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  non-toxic
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LABEL REPORT CARD
How meaningful is the label? Is the label verified? Is the meaning of the label consistent? Are the label standards publicly available? Is information about the organization publicly available? Is the organization free from conflict of interest? Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?
Not Meaningful No No No1 No2 No3 No
1. There are no government of official standards for this term.
2. There is no independent organization behind this label.
3. The producer or manufacturer decides whether to use the claim and is not free from its own self-interest.
 
LABEL CATEGORY:
General Claims
 
WHERE YOU'LL FIND THIS GENERAL CLAIM:

 CLEANING
 
 
WHAT THIS GENERAL CLAIM MEANS:
The "non-toxic" claim implies that a product, substance, or chemical will not cause adverse health effects, either immediately or over the long-term. However, there are no specific standards for the "non-toxic" claim.

“Toxic” is defined by the Federal Hazardous Substances Act, which regulates hazardous household products. A product is toxic if it can produce personal injury or illness to humans when it is inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. In addition, a product is toxic if it can cause long term chronic effects like cancer birth defects, or neurotoxicity (adverse effects on the nervous system). The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is the federal agency responsible for administering the Federal Hazardous Substances Act. While neither the Act nor the CPSC define non-toxic, some manufacturers might assume that a product or chemical is non- toxic if it does not meet the definition of toxic under the Federal Hazardous Substances Act.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires certain hazardous household products to be labeled to alert consumers to certain potential hazards, and how consumers can protect themselves. To require labeling, a product must (1) be toxic (as defined above), corrosive, flammable or combustible, an irritant, or a strong sensitizer, or capable of generating pressure through decomposition, heat or other means, and (2) have the potential to cause substantial personal injury or illness during or as a result of customary or reasonably foreseeable handling or use, including reasonably foreseeable ingestion by children. Specific labels are required depending on the level and type of toxicity and include "Danger," "Caution," "Warning," "Flammable," Harmful if Swallowed," "Causes Burns," and "Poison."

However, just because a product or chemical does not meet the definition of “toxic” as defined by the Act and CPSC does not mean it is harmless. For example, most toxicologists rate the acute (immediate) toxicity of substances along a continuum, not as toxic or non-toxic. One common scale rates acute toxicity from a 6 (supertoxic) to a 1 (practically nontoxic). What CPSC calls “toxic” would get a 3, 4, or higher rating according to this scale. Thus, substances that are still slightly toxic according to this common scale would not meet the CPSC definition of “toxic” and might even be labeled “non-toxic.” Moreover, a consumer could see both a "non-toxic" label and a "This product contains a chemical known to the State of California to cause cancer" label on the same product since the threshold for what CPSC considers to be toxic is lower than that for the State of California.

CPSC describes tests that can be used to determine acute toxicity in terms of doses lethal to animals. By their definition, if a pint of a substance would be lethal to an average adult, it is considered acutely toxic. If it takes more than this to produce a lethal effect (say a quart), then CPSC would not regard the chemical as toxic. However, a substance that could kill an average adult who drank a quart is certainly not harmless. Such a product could be labeled “non-toxic” and not be in violation of the law.

CPSC also considers a substance to show chronic toxicity if it is or contains a “known” or “probable” human carcinogen, neurotoxin, or developmental or reproductive toxicant. However, many if not most substances have not been tested sufficiently to know whether they cause cancer or adverse effects on development, reproduction, or the nervous system in humans and CPSC does not require manufacturers to conduct testing.. Thus, while many substances would not meet the definition of “toxic” according to CPSC, we do not know with certainty that they are “non-toxic.”

The Environmental Protection Agency regulates cleaning products labeled as "antibacterial" (Antibacterial Labels) and considers claims such as "nontoxic," "contains all natural ingredients," and other statements about the safety of a pesticide to be false or misleading.

Foods, drugs, and cosmetics are required to list their ingredients (with a few exceptions, such as fragrances in cosmetics), but household cleaning products are not required to disclose their ingredients (except for disinfectants or other ingredients considered to be antimicrobial pesticides).

 
WHO VERIFIES THIS GENERAL CLAIM?
There is no organization that verifies the use of “non-toxic” other than the company manufacturing or marketing the product. While CPSC requires some products to display hazard labeling, it conducts no oversight or enforcement of the use of the term "non-toxic."
 
CONSUMERS UNION EVALUATION:
How meaningful is the label?
“Non-toxic” is not meaningful and can be misleading. There is no definition or standard used for judging whether a consumer product or its ingredients are “non-toxic,” and no assurance that such a claim has been independently verified. A product that does not meet the definition of “toxic” according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission should not necessarily be considered non-toxic.

Is the label verified?
No.

Is the meaning of the label consistent?
No, it can be interpreted in different ways.

Are the label standards publicly available?
No, there are no standards.

Is information about the organization publicly available?
No, there is no standard organization.

Is the organization free from conflict of interest?
No, there is no organization independently certifying this claim. The producer or manufacturer decides whether to use the claim and is not free from its own self-interest.

Was the label developed with broad public and industry input?
No.
 
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