Dirty Secrets | Seventh Generation
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Dirty Secrets

Author: the Inkslinger

A few weeks back, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) launched a new online cleaner guide, and all I could think was, what took them so long? Because when it comes to undisclosed toxins in everyday stuff, cleaning products win the prize. So wouldn't their guide be first? I guess not, and this points out a truism: there's a lot to look out for out there.

Not to say that the new EWG Guide to Healthy Cleaning doesn't have a lot to offer.
Though not without its faults, it's a useful database that rates 2,000+ cleaning products and discusses the mysteries of product labels and industry regulations.

Here's a quick guide to common toxicological troubles that may hide where we least expect them:

What: Phthalates.
Where: Personal care products, synthetic fragrances, vinyl and other flexible plastics.
Why: Phthalates easily escape from products that contain them. That's a bummer because they're linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental disorders, organ and nervous system damage, and hormonal disruption.
My Advice? You'll rarely see phthalates listed as ingredients. So ditch the make-up and vinyl items to be safe. Stick to natural personal care products and unscented products, too. Scrutinize polymer clays, and don't microwave anything in plastic either.

What: Triclosan, an antibacterial chemical.
Where: Soaps, toothpastes, and other personal care products.
Why: Studies suggest Triclosan may contribute to making bacteria resistant to antibiotics.  The FDA is engaged in an ongoing scientific and regulatory review of this ingredient.
My Advice? Check ingredients panels and avoid those that contain this or any synthetic antibacterial agents unless there's a special need.

What: Perfluorochemicals (PFCs).
Where: Non-stick cookware, stain- and water-repelling fabric treatments, takeout containers.
Why: The PFC called PFOA is suspected of causing cancer, immune system and organ damage, reproductive disorders, and hyperthyroidism.
My Advice? PFOA is being phased out, but I don't trust its chemically similar replacements. So I'm using cast iron pans, immediately removing takeout foods from their containers, and refusing treated furniture and clothing.

What: BPA.
Where: #7 polycarbonate plastics, food can linings, and thermal receipt paper.
Why: BPA is a slippery toxin linked to reproductive and neurological damage, diabetes, obesity, early puberty, cancer, and cardiovascular trouble.
My Advice? Buy only reusable water and baby bottles that say "BPA-Free." Keep canned food and drink consumption to a minimum. Refuse paper receipts when feasible and never recycle any you receive—the world's recycled paper supply is being inadvertently contaminated by this chemical pollutant.

What: Lead.
Where: Old paint, yes, but lead also shows up in costume & toy jewelry, candies, toys, and ceramic glazes and paints.
Why: Lead is bad neurological news.
My Advice? Be careful about trusting any of the above from Asia or Mexico, the source of most lead problems. Stick to domestic and European varieties.

What: Genetically altered foods.
Where: About 80% of conventional processed foods.
Why: About 90% of U.S. corn, soy, sugar beets, and canola is genetically modified. These crops can contain new substances like pesticides, never-before-seen allergens, and higher levels of known allergens.
My advice? Two words: organic foods.

Photo: © Photoroller | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos


Cheriel  Jensen picture
Cheriel Jensen
A good summary. I would add: PFCs, actually anything with fluoride including the fluoride in public water systems impact the thyroid function and cause hypothyroidism, rather than hyperthyroidism, that is slower metabolism (weight gain, loss of energy, etc.), lower intelligence and interference with many functions of the body. Left off this list are items with formaldehyde such as permanent press fabric finishes, glued wood such as particle boards, plywood and many other items. California now requires disclosure on fabrics by the yard containing formaldehyde, though I don't know if finished garments containing formaldehyde have to be disclosed yet. We have recently learned that yellow fabric dye is a toxic chemical. With exposure to a mix of these and many other toxins, sooner or over time, the body's ability to detoxify is impacted. The liver and kidneys eventually cannot keep up and the body becomes unable to fight off cancer and other diseases. Life span is shortened The quality of life is substantially impacted. DNA is impacted causing cancer and birth defects. Many people thinking they have the "flu" actually have acute poisoning. To a person who has already had liver and/or kidney damage, this can happen easily such as by just walking by a landscape treated with Roundup, or eating a non-organic poisoned apple.
Consumer Insights Team picture
Consumer Insights Team
The good people at the Environmental Working Group have been kindred spirits in the effort to get companies to clean up their act. Like us, they believe too many products hide their ingredients and that consumers have a right to know what's inside of them. That's where their amazing guides come in. And now they've got one for cleaners. As some of you have pointed out some of our product grades were lower than expected, however the ratings they provided do not tell the whole story. It seems the biggest issue is that EWG interpreted the terms "Essential Oils," "Botanical Extracts," and "Preservatives" on our ingredients lists as "incomplete disclosure" when in fact those terms are supplied in addition to the exact oils, extracts, and preservatives we use. EWG missed that part but as I said, they're good people, and they're fixing the oversight. Meanwhile, our scores will change as EWG re-grades us for the complete ingredient disclosure we've offered all along. And that's far and away the most important issue here: Companies need to come clean about the ingredients in all their products. Consumers have a right to know what's inside, and we're not resting until they do. While we wait, we've got the invaluable work of the EWG. And they've got our thanks for doing it. Please read our full response to the EWG Cleaner Database ratings here: http://www.seventhgeneration.com/learn/blog/dirt-ewgs-new-cleaner-database
ckurtz19 picture
An F on the dishwasher liquid, a D on the cleaner and a C on the dish soap?! These products are currently stockpiled under my cabinets, in the appropriate dispensers and in my dishwasher as I type?! Very disappointed in the findings to say the least. I will patiently wait while your grades are recalculated. If they stay the same or only go up just a bit I will no longer be a Loyal customer or "voice" of Seventh Generation. I have praised your products to countless people. I only buy seventh generation cleaning products (besides laundry). Very disappointing!
abm43087 picture
Though your products are not perfect (shame on you) I will continue to support Seventh Generation. This is a company that is trying, working hard to provide better for people and the environment. This isn't a big brand business that now markets "natural" "safe" products; this is a company that is and has from the beginning tried to supply the people with truly safe products. This is science, and sadly it takes seeing the full results of a product (positive and negative) after it's been put out on the market. It's no different from the medications we take each day or the food we eat. Just because it's natural doesn't mean it's safe, and it make take some time to figure that out! Keep up the hard work SG! You are appreciated! THANK YOU!
zelda46 picture
As a cancer survivor and an asthma sufferer with chronic bronchitis since birth, I've trusted SG for many years now to keep my home environment free from toxins and allergens that could make my health worse. To say I am feeling cheated right now, is a severe understatement. I have "sold" friends and family on SG products for years because of their toxic-free values for a more healthy environment, and now I feel like a con artist.
Mommytammy picture
Me too...very surprising not to see higher grades for 7th Gen..and wow, simple green got an F.. I don't see explainations from the healthy guide people as to how they came to these grades.
jessov picture
I was wondering the same thing about the performance of Seventh Generation products - what's the story?
Greg Stricherz picture
Greg Stricherz
I noticed Seventh Generation didn't do all that well. More Ds than As with a sprinkling of Bs and Cs. What's up?