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May 10 – Haz-Mats At Home? (Chemical Product Labels)

Time magazine has a rather alarmist article about labels on consumer chemicals:

But where were the ingredients? There were scary words on the labels–WARNING and DANGER! KEEP OUT OF REACH OF CHILDREN–and some nasty things I recognized (bleach, ammonia, the generic word disinfectant). With cereal boxes detailing everything from trans fats to soluble fiber, I thought there would be exhaustive lists of everything in those bottles and sprays. But there weren’t. If I didn’t rinse the bathtub thoroughly, what kind of residue would my daughter’s bottom be resting on?

Surely, Mr. Clean could tell me more. I logged on to Procter & Gamble’s website, where I found tips about how to use the products but still no list of ingredients. It turns out that companies aren’t required to tell us what makes their products work; there is no government agency that regulates what’s in soap-scum spray and other useful items. Digging deep into the site, I did find Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDSes) for many P&G products, which are posted by law in factories where they’re made, listing information about a cleaner’s chemical components and known health effects. The government also has a website––with a database of household-cleaner MSDSes from a range of manufacturers.

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