Health-conscious consumers often pore over product labels trying to avoid certain ingredients. But those labels can be incomplete. Through their Household Products Study, Silent Spring Institute scientists have showed that everyday products contain a wide range of potentially harmful chemicals, including many that are not listed on product labels.
The Household Products Study marked the largest investigation that tested the products themselves for the presence of many suspect chemicals. All 42 different categories of conventional products contained some target chemicals. Most of the “alternative” products—marketed for having safer ingredients than their conventional counterparts—also contained chemicals of concern. The investigators tested products for the presence of hormone disruptors that raise concerns for breast cancer, growth, and reproduction, as well as chemicals associated with asthma.
The scientists found the highest concentrations in vinyl products, such as shower curtains and pillow protectors, and fragranced products, such as dryer sheets and sunscreens. Of the alternative sunscreens tested, the product with the highest number of target chemicals was one marketed for babies and children.
Both Silent Spring Institute’s earlier research and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention biomonitoring studies have found many of the study chemicals in people’s homes and bodies. The Household Products Study helped illuminate the sources of exposures from everyday products.
Despite limited product labeling, consumers can take several simple steps to reduce their exposures, including:
- Using fewer products;
- Exercising caution with products applied directly to the skin and products used indoors, where chemicals accumulate in the air and dust;
- Avoiding vinyl products, products containing fragrances, and antibacterials, including triclosan and triclocarban;
- Using soap and water for cleaning; and
- Getting involved in local and national efforts to modernize chemical safety testing to keep harmful chemicals out of products in the first place.
Consumer Products ~ Gallery of Findings