This is a good news item about US corporations doing the right thing without waiting to be told to do it by the government; for example, Wal-Mart and Proctor and Gamble, respectively, have pushed for and made cleaning product formulation changes for the benefit of the environment and human health. What motived these changes? Via NewsDay
:- "Scientists are suggesting a common cause for two seemingly unrelated events, the feminization of fish in Jamaica Bay [New York and Long Island USA], where the former 50-50 male-to-female ratio has all but disappeared, and enlarged breasts in young boys. The common factor: endocrine disruptors, chemicals found in detergents, cosmetics and household and [commercial cleaners]. The laundry detergent additive [NPE] belongs to a family of "surfactants," chemicals that lift dirt and help detergents and cleaning agents do a better job of stain removal. Makers of domestic and industrial cleaners say NPEs are virtually unbeatable in the way they remove dirt...But, support for NPE-containing products is eroding... Wal-Mart Corp., for example, is discouraging the use of NPEs in cleaning agents it sells and has asked suppliers to find alternatives.""Some U.S. manufacturers have switched to other surfactants to avoid the environmental problems associated with NPEs. The popular detergent Tide is NPE-free. The additive has been eliminated from Simple Green All-Purpose Cleaner sold through Wal-Mart Stores and Sam's Club outlets. But the makers of the product have not yet removed the compound from Simple Green cleaner sold elsewhere,
citing the expense involved in switching to safer surfactants."
Jonathan Propper, president of Cot'n Wash in Philadelphia, makers of a laundry detergent called Dropps, said his company removed NPEs from its product in the last quarter of 2006 because of environmental concerns. He said the additive's low cost is key to its popularity among manufacturers TreeHugger's Kara covered Dropps a few years ago.
TreeHugger comments: Newsday, in this story, lumps a small number of well documented human endocrine disruption cases (exposure was via direct application of personal care products) in with the much broader risk of wastewater effluents causing endocrine disruption among fishes and mollusks. This definitely could leave the reading public with the mis-impression that ordinary household detergents have been shown to pose a clinically documented human health risk: there is no such evidence at this time.
Rather than wait for industry and regulators to reach consensus as to whether low level, direct exposures to detergent NPE's pose a human health risk (which may never happen, or is likely to take many years if it does), consumers already have the option of buying cleaners not formulated with NPE's. Wal-Mart and Proctor and Gamble are to be congratulated for taking the lead on giving us that option.
The next time you're buying a cleaning product and wonder if paying a premium for it is worth while, keep this in mind. Very often, you get the reduced risk you pay for when you buy "green."