Some of the most common and seemingly harmless household products can pose serious health risks if they are ingested or inhaled, or if they come in contact with eyes and skin. The new Household Products Database from the National Library of Medicine's (NLM) provides information in easily understood language on many of these substances and their potential health effects. Users who need more technical information can search the TOXNET database directly from the information pages of the Products Database.
"The Household Products Database is a natural outgrowth of the work that the Library has done in recent years, educating the public about environmental risks posed by chemicals in the air, soil and water," explained NLM Director Dr. Donald A.B. Lindberg in an NIH press release. "Last year, we unveiled Tox Town, a site that introduces consumers to the toxic chemicals and environmental risks they might encounter in everyday life, in everyday places. Tox Town looks at facilities like schools, office buildings and factories, and the chemicals likely to be in them. With the Household Products site, we go inside the user's home and provide information about common products and their potential health effects."
NIH plans to expand and update the information in the Household Products Database at least annually from publicly available sources, including brand-specific labels and information provided by manufacturers and their Web sites.
What's Really Under Your Sink?
The Household Products Database enables users to learn what's in the products under the kitchen sink, in the garage, in the bathroom, and on the laundry room shelf. It is designed to help answer questions such as:
For example, a homeowner trying to decide which algae-killing product to use in her swimming pool could select the "Landscape/Yard/Swimming Pool" category in Household Products and click on "algaecide." She then could choose several brands to examine for chemical content and possible health hazards.
The record for each product would show her the ingredients from something called the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS). Designed to provide workers and emergency personnel with the proper procedures for handling or working with a particular substance, these sheets are produced by the manufacturer of the product as required by Federal law.
NLM Associate Director for Specialized Information Services, Dr. Jack Snyder, said, "NLM has provided an important set of databases for toxicologists and other scientists for many years. The target audience of the Household Products Database, however, is both scientists and the general public. The database allows users to browse a product category, such as 'Pesticides' or 'Personal Care,' by alphabetical listing or by brand name. Products can also be searched by type, manufacturer, product ingredient, or chemical name.