BOSTON (CBS) – You use products like shampoo, soaps and household cleaners every day, but do you know what’s in them?

A new study by a local group says the information you need is not always on the label and that what you don’t know could hurt. That claim is getting the industry up in arms.

The Silent Spring Institute in Newton tested 50 types of household products like cleaners, cosmetics and personal care products.

“The goal of this study is to get a broad picture of how people are exposed from everyday consumer products to chemicals that are potentially linked to cancer, children’s growth and asthma,” says Julia Brody, PhD of the Silent Spring Institute.

She says the study found a troubling amount of chemicals she calls potentially harmful. She advises avoiding antimicrobial products like some hand sanitizers and soaps, and staying away from many products that contain fragrances.

“For example air fresheners and dryer sheets,” she says. Silent Spring says look for “paraben-free” products when shopping for deodorant, shampoo or cosmetics, and avoid vinyl products especially pillow and mattress protectors. The problem, the study finds, is that manufacturers are not required to list all ingredients.

“You shouldn’t have to know the names of these complex chemicals when you go shopping. You should know that someone has already tested them to see if they’re safe,” says Brody.

The response from industry groups has been fast and extremely negative. The International Fragrance Association North America calls the study, “an example of biased, advocacy based research.”

The Personal Care Products Council says “equating the mere presence of chemicals in products with potential harm is wrong and needlessly scares consumers.”

While the Consumer Specialty Products Association says, “responsible manufacturers ensure their products go through comprehensive, extensive risk assessments, and also review scientific developments and monitor product use data that may affect the safety assessment process. An incredible amount of research and development goes on before these products ever hit the shelves, not to mention that the products must meet federal and state quality and safety regulations.”

For their part, the Silent Spring Institute says the real answer is to update and strengthen government regulations and testing of this wide range of household products.

Full statement from Consumer Specialty Product Association

Full statement from Personal Care Products Council

Full statement from Fragrance Association North America

Kate Merrill


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