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Be a vocal consumer. To learn about the safety of products you use at home, consult the National Library of Medicine's Household Products Database, which links the ingredients of more than 10,000 consumer brands to their health effects. Call the toll-free numbers listed on product labels to ask companies to disclose all product ingredients and to replace toxic chemicals with safer alternatives.

Take the lemon pledge. Opt for nontoxic alternatives to cleaning products, such as lemon juice, baking soda, and white vinegar.

In a study of consumer products, Silent Spring Institute scientists found numerous target chemicals, showing that people are exposed to a wide range of potentially harmful chemicals from common products.

The scientists tested 50 different categories of product types, including personal care products, such as lotions, toothpastes, and sunscreens; cleaning products, such as laundry detergents and all-purpose cleaning sprays; and common household items, such as shower curtains, pillow protectors, and cat litter.

Tests for 66 specific chemicals—including endocrine disrupting compounds and chemicals associated with asthma—detected 55 of them. The study included both conventional products and “alternative” products marketed as containing safer ingredients than their conventional counterparts. The potentially harmful chemicals appeared in all 42 conventional product samples tested and in 32 of 43 alternative products.

The study, which marked the largest investigation to test the products themselves for the presence of many suspect chemicals, attracted national media attention. But it also drew the ire of the chemical industry.

“Some chemical manufacturers reassure the public about product safety while accusing scientists who are trying to investigate of fear mongering,” said Ruthann Rudel, director of research at Silent Spring Institute. “But no one can truly assess risk without first understanding exposure. And the way our chemical laws are currently written, no one, not the regulators or sometimes even the manufacturers, knows what’s in the products.”

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