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SC Johnson reveals 368 potential skin allergens in its products

Products - Glade air freshener ©SC Johnson

Consumer products conglomerate SC Johnson has disclosed the 368 potential skin allergens that may be used in its products, including household brands such as Glade, Pledge, Scrubbing Bubbles and Shout.

The international company has added the list of fragrance and non-fragrance ingredients to its transparency website, WhatsInsideSCJohnson.com. It says that by 2018, it will also indicate which skin allergens are contained within each product.

To determine the list of ingredients to disclose, SC Johnson scientists analysed more than 3,000 data sets from public and industry sources for potential skin allergens identified on country regulatory lists, fragrance industry lists and individual supplier safety data sheets. This included both natural and synthetic skin allergens.

The company then validated its findings with a panel of experts.

Potential skin allergens down to 0.01% will be disclosed. In a press release, SC Johnson says this is the standard in the EU and that "the general consensus among the scientific community is that a dose of less than 0.01% is unlikely to cause a reaction for most skin allergens in rinse-off products."

But Kelly Semrau, SC Johnson’s senior vice president of global corporate affairs, communication & sustainability, told Chemical Watch the company is not planning to reformulate its products to avoid their use because they are "not a safety concern at all".

"We use such a low level of these allergens that they’re designed to not induce an allergy, or even elicit an allergy if you’ve already been exposed."

"This is to inform and educate consumers so they can make a choice," she said.

Ms Semrau emphasised that the skin allergens were also used in similar products by other companies.

"We understand that other companies might choose not to do the work to communicate low levels of potential skin allergens in their products," said Fisk Johnson, chairman and CEO. "With our decades-long commitment to being more and more transparent, we are continuing on a path to provide more and more information to the people who buy our products so they can make choices that are best for them and their families," he added.

Raising the bar 

Ken Cook, president and co-founder of Environmental Working Group (EWG), called the move "groundbreaking" and said that SC Johnson was "raising the bar for other companies".

"This level of transparency is sweeping across other industries and is rapidly becoming the new normal for companies, like SC Johnson, who place a premium on giving consumers more, rather than less, ingredient information," he added.

Dev Gowda, toxics advocate for the US Public Interest Research Group (PIRG), called the initiative "a great move for chemical transparency in consumer products".

But he added that while this is a good first step, the company should "take the next step and completely remove skin allergens from its products."

Ms Semrau said this is the latest in a series of SC Johnson transparency initiatives. Later this year there are plans to release a product which is 100% natural and fully disclosed.

And she says the company will reveal the science behind its green list programme.

Previously, it published its fragrance palette with a list of its 1,300 approved fragrance ingredients as well as a list of its ingredient restrictions, and then began rolling out product-specific fragrance disclosure. Last year, it launched a product collection with 100% fragrance ingredient transparency and started its European ingredient transparency programme.

Such initiatives are on the rise among consumer goods companies. Earlier this year, Unilever announced plans to provide consumers with information about specific fragrance ingredients used in its personal care products. P&G also announced the launch of a website that allows consumers to see which preservatives are in its products.

There has also been increasing pressure for ingredient transparency in cleaning products in the US. Bills have been introduced in Congress and California that would require products to bear a label listing ingredients, and New York has floated a proposal for manufacturers to publicly disclose ingredients and identify chemicals of concern used in formulations.  

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