Is “Safety” a Dirty Word for Procter and Gamble?
Moms know that the ads we see are often the front lines for whether a product gets bought or ignored. A large and increasing number of greener moms may read up on blogs, read reports and articles, and try to look up chemical names of material safety data sheets, but not everyone does this. Many moms are still influenced by ads that say, “This will get your laundry smelling like a spring breeze!” and buy the bottle—along with the messages and advertising that are sold to them.
That’s why I find it so unnerving that Procter & Gamble has issued a complaint to green company Seventh Generation, asking them to take down one of their commercial advertisements for the inexcusable crime of talking about safety.
The National Advertising Division of the Council of Better Business Bureau’s ruling upholding Procter & Gamble’s claims against Seventh Generation’s commercial implies that companies can’t make claims based on the safety of their products, even though more and more research shows that consumers are increasingly making purchasing decisions based on product safety due to health concerns.
Case in point: a recent report by EcoFocus Worldwide found that the category they term “EcoAware Moms” (more than 51 million women) has $1.45 billion in buying power, and that of the top five products that these women are buying more often, two of them are safer cleaning products: chemical-free cleaners (47%) and plant-based cleaning products (40%). You’d think companies would want to advertise the relative safety of their products to this powerful consumer group.
More disturbingly, the ruling upheld Procter & Gamble’s claim that chemicals in conventional cleaning product chemicals have no connection to a rapid increase in illnesses such as autism, ADHD, asthma, allergies, immune system deficiencies and birth defects. But scientific research continues to mount that links chemicals in cleaning products to chronic health problems. Women’s Voices for the Earth has released three reports compiling the science on certain chemicals in cleaners and impacts to human health, finding that:
- A class of chemicals called APEs are linked to reproductive harm and fertility problems.
- Phthalates are linked to genital malformations in baby boys, reduced sperm count, and increased asthma and allergic reactions in children.
- Triclosan is a hormone disruptor and is linked to increased risk of breast cancer.
- Synthetic musks are bioaccumulative, showing up in blood, breast milk, and infants, and may break down our bodies’ defenses against other toxic exposures.
These are just a few of the chemicals of covered in WVE reports—for more, visit the WVE website. For the past three years, WVE has reached out to the top five cleaning product companies, pressuring them to remove these chemicals of concern. Procter & Gamble has not removed ANY chemicals of concern identified in WVE reports (SC Johnson has removed 4, Clorox has removed 5, and Seventh Generation products contain none, for comparison), and has ignored WVE’s inquiries on whether the company uses synthetic musks or phthalates in their fragrances.
Procter & Gamble is the maker of Mr. Clean®, Tide®, Dawn®, Febreze®, Cascade®, Gain®, Swiffer®, and more. It seems like a company with such high-profile brands would want to advertise their safety. And if companies aren’t allowed to advertise how safe their products are, then consumers should be able to look on a product label to decide for themselves—too bad Procter & Gamble is only disclosing a few ingredients on their website, and no ingredients on product labels (U.S. law doesn’t require ingredient disclosure for cleaners, so few companies do). At least consumers can look on Seventh Generation product labels to see all ingredients and make a choice based on safety at the point of purchase.
The bottom line is that harmful chemicals shouldn’t be in cleaning products to begin with. We must work together to eliminate toxic chemicals that impact women’s health from products we use every day!
This blog originally appeared on The Green Mamas.