Judge Rejects Industry Legal Filings in Toxics Right-To-Know Case

Household cleaner giants violated court procedure, case postponed until October


Kathleen Sutcliffe, Earthjustice, (202) 667-4500, ext 235

A New York State Supreme Court judge today rejected legal briefs filed by household cleaning giants Procter & Gamble, Colgate-Palmolive, Church and Dwight and Reckitt-Benckiser in a right-to-know case filed by environmental and public health advocates.

Oral arguments in the case were scheduled to begin today. But during a pre-hearing conference, Justice Richard Braun stated that lawyers for industry had violated court procedure, filing a motion-to-dismiss brief that exceeded the maximum page limit. Justice Braun tossed the brief and rescheduled oral arguments in the case for October 15.

The manufacturing giants are refusing to follow a New York state law requiring them to disclose the chemical ingredients in their products and the health risks they pose. Independent studies show a link between many chemicals commonly found in cleaning products and health effects ranging from nerve damage to hormone disruption. With mounting concern about the potential hazards of chemicals in these products, advocates are defending consumers’ right to know and asking companies to follow the law.

Ingredient disclosure requirements are virtually non-existent in the United States. The exception is a long-forgotten New York state law which requires household and commercial cleaner companies selling their products in New York to file semi-annual reports with the state listing the chemicals contained in their products and describing any company research on these chemicals’ health and environmental effects.

The first-of-its-kind lawsuit could have national implications and comes as momentum builds nationally and internationally for toxics chemical reform. On the domestic front, advocates are awaiting Congressional re-introduction of the Kid Safe Chemical Act which would force the chemical industry to prove the safety of a chemical before approving it for use in products. And internationally, companies are preparing to comply with similar European regulations (known as REACH) already taking effect.

The nonprofit public interest law firm Earthjustice brought the court case on behalf of a coalition of state and national groups, including Women’s Voices for the Earth, Clean New York, Environmental Advocates of New York, New York Public Interest Research Group, Riverkeeper, Sierra Club, and American Lung Association in New York.  

See if the manufacturers of your favorite cleaning products have complied with the law

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