What's in your cleaning products? Californians may soon find out.
If someone told my younger self that someday the words "cleaning product labels" and "legislation" in a sentence together would cause me great excitement, I would have been understandably skeptical. But here we are!
I am super excited to say that SB-258 Cleaning Product Right to Know Act of 2017 passed the California Assembly on September 12, and the California Senate on September 13. According to Schoolhouse Rock's "I'm Just a Bill," (okay, that's federal, not state, but I couldn't resist) that piece of legislation is now on it's way to Governor Brown's desk to be signed into law.
Why is this a big deal and why should we care?
First of all, let's focus on the fact that this bill just requires disclosure. This has nothing to do with regulating actual formulas (alas!), but it is a huge step to force companies to tell consumers what's in their products. For the time being, this is primarily exciting for California residents, but there is potential for positive impacts for the rest of us as well. California is a huge market. Let's hope that one of two (or both!) of the following happen: 1) Companies don't want to bother having separate products for California versus other states, so they include labels everywhere 2) Other states follow suit and pass similar legislation. Also, the internet doesn't stop at state lines, so ingredients listed online will be fair game for all!
What does it mean?
If passed, this bill would require cleaning products to disclose the majority of ingredients on product labels and/or online, with particular focus on chemicals of concern and fragrance allergens. As we know, "fragrance" is a protected trade secret in cosmetics, which provides a nifty umbrella under which noxious chemicals like phthalates can hide. The fact that this bill requires at least the disclosure "contains fragrance allergen(s)" when present is huge! I also find it thrilling (you think this is hyperbole) that what counts as a "fragrance allergen" is determined by EU regulations, which are leagues stricter than those in the US.
This bill requires products to include "intentionally added ingredients," "fragrance allergens" subject to EU regulations* at a concentration of 0.01 percent (100 ppm) or above (allergens must be compiled from all fragrance components, including essential oils - v cool), and the presence of "colorants." Beginning in 2023, product labels will also have to disclose intentionally added ingredients "known to the State of California to cause cancer or reproductive toxicity and [are] included on a designated list pursuant to the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986."
Here's the fun part: Online. A "nonfunctional constituent" ingredient – a substance that is incidental to, or a breakdown or byproduct of, an intentionally added ingredient – has to be disclosed online if it appears in the product at or above 0.01 percent (100 ppm), and 1, 4 dioxane (a carcinogen linked to organ toxicity) has to be listed online when present at or above 0.001 percent (10 ppm). So cool.
But what does it really mean?
Long story short, California consumers would be able to find out what the bulk of the ingredients in their cleaning products are, either by looking at the back, or – even better – by looking online. Will this make selecting cleaning products easier? No, not really, because the same frustrations of "WHAT ON EARTH DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?" still apply. However, with enough patience and time, it would at least be possible to make informed choices, and I think that's pretty damn exciting.
*Pertains to fragrance allergens included in Annex III of the EU Cosmetics Regulation No. 1223/2009 as required to be labeled by the EU Detergents Regulation No. 648/2004 on January 1, 2018.