While in the hunt for baby safe cleaners, the ability to find the ingredients and other desired information is so important. Although green cleaning products for the home are not usually labeled as comprehensively as we may desire; the good news is that information is available in the form of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). These documents required by the Occupationaly Safety & Health Adminstration (OSHA) are created for the safety of custodians that are using green janitorial supplies for their protection. That same information can be obtained to ensure you are using baby safe products.
All chemical manufacturers are required by law to describe clearly and completely the ingredients and the hazards of chemical products they supply – even if it is a small quantity such as a quart of natural green home cleaning products or green cleaning product for the home. Similar to your tax returns required by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the MSDS is required by law to be accurate. Since there is no room for greenwashing, these documents serve as the information resource for the hazard hunter for both the janitorial cleaning service, the homemaker, and the mother seeking baby safe solutions.
As a consumer, you can find or request the MSDS for products you buy. Although intended for industrial and professional users, even consumer products usually have an MSDS. This is so that clean up can be done safely in situation where a couple cartons of household cleaner spills during transport or handling.
Although this is a black and white, word-intensive document with no graphics, with just a little understanding, the MSDS can help you, as a proactive consumer, to determine if the product is green. Also to enable you to avoid those products that contain poisonous chemicals that cause (or suspected of causing) birth defects, cancer, allergies, dangerous reactions, and more. The MSDS presents the ingredients, chemical hazards, emergency response, health effects, and other relevant information.
Fortunately you do not need to be a chemist to understand how to read an MSDS. Probably the hardest aspect about understanding the MSDS and the ingredients is the fact that these documents are organized in many different formats. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations specify what information must be included, but not how or what format that the information is presented. As a result one MSDS may be only a couple of pages, while another may be nearly a dozen pages long!
The easiest and fastest way to understand the hazards is to find the Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS). This is a four category (health, flammability, reactivity, and physical) indicator that is rated from 0 for a Minimum insignificant risk to human health and baby safe to 4 for a Severe or life threatening risk to human health and baby safe. This information usually focuses on “acute hazards” of the ingredients; this means the immediate effects of a one-time exposure to the product. Additional description of potential effects the product may have when in contact with eyes or skin or if inhaled or ingested. In short you will know if the product is pretty nasty or mostly harmless.
The MSDS can help you control allergies by knowing if the chemicals which may cause allergic reactions are present. Instead of looking for “allergic reaction”, watch for the words “sensitization” or “sensitizer”. These words are used because, like a bee sting, no chemical causes allergies the first time you contact it. Instead, a baby or person’s body identifies the chemical as foreign and at the next exposure, sets the immune system to work fighting the chemical. In many cases, these reactions will get worse with every subsequent exposure, causing miserable skin rashes or even life-threatening asthma attacks. Once a person has an allergic reaction, it is important to avoid the chemical which causes the allergy.
Carcinogens, Mutagens and Reproductive Toxins
To find out if the product in which you are interested contains chemicals which are suspected of causing allergies, cancer, genetic mutations, birth defects or reduced fertility, you need to look a bit further. Although this section is full of medical and regulatory jargon it identifies if a chemical is known or suspected to cause effects of concern.
Since you will want to avoid all levels of chemicals with serious carcinogenic, reproductive, teratogenic, or mutagenic effects seek data that the chemicals in your product are “not listed”. Even better, California proposition 65 requires that all known or suspected carcinogens in a product be declared: this information is often found in a separate section outlining other regulatory information. The California law requires a very clear statement, so if you see Does not contain any chemicals known to the State of California to cause cancer; know if you are in the baby safe zone.
Search for for the technical term “endocrine disruptor” or so-called gender benders. These chemicals may disrupt the hormone systems and can result in birth defects relating to sexual organs, or influence the proportion of males or females being born.
Other Interesting Information
Since the MSDS is designed for employee right to know, as well as how to use the chemical responsibly it will provide data relevant to an emergency response scenario including emergency numbers of a company specialist.
For the janitor, homemaker, and mother, light reading it is not, but enlightening it is!
Green Cleaning Products is proud to offer products that are safe for the environment, but also baby safe. We provide easy access to our Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). You will find all of these products are safe AND green. In fact these products have been certified by the US Environmental Protection Agency under their Design for the Environment (DfE) program.
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