Workers Health & Safety Centre

New York to mandate disclosure of chemical ingredients in cleaning products

New York to mandate disclosure of chemical ingredients in cleaning products

Manufacturers seeking to sell cleaning products in New York State will soon be required to disclose chemical ingredients to the public.

“This new regulation will give New York consumers the tools they need to make informed choices for themselves and for their families, and limit unknown exposure to potentially harmful chemicals,” says New York State health commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker.

This state initiative, entitled Household Cleansing Product Information Disclosure Program, is the first of its kind in the United States.

Requirements for workplaces too
Draft guidance materials for this program, currently up for public consultation, call for manufacturers of household cleaning products to disclose all chemical ingredients, including those present in trace quantities. Included are soaps and detergents used for cleaning fabrics, dishes and utensils. Products used for cleaning household and commercial premises, such as laundry facilities, hospitals and food and restaurant establishments will also be subjected to the disclosure mandate. Manufacturers are also required to list the functional use of each chemical, its percentage of content by and if any ingredient is a nanomaterial.

Manufacturers must also disclose if a specific chemical or product is a “chemical of concern”. Examples include carcinogens listed by the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Toxicology Program, endocrine disruptors listed on the European Union Community Strategy for Endocrine Disruptors and persistent, bioaccumulative toxins listed by the U.S. EPA.

Web posting requirements

All information to be disclosed must be posted on the manufacturer’s web site in a manner that is obvious, noticeable and readily accessible to the public via the internet. The state government has also said they will work with the Interstate Chemical Clearinghouse (IC2) to maintain a central product database of links to manufacturer’s information.

According to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, this program will serve as a pilot for potential expansion to other consumer products of concern, such as personal care and children’s products. 

Need for labelling in Canada

The findings of a recent study remind us Canadian consumers and workers want similar disclosure requirements though have yet to make inroads. This study, entitled Full Disclosure: the case for stronger household product labelling, found Canadians want transparent product labels and clear health warnings about ingredients linked to cancer, reproductive health problems and other chronic conditions.

“Canadians simply do not have all the information they need to make safe choices about many products they use daily,” says Muhannad Malas, Toxics Program Manager at Environmental Defense which published the study. “Canadians deserve stronger labelling rules that enable them to avoid toxic chemicals that put their health, families and environment at risk.”

This lack of information about cleaning and other consumer products continues to be an issue in our workplaces. For instance, the Ontario WHMIS regulation continues to exempt employers from having to acquire a label and MSDS/SDS for any consumer product that is purchased from a retail outlet.

Calls to eliminate this WHMIS exemption continue. So to do calls for an expanded “right to know” about the risks to chronic human health and the environment from consumer products, including disclosure of chemical ingredients.  

With Canada's Consumer Product Safety Act, the legislative infrastructure for this is already in place. This legislation, passed into law in 2010, provides the Minister of Health broad authority to regulate product labelling as New York State is doing, California is considering and the European Union has done.

Related WHSC training

For our part, the WHSC offers a number of training programs and resources to help workplaces better understand their legal duties and responsibilities related to workplace hazards, including carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. Many of these same programs offer essential insight into the tools and information needed to identify, substitute or otherwise eliminate exposure to harmful workplace toxins.

The WHSC Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS) training is one such program and has been updated to reflect legal changes to the way hazardous product information is delivered to workers, including new training obligations implemented in 2016. Here in Ontario and across Canada, WHMIS is the system used to provide workers with information about hazardous products used, stored, handled or disposed of in the workplace.

Want additional information about safer cleaning products?
10 tips to green your clean—David Suzuki Foundation
Environmental Working Group’s Guide to Healthy Cleaning
Canada must act on toxic product ingredients

Want to read more from the WHSC about carcinogens and toxics use reduction?

To learn more:
Call:    1-888-869-7950 and ask to speak to a training services representative