The University of Melbourne in Australia has examined consumer products marketed as “green”, ‘all-natural’, ‘non-toxic’, and ‘organic’ and determined that products contain harmful ingredients not disclosed on the product label.
Professor Steinemann,from the Department of Infrastructure Engineering, Melbourne School of Engineering, investigated and compared volatile organic compounds (VOCs) emitted from 37 different products. The products consisted of air fresheners, cleaning products, laundry supplies, and personal care products, including those with certifications and claims of ‘green’ and ‘organic’.
Th study findings reveal that consumers are exposed to a variety of toxic chemicals without their knowledge. It was determined that 156 different VOCs emitted from the 37 tested products, with an average of 15 VOCs per product. Of these 156 VOCs, 42 are classified as toxic or hazardous under US federal laws, and each product emitted at least one of these chemicals. In total, over 550 volatile ingredients were emitted from these products, but fewer than three percent were disclosed on any product label or material safety data sheet (MSDS).
“The paradox is that most of our exposure to air pollutants occurs indoors and a primary source is consumer products. But the public lacks full and accurate information on the ingredients in these products. Our indoor air environments are essentially unregulated and unmonitored,” Professor Steinemann said.
“Given the lack of information, consumers may choose products with claims such as green, natural, or organic, but those claims are largely untested,” Professor Steinemann said.
The researchers recommend an urgent revision of the labeling process as consumer products sold in Australia, the US and around the world are not required to list all ingredients, or any ingredients in a chemical mixture called ‘fragrance.
Anne Steinemann. Volatile emissions from common consumer products. Air Quality, Atmosphere & Health, 2015; DOI: 10.1007/s11869-015-0327-6