Household Products Household Products
National Institutes of Health

Question: How can I find out which household products are hazardous? I have a product name, but the container doesn’t list the ingredients. How can I find out what the ingredients are?

Answer: First, look closely at the container for the name of the manufacturer and/or a phone number for consumer inquiries. If you can find a manufacturer but no phone number, you can contact the Chemical Manufacturers Association at 1-800-262-8200 and request a phone number for the manufacturer. Tell them you are looking for information on the ingredients of a product. They should be able to refer you to the most appropriate contact at the manufacturer.

Once you contact the manufacturer, request a Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the product. The MSDS must list all hazardous ingredients (but not necessarily all ingredients – they are not required to list ingredients considered to be “non-hazardous” as defined by federal hazard communication standard). The MSDS may provide some health and safety information, but it is usually very sketchy.

Once you have obtained the actual chemical ingredients of the product in question, you can call the NIEHS Office of Communications (919-541-3345) to find out what health effects information is available.

One thing that can help us locate information is the CAS (Chemical Abstract Service) number. Chemicals can go by many different names, but the one thing that stays the same is the CAS number. The CAS number is a unique identifier similar to a social security number in that it is three sets of numbers separated by dashes. For example, the chemical formaldehyde has a CAS # of 50-00-0. It also goes by many synonyms such as formalin, formic aldehyde, methylene oxide, oxymethylene ect., but all of those names carry a CAS # of 50-00-0. So , if you can locate the CAS # on the chemicals in question (they should be on the MSDS – if not, call the manufacturer back and request them), it can help us locate information much faster.