updated 7/14/2004 8:09:39 PM ET 2004-07-15T00:09:39

Many common household products contain toxic chemicals that are not posted on package labels, an environmental group says.

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The National Environmental Trust tested 40 products, including hair coloring, lipstick, all-purpose cleaners and paints. The group said 34 of those products contained glycols, organic solvents or phthalates not shown on the labels.

These chemicals can affect the nervous system, reproductive system or cause other health problems if exposed at certain levels. The groups’ study did not attempt to gauge levels of exposure.

“We ought to be concerned when the same chemicals keep showing up in a lot of different products that people use,” said Thomas E. Natan, Jr., the group’s research director. “We can’t say that any particular product will cause disease, but we certainly need to know more about these chemicals and people’s exposure to them.”

Leading toxic chemicals that the group said are likely to be inhaled from household items include chlorine, toluene, xylene, methyl ethyl ketone and n-hexane.

Level of exposure is key
Industry officials acknowledged that many household products contain toxic chemicals, but said the study ignores the critical issue of levels of exposure.

“We all learned in high school that the dose makes the poison,” said Chris VandenHeuvel, a spokesman for the American Chemical Council.

He said it is generally acknowledged that many products, including soap and aspirin, are made from chemicals that could be harmful at high levels of exposure.

He said the study “makes assumptions that are not backed up by science, apparently in an effort to scare people in banning essential chemicals that Americans rely on every day.”

Gerald McEwen, vice president for science for the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, said the level of toxic chemicals in cosmetic and other personal care products is extremely low and — in the case of cosmetics — regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

“The American consumers can have complete confidence that the products they use are safe,” said McEwen.

The environmental trust said the findings point to “the lack of official attention to consumer products as a source of chemical exposure.” The group urged that labeling requirements be strengthened.

The 40 products were test in May and June by the Stat Analysis Corporation in Chicago, using federally approved methods, the group said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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