By Mark McInnes
When chemical manufacturers talk about the safety of their cleaning products, they often say that they are non-toxic. How can we really know what toxic means, and if those products are truly non-toxic?
At Charlotte Products, we are proud that virtually all of our products are classified as non-toxic by The Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labelling of Chemicals (GHS). However, we want our end users and distributors to understand how we determine that conclusion and what that means for health and the environment
What does toxicity mean?
When we talk about toxicity, what we are talking about is the degree to which a substance can negatively affect organisms when ingested, inhaled or transmitted through the skin. Most of the time, this refers to an effect on humans, but it can also refer to the effect of a substance on fish, for example.
There are two types of toxicity: acute toxicity and chronic toxicity. Acute toxicity is a substance that is extremely toxic in the moment of, or immediately after, exposure. Think of cyanide. Acute toxins are most often associated with organ failure and respiratory issues. Chronic toxins have a negative effect on health over an extended period of time. A chronic toxin would be something you might be exposed to over time that builds up in your bloodstream, like saturated fat. You can have one Big Mac and not have an immediate heart attack, but have one a day every day for ten years and you just might. Carcinogens are another example of a chronic toxin.
When we claim that our products are non-toxic, we are saying that they do not contain chemicals that are known acute or chronic toxins. There are a few ways we keep up with the toxicity profiles of raw ingredients and chemicals. One is through the UL Ecologo program and the other is through our own team of dedicated scientists who use research and data to keep up to date on the latest toxicity reports.
UL Ecologo’s list of prohibited chemicals
Here at Charlotte Products, we are proud to use the UL Ecologo program as a third party verification process and label that indicates when our products have reduced environmental impact. Let’s take a closer look at what that means. Two of the main things that the scientists at UL Ecologo look at when certifying cleaning products are the chemical ingredients and efficacy.
Prohibited Chemicals: UL Ecologo has a list of prohibited chemicals and raw ingredients that cannot be used in products. These chemicals differ based on the type of cleaning product. For example, a chemical that is needed for a floor stripper to perform it’s heavy-duty function does not need to be in a window cleaner. The chemicals on this list are prohibited because of comprehensive, data-driven information regarding associated toxicities, physical hazards and biodegradability.
Efficacy: People may not realize that UL Ecologo also requires an efficacy test. The goal is to prove that our “environmentally preferable” products are at least as effective as the standard conventional product in the same category. For example, for dish soap, most products must be tested for efficacy against the conventional market leader in that category, the name of which you would be familiar with from your local grocery store.
The UL Ecologo gives peace of mind and allows consumers to find a non-biased, outside third party verification of our promise to eliminate toxic chemicals from our products.
This is an excellent resource for all consumers when shopping the market for any type of products to refer to when concerned about human health and the environment. The best thing about a program like UL Ecologo is that it process all the data available to really understand the environmental profile of a product. It uses a holistic assessment to not just understand one data point, but to assess an entire product profile based on many different measures.
In-house toxicity policing
We like to be one step ahead of the third party certification experts, whenever possible. That’s why we have a team of people on staff who have been doing nothing but studying what’s in our chemicals and replacing them with safer and safer alternatives for decades. We never rest with just one product formulation, no matter how popular it is. We believe we always need to be studying the latest research and searching for the safest solutions.
For example, we are proud that we were one of the first companies to remove borax from our chemicals. Boric acid is a very traditional household chemical that has been used historically for pest control, laundry and many other reasons. When research started showing that boric acid has a fetal toxicity, we immediately pledged to remove the substance from our product line. We rapidly and voluntarily removed boric acid from our product lines, replacing it with safer alternative chemicals. Our understanding of chemistry is constantly changing along with the available research and data on toxicity, safety and the environment and that’s why we are constantly striving to ensure our products are the safest and efficacious in the market.