Eco-Cleaning Products Might Not Be so Green After All

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Cruising down the aisles of the grocer, shoppers looking for a seemingly easy way to save the environment—or assuage some guilt—might opt for an eco-friendly cleaner. But it looks like those earthy chemical-free products might not be so great after-all. Tuesday, researchers at the National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society presented a study that found these "green" products often contain a surprising amount of petroleum.

It's entirely possibly the cleaner creators have no idea their product contains these less eco-friendly carbons.Since "green" isn't defined using industry or government standards, a cleaning supplies company can stake the environmentally-sound status of its products on a number of sorts of claims. One common way green cleaning supplies justify their eco-friendliness is by proclaiming themselves petrochemical free. Cleaning agents typically contain a lot of carbon, an element derived either from renewable plant sources or harmful petroleum resources. A petrochemical-free product presumably contains no carbon derived from petroleum sources, and is thus better for the environment.

Senior researcher Cara Bondi, of the Seventh Generation green household products company, and her co-researchers focused on this metric to test a variety of cleaning products' eco-legitimacy. Using carbon dating—a method traditionally used to date fossils—Bondi's team tested the origin of the carbon in nine liquid laundry detergents, seven hand dishwashing liquids, and six hand washes. The study found that all of the products contained some traces of petroleum: The products tested showed significant variation in plant-derived carbon content: hand washes ranged from 28%-97%, liquid laundry detergents from 28%-94% and dishwashing liquids from 43%-95%. The research also revealed that all of the products tested that are positioned in the consumer market as "green" contained over 50% more plant-based carbon on average than product samples tested...
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