The Green Seal Compass: Protecting Human Health
7/26/2021 | Brie Welzer
This is part of a series of stories about Green Seal’s Compass. Read our introduction to the Compass here.
Green Seal’s work follows a compass that focuses on four key targets: protecting human health, minimizing waste, ensuring clean water, and preserving the climate.
This compass keeps us focused on Green Seal’s priority impacts, ensuring that Green Seal certification represents products and services that are safer for people and our planet. In this blog post, I will explain how Green Seal certified products are more health-protective than conventional options on the market.
What You Should Know About Toxic Chemicals
There are more than 80,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S. and only a few hundred have been evaluated for health and environmental effects. Although Congress updated the Toxic Substances Control Act in 2016 to grant the US EPA greater authority and resources, to date the agency has banned only nine chemicals, and addressing the massive chemical evaluation backlog is estimated to take centuries at the current pace.
Some product manufacturers are leading the way: disclosing all ingredients, publicly committing to phase out hazardous chemicals, and strongly investing in green chemistry innovations. However, there are still too many products with toxic ingredients available in easy reach on store shelves and school custodial closets.
For example, many cleaning products contain chemicals that disrupt our endocrine systems. The endocrine system is like your body’s conductor – setting the rhythm for metabolism, growth, mood, and sleep patterns. Endocrine disrupting chemicals cause hormone changes, lower sperm counts, birth defects, obesity, diabetes, and thyroid irregularities, reduced immune function, and reduced vaccine response. Examples of endocrine disruptors that Green Seal prohibits in certified cleaning products are:
- Bisphenol A (BPA)
- Nonylphenol ethoxylates (the byproducts of alkylphenols)
- Glycol ethers
Our High Standard for Health Protection
Green Seal’s standards address the most significant health and environmental impacts for which there are known and feasible safer alternatives. Critically, Green Seal standards also set requirements for functional performance; buyers can be confident the certified healthier product they are choosing is also one that will meet their expectations and get the job done.
Green Seal standards are designed to protect the most vulnerable, including, pregnant women, infants, children, and immunocompromised individuals. Our requirements address health risks across the product life cycle, including acute hazards, chronic hazards, and hazardous chemical exposure during product use, storage, and disposal.
This approach has helped Green Seal to be a leader, moving to act on hazardous chemicals decades ahead of state regulators and retailers. For example, Green Seal certified products have been free of the neurotoxin methylene chloride and the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane as far back as 1993.
In addition to protecting the health of product users, Green Seal sets prohibitions on hazardous chemicals to incentivize the greening of supply chains: As more of a company’s products are Green Seal certified, it becomes simpler for the company to phase out their use of hazardous ingredients and raw materials across all production.
Certified Safer and Healthier
Green Seal’s standards are the blueprint for product certification. Our scientists look at intentionally added chemicals and contaminants in the product to protect users from health and safety hazards. We verify that a product:
- Is non-toxic via ingestion and/or inhalation
- Will not cause skin and/or eye damage
- Meets strict limits for volatile organic compounds (VOCs)
- Is not combustible and/or flammable
Green Seal also screens formulas for chronic hazards (impacts that can occur after 10 to 20 years of daily professional use or weekly household use), prohibiting chemicals classified as carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive toxins.
Buyers face steep challenges when searching for healthier, greener products, from a proliferation of vague and unsubstantiated marketing claims to the absence of information about the safety of tens of thousands of chemicals. The Green Seal Certification Mark signifies that a product meets a strong benchmark of health and environmental leadership, making it simple for everyone to make the healthier choice.