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CleaningMatters logo sm July/August 2011

Behind the Label: Labeling for Hazardous Household Substances

The Latest Labeling Requirements from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Have you ever wondered about the cautionary labels that appear on cleaning products? And why they are worded the way they are?

The Federal Hazardous Substances Act (FHSA) requires that certain hazardous household products bear cautionary labeling to alert consumers to the potential hazards that those products may present, as well as information that might be needed to protect one self from those hazards.

This labeling requirement pertains to any product that is toxic, corrosive, flammable or combustible, an irritant, a b sensitizer, is flammable or combustible, or that generates pressure through decomposition, heat or other means. In addition, if the product may cause substantial personal injury or substantial illness during or as a proximate result of any customary or reasonable foreseeable handling or use, including reasonable foreseeable ingestion by children, the product is also required to have cautionary labeling. The labeling must include warning(s) about the principal hazard(s) associated with the product so that the consumer can use and store the product safely at home. A determination that a product is toxic is based on the results of animal tests or on human experience. The regulation defines the test methodology to be used to make the determinations.

It is the responsibility of a manufacturer or importer of a product to determine whether its product meets the definition of a hazardous substance and, if so, to fulfill its obligations under the FHSA. The FHSA gives the Consumer Products Safety Commission the authority to ban a hazardous substance if it determines that the product is so hazardous that the cautionary labeling required by the act is inadequate to protect the public.

Consumers need to pay attention to the cautionary information that can be found on cleaning product labels.. Nancy Bock, Vice President of Consumer Education at the American Cleaning Institute®, reminds consumers to:

  • Read and follow the product-label directions. Pay attention to products whose labels include the words "Caution,"  "Warning," "Danger" or "Poison."
  • Discard empty cleaning-supply containers, including detergent containers. Do not use them for storage of any other materials, particularly those intended for human consumption.
  • Keep all household products in their original packages. Packaging includes useful first-aid information in the event of accidental exposure or ingestion. If you purchase these products in bulk quantities, buy a smaller size of the same product and refill this container, as needed.
  • Use child-resistant packaging properly by closing the container securely after each use. Remember, however, that this type of packaging is "child-resistant," not "child-proof." It is not a substitute for keeping products securely out of reach of young children.

Additional information about the Federal Hazardous Substances Act can be found at http://www.cpsc.gov/businfo/fhsa.html. Learn more about the Consumer Products Safety Commission at www.cpsc.gov

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Cleaning Matters® is compiled by the American Cleaning Institute and is not copyrighted. Such information is offered solely to aid the reader. The American Cleaning Institute and its member companies do not make any guarantees or warranties, expressed or implied, with respect to the information contained in Cleaning Matters and assume no responsibility for the use of this information.