5 Replies Latest reply on Jul 18, 2011 1:26 AM by Shannon Watt

    Non-technical websites for researching consumer product ingredients?

    Shannon Watt

      I am engaged in a conversation with a woman who blogs on the topic of "being green" for a fairly large newspaper's website.  She is open to learning more about the science underlying the green movement and has asked me to point her towards resources that non-scientists can use to learn more about the health/environmental/etc. effects of consumer products' individual ingredients.  Unfortunately, this is not my area of expertise; the resources I'm aware of are best suited for a more technical audience.  Can anyone suggest some scientifically sound, well-sourced, easy-to-understand information on this topic?  I believe that she's particularly interested in a primer on the subject and in a "one-stop-shop" (besides Wikipedia) where she and her readers could search for reliable information about the effects of given consumer product ingredient.

       

      Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

      Shannon

        • Re: Non-technical websites for researching consumer product ingredients?
          Thomas Burns

              Unfortunately, there is probably not any sort of convenient "7-Eleven" source which may provide this sort of information.  The consumer product manufacturers' trade groups have an initiative on ingredient communication (see http://www.cleaninginstitute.org/ingredient_communication_amended/), but some may find that lacking in detail.  Similarly, individual product makers provide some - but limited - information on their corporate websites.  At any rate, there is no simple listing of "good" or "bad" ingredients, as any effects are dependent on the relative hazards, degrees of exposure, and possibly also combinations of the chemicals in a given product.

              At the recent ACS Green Chemistry & Engineering confernece, held 21-23 June in Washington DC, there were several sessions related to producing, assessing, and working with "green" chemicals. As most of the content was not overly technical, that information may be appropriate for a journalist who could in turn relate it to the newspaper/blog readers.  While I believe that the proceedings may not be fully available to non-attendees, the program can be found here:  http://acswebcontent.acs.org/gcande/program.html

              At the conference I presented our company's perspectives and efforts toward product improvements in the session titled "Greening Formulated Consumer Products."  If of interest to your blogger friend, I can share that presentation directly.

           

          Regards,

            Tom Burns

            Novozymes

          • Re: Non-technical websites for researching consumer product ingredients?
            Emily Kolarik

            In addition to the Consumer Product Ingredient Communication Initiative Tom mentioned, another source of public information on what's in consumer products, potential health effects, and safety and handling is the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Household Products Database, http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/index.htm.  This database is maintained by the National Library of Medicine as part of NIH.

             

            The database and web site are user-friendly, providing multiple avenues for conducting searches - whether by product, manufacturer, ingredients, or health effects.  Product categories include auto products; inside the home; pesticides; landscape/yard; personal care; home maintenance; arts & crafts; pet care; and home office.

             

            From this database there are also links to more information, for example, Material Safety Data Sheets, other government information resources and sites such as TOXNET (http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/) and Tox Town (http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov/), designed to give information on everyday locations where you might find toxic chemicals; both are maintained by the National Library of Medicine.

             

            Thanks,

            Emily Kolarik

            American Chemistry Council       

            • Re: Non-technical websites for researching consumer product ingredients?
              Bob Peoples

              Dear Shannon, you raise an excellent question and one for which there are no simple answers.  Emily and Tom have made some suggestions.  I will add sites like www.greenblue.org www.cleanproduction.org   www.ulenvironment.com http://greenerchoices.org/eco-labels/eco-home.cfm and www.epa.gov/dfeThe problem is complex and the answer depends on a lot of variables as has been suggested.  Much of the information is in more scientific terms and that makes accessibility harder for non-technically trained individuals. The State of CA is also working on a green chemistry program to list ingredients in a database, but it will be sometime before this rolls out. The ACS Green Chemistry Institute (ACS GCI) is also working on an ANSI standard (American National Standard Institute) to facilitate the sharing of chemical information among manufacturers in a consistent and comprehensive format on both a chemical and the manufacturing process used to make it.  We hope this new standard will be issued in August.  Many companies such as SC Johnson, Nike, Google, etc are developing their own screening tools to fill the void.

               

              I hope this helps,

              Bob Peoples

              Director, ACS GCI

              • Re: Non-technical websites for researching consumer product ingredients?
                Radoslav Bozov

                Dear Shannon,

                 

                Noticing that Bob and the rest have given you a partial answer on that particularly complex topic of such undefined issue, I am prone to introduce you to roots of problems regarding ingredients or so called chemicals and/or green chemicals.

                Firstly, you must understand is the difference between structure and function and their relationship. Think of having a low profile car for racing and high profile truck for driving on unpaved roads.

                Secondly, you must understand that green chemistry and toxicology, I shell say chronic exposure to irritants, are linked tightly to each other.

                Now, traditionally in scientific method, chemicals's toxicity were measured via so called Lethal dose. This is how drugs were developed and the ultimate non toxic compound was set to be glucose although much of it would develop diabetes as we know nowdays.You can find that on wikipedia so I won't talk about it. One think you should be aware of though, is that 4th dimension TIME. Time is change and change can happen at different rates, like you drive your car at different speeds, but a fast car would be faster that a high profile car.

                The other, more important philosophical issue, that you must comprehend is that science has accepted the dogma of rationality, in other words health wise speaking "the poison makes the dosage" ir vice verse. So chemist have aimed towards development of ingredients that have no obvious immediate effect because we could not simply measure it through microworld 25 years ago or so. So that standard of lethal dose was never really reconsidered in terms of chronic exposure. Yes you won't die using or ingesting one ingredient within the range of mg because teh cells that cover our epithelial tissue generally get renewed. But if you get that "irritant" for long period of time, depending on the case, one may easily develop various forms of response from a biological tissue ranging from alergies to cancer. Some very brutal cases of toxicity are known and many chemicals were banned but all that happened after tens of years of exposure and pretty much capturing the effect of it.

                What science is afraid of is developing a technology that can test each chemical against a tissue that can give a solid predicitive data on what happens with our genes, proteins, or smaller chemicals that are responsible for our normal function of cells, tissues, organs , systems, etc.

                Some regulatory organs such as FDA European newsletter on Chemical watch etc have made an attempt to define what is toxic and what is not, but in reality is very difficult to regulate unless there is very robust and definite mechanism for understanding and measuring what the heck is happening upon perturbation of living system via a chemical "irritant" that is developed to bring on specific function for consumers that make profit. Thus things get very complicated when one side of the coin follows teh other.One thing it may be done is measuring directly the effect of a substance via a defined computation that says what happens to mutation rate and the physics of living things itslef.

                So what happens when you get inhaled and/or ingested in your system such ingredient, you basically drive your low profile speedy car ona  rough road and it breaks over time. Sometimes can break quite quickly. Being green is a new culture that requires scientific revolution and understanding within teh guild of what is health and healthy earth, preventative medicine and sustainable development. And all that sometimes is in the hidden space as business venues chase they addiction- making money regardless of consequences. Sometimes many agencies are just in the game so strings are netted all over places - from politics to ethics, culture, education , religion and science in order to define what is nature and its value.

                 

                Radoslav Bozov

                Founder Theory of Carbon Signaling

                Carbomics Strings

                • Re: Non-technical websites for researching consumer product ingredients?
                  Shannon Watt

                  Dear Tom, Emily, Bob, and Radoslav,

                   

                  As you confirmed (and as I was reminded while trying to formulate a succinct yet accurate response to the blogger!), this is indeed a complex subject of public importance.  Thank you all for taking the time to reply to my question with such helpful resources.

                   

                  I hope that you and others will update this discussion as additional resources come online so that we ACS members can continue to relay useful information to the public.

                   

                  Best wishes,

                  Shannon