Non-Toxic Labelling, What Does It Really Mean?
Did you know that we as consumers cannot actually trust the words ‘non-toxic’ and other similar claims labelled onto products? In this article Non-Toxic Labelling, What Does It Really Mean? you will find the answers and they are not all that great!
All is not what is seems; The Australian Government does NOT monitor all the labellings on the products that line our shelves, especially those that are not food or pharmaceutical grade products.
So how can we buy products and trust what’s written on the label?
In this article I will help you to read between the lines and learn what labels on products actually do mean.
My Investigation Into The Label ‘Non-Toxic’ In Australia.
Firstly I conducted my own investigation regarding the validity of the words ‘Non-Toxic’. I started by venturing into one of those generic discount stores, you know the ones that sell everything from gardening products and soaps, through to baby bottles and children’s face-paints. Just about everything was made in China, and many of the children’s art & craft products; e.g. plasticine and crayons, had the words ‘NON-TOXIC’ printed boldly on the packaging.
Another concern was that hardly any of these products featured a list of ingredients. Therefore there was no way that one could actually check into the safety of the ingredients of the products. So when buying these products, we are are blindly trusting the ‘non-toxic’ label.
My next step was spending many hours searching the websites of, and making phone calls to, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the Australian Competition & Consumers Commission (ACCC ) and the National Industrial Chemicals Notification and Assessment Scheme, (NICNAS). These are all Australian organizations supposedly protecting the safety of Australian people and do you know that not one of them could give us an answer to this simple question I asked of them: “In Australia is there any governing body that checks the label of ‘Non-Toxic’ being written on baby and children’s products, toys, cosmetics and personal care products “
Each person I spoke with clearly had no clue as to how to find the answer to my simple question.
My contact person at the ACCC, said that he actually doesn’t think that there is any organization that checks into the validity of the ‘Non-Toxic’ labelling on products. Scary right? These are the government bodies that are supposed to be regulating what products get onto the shelves.
Each person that I spoke with, at each of the above organizations, recommended that I try contacting one of the other organizations to get an answer, to which of course I replied: “But they told us to contact you!”
So after all this merry-go-round researching, y question was left unresolved and I was none the wiser.
My Investigation Into The Label ‘Non-Toxic’ In The USA.
My next step was to look into the labelling laws overseas in the United States and from all the research I did, it seems that they too, have no official organization that monitors the use of labelling a product as ‘Non-Toxic’. Click here and here to read an eye-opening report from Greener Choices about the labelling use of the words ‘Non-Toxic’.
But what I did find out was this, in the United States The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) does not oversee, or enforce the term. Basically, if a product doesn’t meet the definition of ‘toxic’ by the Federal Hazardous Substance Act, then there is nothing stopping a company from using the label ‘Non-Toxic’ on their products.
The trouble is the standards for labelling a product ‘toxic’ vary greatly and can be dose related and often do not take into account long term exposure, or accumulative exposure.
Yes it’s unfortunate, but we all need to understand that it is up to the individual to ultimately take full responsibility for what they choose to purchase and use, either on themselves, or on their children and pets. Labels such as ‘Non-Toxic’, ‘Natural Ingredients’, ‘Unscented’, ‘100% Cotton’, ‘Contains Organic Ingredients’, ‘Derived from Natural Ingredients’, etc. give consumers the illusion that these products must be completely safe and good for us as well.
The other issue consumers need to be very aware of – Partial Disclosure Labelling. Read my article Partial Disclosure Labelling Of Ingredients In The Products We Use and Consume – A Very Shady & Unethical Area.
How To Ensure Products We Use & Buy Are Actually Safe
Short of deciding to live completely off your own home-grown and hand-made, 100% natural resources, then we need to come to terms with the fact that in some areas, e.g. Pharmaceuticals it is, for now at least, out of our hands, but when it comes to skin care, personal care, art & craft products, house-hold cleaners, toys and baby products, there is a huge amount that we can do to protect ourselves and our families from misleading product labelling.
- The number one rule of thumb is, wherever possible opt for 100% natural products that actually list their entire ingredients, or all the materials used to make the products. My Safe Shopping Guide is a great place to browse and shop from ethical and honest companies.
- Educate yourself if you are unsure about an ingredient, or don’t actually know what it is. Do a Google search and have a read: remember, while ignorance is bliss, knowledge is power!
- Read the ingredients list on a product before you buy it. If a product does not feature an ingredients list, or in the case of toys and art & craft products, if they don’t feature (at the very least) a recognized, toy-safety standard logo on them, then you have two choices – either contact the manufacturer and ask for a disclosure of ingredients/materials, or simply forgo this product and instead choose an alternative product that has nothing to hide.
- It is important that when buying children’s and baby products to once again, at the very least, make sure they conform to worldwide safety standards, such as the ASTM F963 or CE logo. Click here for a guide to Toy-Safety Standards around the world. Remember, this doesn’t mean that the toy is completely ‘Non-Toxic’, only that it has met with certain government recognized,safety guidelines.
- Some ethical companies that manufacture organic, or eco-friendly products will also feature a list of ingredients that they choose not to use in their product’s, e.g. many ethical and natural toy companies clearly state that their products are free from Lead, Mercury, Cadmium, BPA, PVC, Phthalates and that they use food grade, vegetable based paints. Many natural skincare companies will state that their products are free from e.g. sulphates, parabens and artificial colours and fragrances. Choosing to purchase from such companies is often a much safer option, but still read the ingredients where possible.
- Do not buy products from unknown brands that have the words ‘Non-Toxic’ printed on them, but have no other safety symbols or ingredient listings on their packaging.
- Try to buy products especially children’s toys and art and craft products, from reputable and well- known, ethical and eco-friendly companies. See my Eco-Friendly & Safe Wooden Toy Brands guide and check out my review on EnviroBlox
- As I mentioned above, only purchase organic products that have recognizable ‘Certified Organic’ logos on them.
At the end of the day it pays to go more natural and eco-friendly in the products you use and purchase for your family. Natural and eco-friendly companies are a lot more conscious and aware about the toxicity and safety of their products and they are usually very happy to be contacted and answer all your questions.
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