Safer Choice: Meets US EPA Safer Product StandardsSafer products are going to be easier than ever to identify, thanks to new changes to EPA’s product labeling program.

Recently, EPA announced changes to rebrand and improve their Design for the Environment (DFE) product labeling program, by announcing a new name and logo to enable families choose products like cleaners with safer chemicals, as well as a new labeling program for “fragrance-free” products.

Now identified by a “Safer Choice” label (pictured to the right), products that carry this label must meet certain requirements for safer chemical ingredients. According to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy:

“Our scientists employ a stringent set of human health and environmental safety standards when reviewing products for the Safer Choice program, so a product with the label is backed by EPA science. Consumers know it’s a credible stamp they can trust.”

Watch this video from the Administrator describing the changes to the program (featuring her adorable dog Emma!), and you can read about the changes to the program here. The Hill also has a nice piece on the changes.

Today over 2,000 products qualify to carry the EPA’s new Safer Choice Label, which will be appearing on products on store shelves by this summer.

The changes to this voluntary program come not soon after the chemical industry, led by the American Chemistry Council (ACC), have been waging a vicious battle attacking and attempting to weaken and water down the program, while on the other hand big brands and retailers like Walmart are embracing it so that they can satisfy their customers’ demand for safer products free of harmful chemicals.

A shiny new logo

According to the EPA, the new name and logo was renamed and redesigned to

“better communicate the program’s human health and environmental protection goals, increase consumer and institutional/industrial purchaser understanding and recognition of products bearing the label, and encourage innovation and the development of safer chemicals and chemical-based products.

The label’s new name “Safer Choice,” with the accompanying wording (or “tagline”) “Meets U.S. EPA Safer Product Standards” (which is part of the label), and design were developed over many months based on input and feedback from a diverse set of stakeholders and the general public.”

The EPA has created three versions of the new label: for consumer products, institutional and industrial products, and another for fragrance-free products.

Toxic chemicals stink – look for “fragrance-free” products

I am particularly excited that for the first time, EPA has developed a label for products that the agency classifies as “fragrance-free”, which is important given that fragrance ingredients are usually kept secret by brands (and more often the fragrance houses they work with) and often contain toxic chemicals like phthalates. (Note – phthalates are not allowed in the fragrance of Safer Choice branded products)

The EPA states that,

To qualify for the program’s fragrance-free label, a product must first meet all requirements in the Safer Choice Standard and safer ingredient criteria. EPA will review the product ingredients to ensure that the product contains no fragrance materials.

The fragrance-free certification will mean that: 1) the product only contains ingredients on or eligible for the Safer Chemical Ingredients List (SCIL)—the program’s list of ingredients that meet our safer chemical criteria and are generally acceptable for use in Safer Choice labeled products—and 2) the product does not contain chemicals on the International Fragrances Association (IFRA) Transparency List of fragrance chemicals intended to impart or mask a scent..”

The EPA also states that products that qualify for this logo may still have an odor as some other chemical ingredients, such as surfactants and solvents, may carry an odor. EPA also states that for fragranced products that aren’t seeking this particular label, they are developing a list of fragrance chemicals that are acceptable. Under their interim criteria, listed carcinogens, mutagens, or reproductive/developmental toxicants (CMRs); listed persistent, bioaccumulative, and toxic compounds (PBTs); and listed respiratory sensitizers are not allowed. To advance transparency, product manufacturers must disclose dermal sensitizers.

Moving the market on fragrance ingredient disclosure

The new “fragrance-free” label will provide incentives for brands and retailers to bring more fragrance-free products to market, and perhaps may also help push the envelope on fragrance ingredient disclosure.

In recent years our partners at Women’s Voices for the Earth have been campaigning to get companies to disclose their fragrance ingredients, and over the past year both SC Johnson and Clorox have announced new disclosure initiatives.

This also comes at a time when even Walmart is asking suppliers to disclose fragrance ingredients, as part of Walmart’s chemicals policy. We are calling on other big retailers like Walgreens to join them in pushing for full ingredient disclosure and “Mind the Store”.

Want to have your voice heard on this issue?

With EPA’s announcement, the new label and revisions to the standard will soon be open for public comment.

Stakeholders will have 60 days to submit comments on all of this once it’s officially posted to the federal register website at www.regulations.gov (which it hasn’t yet as of today). In the meantime – you can see the pre-publication notice here.

You can learn all you want to know about the Safer Choice program at http://www2.epa.gov/saferchoice