“Environmentally Friendly” Products Can Be Seriously Unfriendly to You and the Environment


By Heather Callaghan, Editor

Unfortunately words like “environmentally friendly,” “green” or even “biodegradable” may just be a form of green washed, sleight-of-hand that have nothing to do with your or your pets’ health.

Since the 1990s, we’ve had a virtually unregulated uprising of chemical products. Back then, there were an estimated 80,000 to 120,000 [1] unregulated industrial chemicals on the commercial market; and today it is estimated that there are least 84,000 of those chemicals floating around, signalling that the problem has only gotten worse. Many of those products are serious endocrine disruptors and may be responsible for cancer, hormonal disorders or endocrinological-rooted problems such as thyroid disease and adrenal fatigue.

Even the packaging of your breakfast cereal is steeped in environmental toxicantsthe shampoo for your hair contains dangerous, hormone-dropping phthalates hidden in the word “fragrance” – possibly hidden in the shampoo bottle and hidden in water bottles.  It is estimated that before a man makes it out the door for his daily commute he is exposed to 8 toxicants; and for a woman, much more thanks to unregulated cosmetics, hair products and body care.

But these examples don’t even account for the so-called “green cleaning” trend.

This is “green” defined by the Regreen organization:

Green products are available for just about any daily need, and the ways they are green are many and varied: They are energy or water efficient; they use healthy, non-toxic materials; they are made from recycled or renewable sources; they make current products you use more efficient or more durable; and they are recyclable or biodegradable, among many other things.

What products do you think of when you think of “green” or even “healthy” products? Method? Seventh Generation? Some of these companies’ products are sold at health food stores – particularly Seventh Generation. Somehow or another, people have associated the word “green” with “healthy” – and perhaps that is the ultimate goal of marketers. Both companies even boast their “dirty list” which makes consumers falsely believe that all toxic ingredients have been eliminated. They also claim that their products have non-toxic ingredients.

Method was bought out by German company Ecover a few years back. Thereafter, the “greening” continued and both companies’ cleaning products get fair grades for the environment at Environmental Working Group (EWG). Well, some of them.

Seventh Generation depicts children using their cleaning products and one of Method’s taglines went like this:

at method, we don’t use dirty ingredients, so we have nothing to hide.

but you might be surprised to learn not everyone is so clean.

You might be surprised to learn that they aren’t either.

Let’s take an air freshener from Method as an example that defies the above tagline. The poppy-scented air freshener spray was heavily advertised to this writer as a natural product “powered by air” instead of toxic propellants. It even boasted of “botanically-based” ingredients for the fragrance (another buzzterm). However, it seemed unlikely that all of the fragrance could come from poppy flowers – and it wasn’t likely at all. Even Mrs Meyers’ products contain some synthetic fragrances although they too claim that they are safe.

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But even putting that tidbit aside – I looked at many store outlet sites to find the ingredients and when I noticed that none of them would cough them up I finally went to the source – the Method website. When I got there I was met with peachy language and claims of earth and human safety. Unfortunately, it seems as though the two are exaggerated. Although they claim that the following ingredients are safe for humans, that might not be the case.

fragrance (parfum) fragrance blended composition is partly essential oils + partly synthetic ingredients free of phthalates, NPEs + other dirty ingredients; non-toxic in use, free of carcinogens + tested for skin irritation + allergies
benzisothiazolinone preservative – prevents bacterial growth inherently biodegradable; made from synthetic materials; low skin + eye irritation
methylisothiazolinone preservative – prevents bacterial growth inherently biodegradable; made from synthetic materials; low skin + eye irritation

Sounds fairly safe, right?

Go to EWG ingredient chart and you’ll get a different perspective.

METHYLISOTHIAZOLINONE – Methylisothiazolinone is a widely-used preservative; has been associated with allergic reactions. Lab studies on the brain cells of mammals also suggest that methylisothiazolinone may be neurotoxic.

EWG lists this ingredient as a high hazard and a moderate overall health hazard. It is listed as a “HIGH concern” for being a skin, eye and lung irritant – and yet, here it is in this air spray. This ingredient is banned or restricted for cosmetic use in other countries, yet in the U.S., shows up in hundreds of products that reach the skin including makeup, sunscreen and – Preparation H wipes for women! (Please, just use witch hazel!)

Let’s do one more – we’ll skip fragrance since we already know that fragrance is an unregulated term that could contain up to a thousand or more hidden ingredients.


Another antimicrobial preservative that is a high hazard, moderate overall health hazard and is a known irritant to skin, eyes and lungs. It also presents as toxic to non-reproductive organs, yet it shows up in several liquid handsoaps and sunscreen. Furthermore, Canada and the EU suspect wildlife and environmental toxicity, so now even the “green” badge starts to look a bit tarnished. The ingredient even shows up in Mrs. Meyers Clean Day products, who also claim that it is safe.

An individual investigation from the SmartKlean Blog found that Method, Ecover and even Seventh Generation were using SLS – Sodium Lauryl Sulfate. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – which, if you’ve been listening to The Detox Project, you know that companies claim it comes from coconuts but it is anything but natural. In fact, it is a heavily processed, harsh detergent found in industrial strength garage floor cleaners and is harmful to children. Yet there it is in shampoo, even though it can cause dandruff and hair loss. When confronted with this, Seventh Generation gave the saccharine, tired line that their SLS was natural and from coconuts – an industry-wide line to lull consumers into false security. I damaged my hair by using a free shampoo product from a so-called “natural” company that touted the same thing – my hair felt like Barbie’s plastic, knotted hair after using this garage floor degreasant.

That was my unfortunate realization that the consumer probably conducts more research into ingredients than startup companies – or should, if they want to keep their hair! And companies of all sizes don’t care until complaints go public. WEN – another shampoo company with “natural” claims to fame – has responded to permanently injured, balding customers with callous denial. They knowingly allowed consumers to complain to them when they should have complained directly to the FDA. But imagine the length of research I did on just those two ingredients in the air freshener – what does the average consumer do when faced with the company’s claims and unregulated labels while at the store with fussy children? What if you can’t research the offending ingredient, as in the case of WEN because no one knows what it is yet?

Detox project

Method has reached out to independent environmental assessment groups and the EPA – but given the systemic problem with EPA standards and its lack of human tests for exposure to multiple chemicals – what does that even mean to us? Not much at all.

In fact, one of the criticisms toward so-called environmentally friendly companies is this: how do we know the product is environmentally friendly when consumers use multiple products from multiple companies – what are the mixed and cumulative effects after it all goes down the drain? The National Environmental Trust questions the lack of firm health testing for green products and concludes that “the choice between conventional and green cleaning products may for many people be based on politics and sentiments more than health.”

Additionally, there are many chemicals we still know little about. Assessments often have tunnel vision, zeroing in and testing only one ingredient at a time. On the other hand, EWG might give a company a fair grade but when you consider there is still room in the market for improvement and when you examine each individual ingredient – you really get a different story about the product in question.

It is unfortunate indeed that the burden of safety falls on the consumer who is paying both the regulatory agencies and potentially the companies who are sugar-coating important and shocking information.

Method has designed aesthetic, decorative cleaning bottles and its parent company, Ecover, had planned on using only plastic collected from the ocean for its line of products. To be sure, those things are useful and admirable – but we need to break the links of “green means healthy,” “green means clean,” or “natural means good” within our collective unconscious.

Did this story convince you to make your own cleaning products?

Sound-off and share below!

[1] Brain Fog, by Bruce Haney

Image collage: Natural Blaze

favorite-velva-smallThis article (“Environmentally Friendly” Products Can Be Seriously Unfriendly to You and the Environment) can be republished with attribution to Heather Callaghan, source article and Natural Blaze.com, keeping all links and bio intact

 Heather Callaghan is an independent researcher, writer, speaker and food freedom activist. She is the Editor and co-founder of NaturalBlaze. Get a nifty FREE eBook – Like at Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.


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