Which Labels Can We Trust?

Sometimes, researching things presents me with information I am not the least bit happy to discover, like some of the information in todays post.

Let's examine a term that's been around so long, it's a part of everyday Western life. It's found on labels everywhere – household products, products for pets, and childrens products.

The term: Non-Toxic.

Non-toxic is a stamp of approval - an assurance of safety. Any time we see a product labelled NON TOXIC, we feel confident that the contents is safe and can't cause the slightest bit of discomfort to either adults or children, nor will it harm the environment in any way. 

Non-toxic means all that, right?

Unfortunately, no.

In fact, not even close.

What Does Non-Toxic Really Mean?

Non-toxic, in truth, doesn't mean a blessed thing. There is no industry standard, no government regulatory department, or even a consumer group that takes responsibilty for approving this term/stamp/label for any consumer product.

That is to say, in the US.

The Consumers Union of the US writes
non-toxic is not meaningful and can be misleading
It's misleading because it can be interpreted in different ways.

In short – the term non-toxic – on an American label – is completely meaningless.

Visit this page for more (hair-raising) information.

American Solutions

In the US, the Art and Creative Materials Institute (ACMI) are concentrating on a different kind of label – their own. ACMI seals include an AP (Approved Product) seal, which
"identifies art materials that are safe and that are certified in a toxicological evaluation by a medical expert to contain no materials in sufficient quantities to be toxic or injurious to humans, including children, or to cause acute or chronic health problems."
From what I have been able to find, these folks seem very serious about safety. Check the ACMI homepage for more info.

In Effect in Denmark

In Denmark, there are many labelling standards for consumer products – some even overlap. We have Denmark-specific safety-labels, some specific to the Scandinavian countries, and some pan-European.

The labels on childrens' products inform of a variety of things – all safety related. Behind each label is an organization or group to verify them.

I'm not saying Denmark (or Europe) is perfect though. Not all of the labels I see on products here give me a sense of security.

Info tidbit: The Danish Environmental Ministry places responsibility for correct labelling of any product in the hands of the company that markets the product and not – as one might expect – in the hands of the manufacturer of the product.

Check The Label? Easier said than Done!

When someone suggests you 'read the label' for information, it may very well be necessary to do a bit more digging to get a full understanding of what any of it means - regardless of where you live.

I expect to be following up on this as I find more info.

Meantime the NON TOXIC label just joined the Nordic Swan label in my trash bin.

Do Tell

Do you trust the labels you read?

More Info on Labelling and the term Non-Toxic

Health and Safety Labelling- Arts Materials - Hamilton.edu
Non-toxic label and what it means: Canada
Living Safe - blog Australia
Quora digest question 
controversy over nontoxic label in US
labelling requirements for biocidal products (HSE)
Nontoxic certified - US organisation
Danish Environment Ministry - on marketing of chemical products
The Nordic Swan Label - Can it Be Trusted (from this blog)


Anonymous said…
Nope! Don't trust the majority of labels. That's why I try make most of my own stuff.
LisaLise said…
I understand, JNC - absolutely shattering to discover things once blindly trusted are meaningless. Every time I come across info like this I am happy I have been doing my own products for as long as I have