EWG Cleaning Guide Ratings Leave Us Even More Confused

As green minded truth seekers, we rely on resources like Environmental Working Group and helpful guides like their Skin Deep Cosmetic Database to break down the safest products down to the smallest ingredient. However, when the organization’s guide to household cleaners came out, it left consumers and green advocates alike feeling more confused and frustrated than ever.

So many trusted green brand products got Ds and Fs – Biokleen, Babyganics, Ecover, Earth Friendly Products. On the flipside, a bunch of conventional brands got As, Bs, and Cs. Lysol? Febreze? What’s up?

Apparently, part of the problem had to do with the full disclosure and transparency in some of the products, something brands like Ecover are currently working with EWG to correct. Some brands also received low ratings for containing essential oils, which could potentially be allergenic. But anything could be allergenic – oranges, mushrooms, leaves – probably not a reason to give a product such a low rating, especially compared to products with known carcinogens.

But then there are brands like Babyganics, a brand specifically tauted for family safety and eco-friendliness but not only received Ds and Fs across the board, EWG recently released a statement saying that Babyganics products contain a known human carcinogen! What??

As I currently use Babyganics’ stain remover, I immediately contacted the company for a response and received the following:

“As fathers, we created BabyGanics to make the safest-possible products for our own children and yours. As we have for the past 10 years, we continue to research and review the most current data to ensure that our products contain the safest available ingredients. We stand behind each of the 40 products we make as among the safest available in their category. The Environmental Working Group raised a question that has caused some confusion about the safety of the preservative system in 6 of our surface cleaning products that contain the chemical HHT. No BabyGanics product manufactured today contains HHT—even though scientific evidence shows that it is perfectly safe as used—and the ingredient has never been used in any of the 30 plus personal care products that we make. You have our promise that we do everything possible to ensure the safety of your families and ours – it’s why our company exists. We regret any confusion caused by the EWG misstatements and we are, as always, available to answer any questions and discuss the science behind our products with any customer or concerned individuals.”

I’m torn – was this really a mistake by EWG or is Babyganics the ultimate greenwasher?

Recently, a few of my green blogger and advocate colleagues had a conference call with EWG to try to get some of our questions answered. EWG was pretty forthcoming and open to answering our questions, but honestly, it just left most of us more confused than ever.

“How the heck does Lysol 4 in 1 All Purpose Cleaner get a B? It has alcohol ethoxylates (cancer, developmental toxicity), dipropylene glycol bytl ether (cancer) and proprietary ingredients, then sulfonic acids B and lactic acid B – and the product is a B?”

“It seems that if a product uses water (A), Vinegar (A), Ethanol (A), Citric Acid (A), the overall grade is higher, even if you use a ton of toxic chemicals. All the “A”s outweigh C’s and D’s. Can’t understand their Math.”

“It looks like allergens, skin irritants, and sensitizers are more of a concern than carcinogens and reproductive toxicity. It factors in by the method of exposure they are considering – inhalation – and then inhalation risk factors over dermal absorption risk factors in the toxicity analysis.”

We all have varying understanding of science and toxicology, but still can’t seem to make heads or tails of any of this. Personally, I’m not going out and replacing my Biokleen Fabric Refresher with Febreze no matter what these numbers say. But the whole thing has me questioning brands I trusted and wondering if I really have to limit my cleaning products to vinegar and baking soda. Will I ever feel safe with a store bought hand soap or laundry detergent?

What do you think of these ratings? Are they changing the way you shop for cleaning supplies?

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