Chemical Used by SC Johnson & Son is Hazardous to Great Lakes and Human Health
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 4.26.2016 — Today, national women’s health organization, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), and Michigan Clean Water Action, released a detailed review of the hazards posed by the chemical, Galaxolide, a synthetic musk commonly found in SC Johnson & Son’s scented household cleaning products, that has also been found in the Great Lakes. The analysis identifies Galaxolide as a threat to the environment and human health.
To determine its hazard level, WVE commissioned a GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals assessment of Galaxolide. GreenScreen® is an internationally recognized tool for comparing and assessing the hazards of chemicals in order to identify those of high concern and evaluate safer alternatives.
Galaxolide was assigned a score of Benchmark 1 — a grade appointed to chemicals of highest concern whose use should be avoided. Specifically, Galaxolide received Benchmark 1 status due to its highly persistent, bioaccumulative and aquatic toxicity properties.
“This means that Galaxolide doesn’t break down easily in the environment, it lingers and builds up in the bodies of animals and people,” said Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “It is extremely toxic to aquatic animals. Which makes it all the more unnerving when we know that this chemical is ending up in our Great Lakes.”
One study found Galaxolide in 81% of water samples from Great Lakes tributaries that run through urban areas, while another on Lake Michigan detected Galaxolide in 92% of water samples, even detecting airborne concentrations of the chemical in the air above the lake. A study on Lake Erie and Lake Ontario found that accumulating levels of Galaxolide in the lake sediment are doubling every eight to sixteen years.
“Supporting a diverse and delicate ecosystem for over 35,000 species of plants and animals, including nearly 180 species of fish, the Great Lakes is one of the most significant ecosystems on Earth,” said Nic Clark, State Director of Michigan Clean Water Action. “This basin makes up over twenty percent of the world’s surface freshwater – nearly 40 million people rely on the lakes for drinking water. We cannot ignore the risk the pollutant, Galaxolide, is having on this invaluable resource.”
“Along with environmental concern, Galaxolide raises red flags for human health risks,” said Scranton of WVE. “It may interfere with hormones and other chemical signals in the body which can result in developmental, reproductive, metabolic, brain, and behavior problems.”
Emerging science also indicates that Galaxolide may break down the body’s natural defenses against other toxic chemical exposure. This new science is concerning as several studies have shown that Galaxolide exposure is ubiquitous in humans. One study found Galaxolide in the blood plasma of 91% of the study participants. Those participants that used scented lotions and perfumes had significantly higher levels of Galaxolide than those that did not. Another study focused on new mothers detected Galaxolide present in 97% of breast milk samples.
“These are alarming numbers and only confirm how persistent and widespread this chemical is in our everyday environment,” said Scranton.
Galaxolide is widely used by SC Johnson & Son (SCJ) and can be found in their numerous scented products among their Glade, Windex, Pledge, Shout and Scrubbing Bubbles brands. The company is one of just six manufacturers in the United States named by the EPA that is importing and using this high production volume (HPV) chemical.
One of SCJ’s top competitors, RB (formerly Reckitt Benckiser), makers of Airwick, stopped the use of Galaxolide and similar musks in their products years ago.
“As a company whose headquarters are on the shores of Lake Michigan, the hazards of Galaxolide pollution hit particularly close to home for SC Johnson,” said WVE’s Executive Director, Erin Switalski. “Galaxolide pollution is not going to go away, instead it will only get worse over time if companies continue to use it. SC Johnson has a clear opportunity to stem the tide of chemical pollution in the Great Lakes by eliminating synthetic musks like Galaxolide from their products.”
“It is baffling that a manufacturer would choose to use this hazardous chemical — which does nothing more than provide a scent — at the expense of our Great Lakes,” said Clark of Clean Water Action.
“Even low dose exposures to hormone disrupting chemicals can be harmful to human health,” said Kathleen Schuler, co-director of the Healthy Legacy Coalition and Healthy Kids & Families Program Director at Conservation Minnesota. “Household products we use every day shouldn’t contain chemicals that disrupt hormones or lead to lasting environmental harm, and we strongly encourage SC Johnson to voluntarily phase out Galaxolide.”
Last spring, questions about SC Johnson’s chemicals safety screening process — called Greenlist™ — were raised in WVE’s Deep Clean report.
“SC Johnson & Son often holds up their Greenlist™ screening process as evidence of their products’ safety, but chemicals like Galaxolide pass their screening process, despite the scientific evidence that this chemical poses a real threat to human and environmental health.” said Switalski. “As a leader among major cleaning product companies for fragrance disclosure, and a company that prides itself on product safety and transparency, SCJ must ensure their process is robust enough to ensure that harmful chemicals do not end up in our bodies and in our waterways.
They can start by deciding to eliminate the use of Galaxolide and other harmful synthetic musks from their products.”
View the complete GreenScreen® assessment of Galaxolide.
About Women’s Voices for the Earth
Since 2007, Women’s Voices for the Earth has run a sustained campaign to promote full ingredient disclosure in the cleaning products industry. Their fragrance campaign work includes reports Secret Scents and What’s That Smell? and, most recently, Unpacking the Fragrance Industry: Policy Failures, the Trade Secret Myth and Public Health, an investigative report calling attention to the failures of the industry’s self-regulating safety policy.
Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. www.womensvoices.org.
About Michigan Clean Water Action
Since their founding during the campaign to pass the landmark Clean Water Act in 1972, Clean Water Action has worked to win strong health and environmental protections by bringing issue expertise, solution-oriented thinking and people power to the table. http://www.cleanwateraction.org/states/michigan
Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research at Women’s Voices for the Earth
Beth Conway, Communications Manager at Women’s Voices for the Earth
Nic Clark, State Director at Michigan Clean Water Action
Beverly Thorpe, Clean Production Action