI6Z-pyNJVw