FAQs about Consumer Products

Q: Are consumer products safe?

A: Yes! Consumers can be confident that the products they buy have a beneficial effect on our health by reducing the spread of germs, allergens, and making our homes and workplaces more pleasant. When consumers purchase cleaning products, they bring home not only a mixture of ingredients, but also years of the manufacturer’s experience and expertise on the safe and effective use of each product.

Q: Does the federal government regulate consumer products?

A: For all consumer products formulated by manufacturers, they use substances that are available for use in Canada and listed on the Domestic Substances List (DSL) under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA). Often referred to as “existing substances”, the DSL was required by law to be scrutinized against the most modern science. The results would provide a list of substances that may need further review. It is important to note that everyday substances such as Vitamin A and vinegar are on the list of 4,000 substances that may need further investigation. It has been determined by industry and government scientific studies that products containing substances on the list are safe when used according to product directions.

The Chemicals Management Plan (CMP), announced by the Government of Canada in December 2006, began with the Industry Challenge Program to review 193 highest priority substances. These substances were grouped into 12 “batches” for review, to be completed over five years. The next phase of the CMP was announced October 3, 2011, when the Government of Canada renewed its commitment to Canada’s world-leading Chemicals Management Plan. Approximately 1,000 additional substances will be reviewed in the next five years and the rest by 2020, including through the Substance Groupings Initiative. More information on the Chemicals Management Plan, the Industry Challenge and the Substance Groupings Initiative can be found at the Government of Canada website. For additional information on the Chemicals Management Plan, please see  the Chemicals Management Plan Progress Reports, which will be published twice a year.

If a manufacturer wishes to use a truly new substance in a consumer product, they are subject to assessment through the New Substances Notification Regulations (NSNR) under CEPA. Since 2001, all substances new to Canada that will be used in Food & Drugs Act products are also subject to CEPA’s New Substances Notifications (NSNs).

Cleaning products such as disinfectants are also regulated by the same act. Products that claim to kill germs must meet efficacy requirements and guidelines established by Health Canada, must be reviewed and approved by Health Canada, and must carry a DIN registration number on their label. Those that make sanitizing claims are regulated under the Pest Control Products Act (PCPA), also administered by Health Canada.

The Consumer Chemicals & Containers Regulations (CCCR 2001) under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act regulates all labelling for these products.

In Canada, all ingredients in consumer products such as soaps and detergents, disinfectants, sanitizers, household cleaning products and pest control products are governed by various pieces of legislation and regulation.

Q: Where can consumers find information about the ingredients in their products?

A: CCSPA announced a voluntary industry-led initiative on April 2, 2008 providing customers easier access to ingredient information in air care products, cleaning products, automotive products, polishes and floor maintenance products. Our members will make this information available January 1, 2010, through a variety of means, e.g., product labels, the manufacturer’s website. Click here for more information about the details of the program. In 2011, we amended the programto add greater transparency for fragrances, dyes, and preservatives. This program is effective January 1,2012.

Q: What are the benefits of consumer products?

A: Good Health equals Good Hygiene. Soaps and detergents are essential to personal and public health. Through their ability to loosen and remove soil from a surface, they contribute to good personal hygiene; reduce the presence of germs that cause infectious diseases; extend the useful life of clothes, tableware, linens, surfaces and furnishings; and make our homes and workplaces more pleasant.

Regular cleaning products do a good job of removing soil, but only disinfectants or disinfectant cleaners kill the germs that can cause many illnesses. Germs can be spread to other surfaces on dirty cleaning cloths and sponges.

Surfaces like kitchen and bathroom counters, doorknobs, toilet seats and children’s toys may be contaminated with bacteria even when they’re not visibly soiled. Did you know that the average kitchen dishcloth can contain 4 billion living germs?

Q: How do consumer products help Canadians with allergies and asthma?

A: Cleaning with cleaning products removes allergens! When done properly and regularly, cleaning stops allergens from accumulating, which helps minimize allergy and/or asthma symptoms.

The common allergens in our homes (animal dander, cockroaches, dust/dust mites, mold/mildew, and pollen) are a serious problem for people with allergies and asthma. Allergens are often airborne and may be widespread, making them difficult to avoid. They collect in bedding, furniture, carpeting, and wherever there’s warmth and moisture. If they’re not removed, they’ll accumulate, causing an even greater threat.

Q: What about allergies to peanuts - do consumer products help?

A: Yes they do! A study by Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine confirmed that the peanut allergen was undetectable after participants cleaned their hands with liquid soap, bar soap or commercial wipes. The allergen was also easily removed from household surfaces by most common household cleaners.

Q: How are consumer products labeled in Canada?

A: To ensure consumers use the products appropriately, the label tells consumers about the products – how to use it, any specific hazards, precautionary text and disposal. For consumers, this is one of the most important features of the label.

Health Canada administers the Consumer Chemicals and Containers Regulations (CCCR) 2001 regulations under the Canada Consumer Product Safety Act, which includes precautionary symbols and first aid statements.

Q: Are there environmental effects when using these products?

A: Consumer products are formulated to be used with water and “go down the drain” into wastewater treatment systems (municipal sewage treatment plants or septic tank systems). To assure that products are safe for the environment, manufacturers evaluate the impacts of product ingredients in wastewater treatment systems, streams, rivers, lakes and estuaries. Scientific principles that are widely recognized by the technical and regulatory communities are used to assess the risk to the environment of these impacts.

Q: Is the packaging of consumer products environmentally friendly?

A: Manufacturers of cleaning products have been leaders in reducing packaging waste and encouraging sound waste disposal practices. Advances in technology have resulted in products that are more concentrated: products that combine two functions in one; products with refill packages; and packages that use recycled materials. For example, concentrated products need less energy to manufacture and transport and require less packaging; and multifunctional products eliminate the need for separate packages. Plastic and paperboard that would otherwise be thrown away become usable materials through recycling.

CCSPA reminds consumers that the environmentally wise way of handling any household cleaning product is to buy only the amount that can be used; to use it all up or give it away; and, if it must be disposed, to dispose of it properly. As a rule of thumb, products designed for use with water should be disposed of by pouring down the drain; solid products such as scouring pads should be put into the trash.

For more information about concentrated products, click here.