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Friday, August 1, 2003


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Household Products Database
New Information Service Provides Information On Health and Safety of Everyday Products

Bethesda, Maryland — The National Institutes of Health today unveiled a consumer's guide that provides easy-to-understand information on the potential health effects of more than 2,000 ingredients contained in more than 4,000 common household products.

Some household products contain substances that can pose health risks if they are ingested or inhaled, or if they come in contact with eyes and skin. The National Library of Medicine's (NLM) Household Products Database (http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov) provides information in consumer friendly language on many of these substances and their potential health effects. For more technical information users can launch a search for a product or ingredient in TOXNET from the Product Page in the database.

Information in the database is provided to NLM under a collaborative agreement and is derived from publicly available sources, including brand-specific labels and information provided by manufacturers and their Web sites. The list of products covered will be expanded, and information for products currently in the database will be updated at least annually.

"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. "Last year, we unveiled Tox Town (http://toxtown.nlm.nih.gov), 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."

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:

  • What chemicals are contained in specific brands and in what percentage?

  • Which products contain specified chemicals?

  • Who manufactures a specific brand? How can I contact the manufacturer?

  • What are the potential health effects of the chemical ingredients in a specific brand? What other information is available about such chemicals in the toxicology-related databases of the National Library of Medicine?

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.

Located in Bethesda, Maryland, the National Library of Medicine, the world's largest library of the health sciences, is a component of the National Institutes of Health, Department of Health and Human Services.


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