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Questionable Chemicals Found in Household Products

Many in Industry Question Study’s Findings, Say Fears Unfounded

Chemicals in Household Products: Perspective

The new research "confirms many of our concerns about the widespread use of suspect chemicals in consumer products, particularly air fresheners, dryer sheets, and sunscreens," says Sonya Lunder, MPH, senior analyst for the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit environmental organization.

She reviewed the findings for WebMD.

Because the chemicals are widespread, she says, "the findings remind us how difficult it can be to avoid exposure to these ubiquitous hazards."

There are some simple ways to reduce exposures, Dodson says. "Probably the easiest thing to do is just use fewer products," she says.

Switching from a vinyl shower curtain to a cotton or nylon curtain is another option, she says. They were free of the chemicals.

Using unscented or no-dryer sheets is another option, she says. Some sunscreens and hair products are fragrance-free, the researchers say.

Ultimately, consumers need more information on labels to figure out which chemicals they are being exposed to, Dodson says.

Chemicals in Household Products: Industry Speaks Out

The presence of the chemicals in household products proves nothing, according to Linda Loretz, PhD, senior scientist and director of safety and regulatory toxicology for the Personal Care Products Council, an industry group.

In a press release, she says: "Equating the mere presence of certain chemicals in products with potential harm is wrong and needlessly scares consumers about products that have a wealth of scientific data to support their safety."

Among other criticisms, she says that sunscreens are cited in the study as endocrine-disruptors based only on screening assays "with no proven relevance for humans." Ingredients found are at ''normal levels for sun protection" and are FDA-approved, she says.

The American Cleaning Institute also takes exception to the research. In a press release, the institute's Richard Sedlak says, in part, that ''the research does not demonstrate that proper use of these products is contributing to health and safety problems."

He says the industry is making more information available about cleaning product ingredients. Under the institute's Consumer Product Ingredient Communication Initiative, companies are voluntarily sharing more information about ingredients. This information is on labels or on company web sites, Sedlak says, or obtained by calling the company's toll-free number.

''Detection of ingredients in a product is not an indicator of risk," says William Troy, PhD, scientific advisor to the International Fragrance Association North America. The chemicals found, he says in a press release, were found in trace amounts and have been assessed for safety by the companies and considered safe when used as intended.

The American Chemistry Council also took exception to the research. In a statement, spokesperson Kathryn St. John says: "We are disappointed that the Silent Spring Institute would make unfounded claims about the health effects of very low-levels of government-approved chemicals used in everyday consumer products without facts to support their claims."

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