"I’ve read that Mr. Clean Magic Eraser has harmful ingredients like formaldehyde. I don't use it often but from time to time it really does work well. Is it safe?" – Andrea of Edmonton, AB
I’ve read the same thing about Mr. Clean Magic Eraser in CancerSmart 3.0: the consumer guide, produced by the Labour Environmental Alliance Society. It says this product contains small amounts of formaldehyde. And formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen. But that information may not be accurate.
I wrote to P&G, the company that makes Magic Eraser, and a member of the Mr. Clean Team got back to me within 24 hours.
She outlined some Mr. Clean Magic Eraser facts:
Formaldehyde is not and has never been an ingredient.
Ingredients have been safely and commonly used for many years.
Has not been and is not being banned from any stores.
The response goes on to explain that “this product has been mistakenly associated as containing formaldehyde because one of its ingredients contained the word ‘formaldehyde’ in its chemical name (formaldehyde-melamine-sodium bisulfate copolymer). However, this ingredient is not formaldehyde.
“Think of this name like sodium chloride, which is table salt. Sodium by itself can be dangerous, but sodium chloride (table salt) is safe.”
It’s impossible to know what’s in home-cleaning products because there is no law requiring consumer products — other than food and cosmetics — to include ingredient lists.
And given the above information from P&G, understanding the chemical ingredients is another thing. The confusion about formaldehyde as an ingredient could have been avoided if manufacturers labelled the ingredients on their product, or provided a full ingredient list (with an explanation) on their website.
In the meantime, you might choose products that have ingredients listed, if you value transparency.
Or, make your own green home cleaners with food-grade ingredients.
Lindsay Coulter gives you the straight goods on living green. Send your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org. For more great tips, visit The David Suzuki Foundation at davidsuzuki.org.