Canada’s Environmental Choice Program introduces new
certification criteria for CLEANING PRODUCTS with LOW
POTENTIAL for ENVIRONMENTAL ILLNESS and ENDOCRINE
While the products certified under the existing general
purpose cleaner guideline ECP33 demonstrate overall
industry leadership, environmental concerns beyond those
specifically addressed in that guideline have arisen
since 1998. These issues include:
contribution of cleaning product ingredients to
endocrine-disrupting properties of certain
effects of Ethylene
Oxide used in surfactant production
household consumers understand that cleaners contribute
to polluting our environment and may be harmful. They
also want clear evidence of any claimed environmental
General purpose cleaners contain surfactants or wetting
agents as the largest ingredient, usually non-ionic
surfactants. Non Ionic surfactants are a class of
surfactants, which includes Alkyl Phenols Ethoxylates
and Alcohol Ethoxylates.
Both Alkyl Phenol and Alcohol Ethoxylates are
manufactured by reaction with Ethylene
Oxide a known carcinogen which also possess several
other physical health hazards including acute toxicity,
high reactivity and mutagenic effects, neurotoxicity,
Most manufactures of surfactants claim good
biodegradation through a number of test methods
including ready biodegradation and simulated waste
treatment processes, yet surfactants still find their
way into our aquatic ecosystem. Until recently waste
treatment plants did not test for non-ionic surfactants
either in the influent or the discharge of effluent from
waste treatment plants.
Some non-ionic surfactants form new compounds as they
degrade called recalcitrant metabolites and some
metabolites are more toxic and persistent than the
Some non-ionic surfactants have demonstrated the ability
to affect the reproduction system of fish and wildlife.
Many concerns have been raised about very low levels of
contaminants and combined contaminants in the
environment. The accepted term for synthetic chemical
reaction with the reproduction systems is ENDOCRINE
The City of Toronto now limits the discharge of certain
non-ionic surfactants and their metabolites into any
drain. The restrictions are so low that the use of any
cleaner containing any amount of these surfactants would
likely cause the building owner to exceed allowable
limits for effluent discharge and be liable to possible
fines up to $50,000.
Consumers are responsible for the effluent discharge.
Suppliers are not obligated to inform consumers whether
products purchased contain these ingredients, not even
on Material Safety Data Sheets. Therefore consumers will
have to get verification from individual suppliers or
they may be in violation of the sewer use by law.
Consumers should not take for granted that large
corporations do not use these ingredients.
Other ingredients in cleaning formulations, which have
environmental effects, are phosphates, NTA and EDTA.
VOC’s, the portion of a cleaner that evaporates and
becomes part of the air we breath pose a threat to
chemically sensitive individuals and pollute indoor air
which can be many times more contaminated than outdoor
Many people have developed sensitivities to many
cleaning products including general-purpose cleaners
containing non-ionic surfactants.
One of the best ways of evaluating if a product is
environmentally preferable is third party verification
and certification of environmental benefits. We
recommend Environment Canada’s Environmental Choice
Program and reviewing the specific criteria for
ECOgent has cleaning products that are certified by the Environmental
Choice Program as “Low
Potential for Environmental Illness and Endocrine
Now consumers can identify cleaning products
specifically designed for use around chemically
sensitive individuals and offer reduced potential for
disrupting our natural environment.
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