Seeking Enforcement of Disclosure Law for Cleaning Products in NY
According to readMedia reporting, 21 advocate groups delivered a letter to New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Joseph Martens asking him to enforce a nearly 40-year-old law that requires the manufacturers of cleaning products to disclose the sometimes dangerous and toxic chemical ingredients in their products, as well as the health risks the chemicals pose. The groups also called for a user-friendly, searchable, centralized database of product and chemical data.
"What are cleaning product manufacturers trying to hide?" said Ansje Miller, Eastern States Director for the Center for Environmental Health. "Under the status quo, the only ones left in the dark are the consumers and workers who use cleaning products on a regular basis. If these products were truly safe, disclosing their ingredients shouldn't be a problem."
Since 1976, state regulations have required that manufacturers of cleaning products selling their wares in New York file semi-annual reports with the DEC listing the chemicals in their products and describing any company research on their health and environmental effects. The law was passed in 1971. Decades went by without meaningful enforcement.
"On the other hand, full disclosure will help green and responsible companies, because once there is a website that offers easy product comparisons, consumers can stop buying the toxic cleaners," said Deborah Goldberg, Managing Attorney of Earthjustice.
In the letter, the organizations, which include American Lung Association in New York, Center for Health, Environment & Justice, Clean and Healthy New York, CRAAB!, Center for Environmental Health, Citizens Campaign for the Environment, Citizens' Environmental Coalition, Consumers Union, Earthjustice, Empire State Consumer Project, Environmental Advocates of New York, Grassroots Environmental Education, Huntington Breast Cancer Action Coalition, Institute for Health and the Environment, New York Committee for Occupational Safety and Health, New York Public Interest Research Group, NYSUT, Riverkeeper, Inc., Sierra Club, Sierra Club Atlantic Chapter, and Women's Voices for the Earth formally requested that Commissioner Martens make public disclosure of cleaning product ingredients a priority. The DEC has committed to require that cleaner companies reveal the chemicals in their products and any health risks they pose and has been working to develop a system that will provide this valuable information to the public. But the agency's proposal has been under consideration for more than a year, and it is now time to make this process a priority. The groups are asking the agency to accelerate the timeline for action, so New Yorkers have access to this information as soon as possible.
The groups assert that contrary to the claims of cleaning product manufacturers, it is not enough to have industry-selected information posted voluntarily on individual company web sites. Multiple locations and inconsistent presentations of data make it difficult, if not impossible, for even the most diligent consumers to determine whether a particular cleaning product contains dangerous chemicals or if there are safer alternatives on the market.
The solution, the groups say, is a user-friendly, searchable, centralized database of product and chemical data.
Despite the dangers of many of the chemicals used in cleaning products, there is no state or federal requirement compelling cleaning product manufacturers to identify chemical ingredients on product labels. Although New York's reporting law has largely been forgotten, its mere existence means the state leads the nation in cleaner right-to-know laws.
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