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Please be scared. The Environmental Working Group (EWG), an influential environmental watchdog, would appreciate it if you would please be scared of the latest supposed monsters in your closet, cleaning products. Of course, it would be easier to be scared if EWG had supplied any supporting facts and context instead of insinuations to bolster their warnings.

On the other hand, insinuations are all that EWG has to offer. Consider the example of a floor cleaner that is described by EWG as "among the worst offenders." What makes the cleaner so bad according to EWG? It contains a chemical that is "suspected" by a UN regional economic panel of causing harm. Talk about grasping at straws.

Nonetheless, it's worth taking a look at what the product's OSHA-required Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) say about it. MSDSs include a Hazardous Materials Identification System (HMIS) rating for Health. The health hazard ranking scale runs from a high of four to a low of zero. The cleaning product's health hazard? Zero. "No significant risk to health."

If you don't have a vested interest in promoting fear, you should feel pretty good. When even the purported "worst" products are safe when used as directed, things aren't so bad.

Another product is spotlighted by EWG for containing citrus oils. Perhaps the NGO will next warn against eating oranges.

Although EWG's "Cleaners Hall of Shame" contains much silliness, it's even more notable for what it doesn't include. Such as the criteria that EWG uses for determining whether a cleaning product gets listed. That's right, for all their talk of transparency, EWG isn't providing any about their Hall of Shame selection process.

So, what does the Cleaners Hall of Shame consist of? A few unsupported claims and a secret selection process. Apparently EWG's new moto is "trust us, we're the experts."

The EWG list isn't about health hazards or protecting consumers, it's about publicity for EWG. And EWG's self-serving fear-mongering is the real shame.

  • See EWG Press Release
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