Makers of Tide and AJAX Asked to Come Clean

Six state and national environmental health groups, including the Sierra Club and the American Lung Association, lead by Earthjustice, a non-profit public interest law firm based in Oakland, California, filed a lawsuit in New York state court this month to force major U.S. manufacturers-Church & Dwight, Colgate-Palmolive and Proctor & Gamble as well as England-based Reckitt Benckiser Group-to disclose ingredients in their household cleaning products.

The lawsuit is based on Article 35 of New York's Environmental Conservation Law, which was passed in 1976 to combat phosphates (chemicals that were widely used in detergents until they were linked to human and environmental health impacts) and gives the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) the power to force manufacturers to disclose the ingredients of their products as well as any health or safety studies. "Consumers deserve to know whether the products they use to wash their dishes, launder their clothes or clean their homes are harmful to themselves or their environment," said an Earthjustice attorney. The Soap and Detergent Association, which represents 110 cleaning product manufacturers, responded to the lawsuit and expressed "disappointment that activist groups led by Earthjustice are using arcane New York State regulation as a way to disparage cleaning product formulators whose products are used safely and effectively by millions of people every day."

Method, Prestige Brands, Seventh Generation, Sunshine Makers and Weiman Products were among the manufacturers that filed reports with the DEC to comply with the law when contacted by Earthjustice last September. Sunshine Makers, for example, detailed the ingredients of their "Simple Green" product line. Their All-Purpose Cleaner contains 2-butoxyethanol, a solvent that has been shown to reduce fertility in female lab mice and damaged human red blood cells at high levels in vitro. The companies named in the suit, however, either refused to submit such a report or did not respond at all.

While pending in New York state court, this first-of-its-kind case could have national implications. To learn more about advertising law issues, click here.

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