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Greg Webb
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Lawsuit Filed for Disclosure of Cleaning Product Chemicals

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A lawsuit has been filed against Proctor & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, and other household cleaner manufacturing giants for disclosure of chemicals in their cleaning products. “People deserve to know whether the products they use to wash their dishes and clean their homes could be harmful,” said Keri Powell, attorney for Earthjustice, a nonprofit public-interest law firm specializing in environmental litigation. The suit was filed on behalf of six state and national environmental and health groups, including the Sierra Club and the American Lung Association.

In September, the groups sent letters to many manufacturers informing them of a requirement by New York state law that they file semiannual ingredient and research reports with the New York state’s Department of Environmental Conservation. Method and Seventh Generation were two of the manufacturers that complied, while Procter & Gamble and Colgate-Palmolive refused.

The law the groups refer to is Article 35 of New York’s Environmental Conservation Law, which was passed in 1976 to combat phosphates, which are chemicals that were widely used in detergents until they were linked to human and environmental health impacts. The groups link the chemicals in cleaning products with asthma, skin sensitization and other health issues.

The Soap and Detergent Association responded to the lawsuit and expressed “disappointment that activist groups led by Earthjustice are using arcane New York State regulation as a way to disparage cleaning product formulators whose products are used safely and effectively by millions of people every day.” The association represents 110 cleaning product manufacturers, which together produce more than 90 percent of products manufactured in the United States.

The Consumer Product Ingredient Communication Initiative is a voluntary program initiated by the Soap and Detergent Association, set to begin in January 2010, and is designed to provide more extensive ingredient information to consumers. “The cleaning product industry is committed to providing more information than ever before on cleaning product ingredients,” said Michelle Radecki, general counsel for the Soap and Detergent Association.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission oversees home cleaning products, but it does not require manufacturers to provide comprehensive ingredients lists.