Sunday, May 11, 2014

The Household Product Database

This post is part health geek, part library geek.  
See, I don't appreciate the extensive use of shockingly under-tested chemical additives in our day-to-day lives.  So many chemicals--at least 700 food additives alone--which as "generally regarded as safe" or GRAS by the U.S. government were never really tested for safety--for humans, other animals, or the land.  If we were using it before 1958 it was all rolled in as GRAS, tested or not.  Some of them truly are safe, I am sure, but the FDA has had to resind that classification from a number of additives formerly thought to be GRAS which turned out to be bad news.  The bottom line is that we just don't know.  We just don't know what all this chemical exposure is going to do to us.  I think we're being used as semi-willing test subjects in the wave of fancy new (and 50-60 years IS new) chemical additives everywhere from food preservatives like BHT in cereal and snack foods, to sodium lauryl sulfate in shampoo and tooth paste, to plastic enhancers in shower curtains and rain coats.  
The library where I work is part of an area health libraries consortium.  As such I was recently reminded of a cool resource from the National Library of Medicine.  The Household Products Database can inform consumers (like ourselves) about what exactly is in some of these products we're encouraged to buy and use around our homes--sometimes even rub right onto our skin or put directly into our mouths.  
It makes me incredibly grateful to have switched to just vinegar and baking soda for all my household cleaning!  Baking soda has a Health Hazard rating of 0, isn't ranked a carcinogen by any of the reporting agencies, is not an eye or skin irritant, and doesn't impact respiratory health.  By comparison some of the commercial products are rather alarming!  Flammability and Health Hazard ratings of up to 3, irritating to skin, respiration and/or eyes, not to mention commercial products are much more expensive than baking soda and result in plastic bottle waste.  It seems like a no-brainer to me.
I don't want chemicals in my food, either.  I want food in my food.  Simple food which I can picture in my mind.  I don't know about you, but I can't picture FD & C Yellow #5, soy lecithin or  or hydrolyzed corn protein.  I can picture corn.  I can picture soybeans.  I'll just eat those instead of their adulterated bits.  If I don't know what it is I don't know why I'd put it in my body, especially on a regular basis, and let it become a part of me. 
The Household Products Database covers a wide range of products--but not food-- that people have in use around the home.  It covers bathroom products to cleaning products, garden fertilizers and sprays to automotive supplies, glue, paint, and art supplies to office supplies like White-Out.  Its pretty comprehensive, though sometimes the brand I am looking for is not there.  This is especially true of more eco-friendly, natural brands.  And sometimes the information supplied by the manufacturer is incomplete like, say, for the dry erase markers at my house.  At least I know they don't contain known carcinogens--that's something--but some other info is just lacking.  I wonder what I will do when they dry up though.  I don't see myself buying more.  So, its certainly not a perfect resource, but none the less I thought it was an interesting one. 

2 comments:

  1. WOW. such a useful resource! I use mostly water, vinegar, and baking soda, but I'm a little afraid to look up the other things I use. . . but it's important to be informed. thank you for this.

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    1. Yeah, I know, right? In some ways maybe its better the dry erase marker record was incomplete. I use those things all the time! I might have been scared off! It is a very handy resource though certainly not a perfect one. I'm pleased you found it useful. Have a great day!

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