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What ingredient labels really mean
An exclusive excerpt adapted from ShopSmart

One way to cut through the clutter—and research products with safer ingredients—is to check out GoodGuide.com. Though it’s no Consumer Reports (GoodGuide doesn’t do its own tests; it relies on information from other sources vetted by its experts), the site’s health information can help you determine what’s in that container of, say, baby wash and whether the ingredients pose any potential health hazards (turns out some might!). It also includes information on products’ environmental and social impact.

Product lists aren’t comprehensive, so you might not find your brand of body moisturizer, and the site doesn’t rate items on how well they work. But you can learn a lot about what goes into the products you buy to help you make smarter choices.

Check out the category overviews. For example, if you click on “Eye and Ear Care”, you’ll find out that boric acid is an ingredient in some eye-care products and, according to GoodGuide, “the antimicrobial agent and preservative is also an effective pesticide (some swear it’s the only way to kill cockroaches) and prevents wet and dry rot in wood. It’s also been banned entirely in cosmetics in Japan for being unsafe, although if you use eye drops only rarely, the dosage probably isn’t enough to be a major health risk.”
Copyright © 2003-2012 by Consumers Union of United States., Inc., 101 Truman Avenue, Yonkers, NY 10703, a nonprofit organization. No downloading, transmission, photocopying, or commercial use permitted. Visit www.GreenerChoices.org.