Here we go again. Independent testing found a chemical in a “green” children’s product that the company itself called “toxic”.
The Wall Street Journal reports that it found SLS (sodium lauryl sulfate) in the Honest Company’s laundry detergent.
From Orbit Baby (owned by Ergo Baby), to Jessica Alba’s Honest Company, why do green companies keep getting caught with concerning chemicals in their products despite claims that they test for those specific chemicals?
“Companies don’t really know what’s in their products,” explains Environmental Scientist Arlene Blum of the Green Scientist Policy Institute.
That was her explanation when our independent testing found TDCPP in the Orbit Baby car seats despite the company’s claims.
She explained that companies are often well-meaning, but largely rely on third-party testing from suppliers and vendors.
However, problems arise when independent investigations uncover something that the vendor and manufacturer spot checks do not. And these days it’s easier than ever for parents, reporters or consumer advocates to test products on their own.
It likely goes without saying that those third-party investigations can have a lasting impact on a well-meaning company’s image. Though, how the company handles the the third-party findings can have a significant impact as well.
In response to the Wall Street Journal investigation, Honest said:
Despite providing the Wall Street Journal with substantial evidence to the contrary, they falsely claimed our laundry detergent contains sodium lauryl Sulfate (SLS). To set the record straight, we use sodium coco sulfate (SCS) in our brand’s laundry detergent because it is a gentler alternative that is less irritating and safer to use.
So what was that “substantial evidence”? According to the LA Times:
Honest provided the Wall Street Journal with a certificate from its detergent manufacturer, Earth Friendly Products, stating there was no SLS in the product.
The detergent is supposed to be tested by Earth Friendly Products’ chemical supplier, Trichromatic West Inc.
But Trichromatic told the Wall Street Journal the certificate “wasn’t based on any testing and there was a ‘misunderstanding’ with the detergent maker,” the report said.
Instead, Trichromatic said it did not need to test for SLS because none was used in the manufacturing process.
Scientists told the Wall Street Journal that SCS contains a mixture of various cleaning agents that include a significant amount of SLS
Alba’s company cited “Rigorous testing and analysis both by our internal research and development teams as well as further testing by external partners have confirmed (the) fact (that the company uses SCS not SLS).”
However, the question remains; did anyone ever specifically test for SLS to confirm its absence? The third party lab that Honest’s chemical supplier used reportedly admitted that it did not.
Honest continues to deny that the chemical is its product stating:
The Wall Street Journal has been reckless in the preparation of this article, refused multiple requests to share data on which they apparently relied and has substituted junk science for credible journalism. We stand behind our laundry detergent and take very seriously the responsibility we have to our consumers to create safe and effective products.
The Wall Street Journal said it stands behind its reporting.
So what does all this mean for parents looking for green products?
Well, in a world filled with chemicals, nothing is guaranteed. However toxicologists and green scientists stress that reducing your child’s exposure to concerning chemicals as much as possible reduces their risk of harmful lasting effects.
Though keep in mind, different chemicals come with different levels of concern and you can not completely eliminate exposure to concerning chemicals.
In response to our Orbit Baby car seat investigation, toxicologists like Dr. Martha Sandy, Chief of the State’s Reproductive and Cancer Assessment Branch for the Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, advised replacing a car seat that tested positive for TDCPP with one that does not contain chemicals “known to cause cancer”.
SLS is not one of those chemicals.
According to the Environmental Working Group’s skin deep database, your kid is not likely to have any lasting harmful effects from using the Honest detergent, even if it does have SLS.
While SLS may cause skin irritation, if you’re already using the detergent you’d know that by now.
There are some moderated toxicity concerns when this chemical used in cosmetics and products like toothpaste and shampoo that are absorbed into the body. But you’re not likely bathing your child in the laundry detergent.
Bottom line, experts advise that parents continue to seek out safer alternatives and in this case; it seems the Honest detergent is still comparatively “safe”.
And while not perfect, green scientists applaud companies like Honest for making an effort to reduce harmful chemicals.
However consumer advocates and environmental scientists contend that more stringent internal testing is needed by manufacturers, suppliers and the companies themselves.
Until then, it’s up to consumers, non-profits, environmental groups and investigative reporters to hold companies accountable.