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What is it? And what’s it for?

Alcohol

Used in cleaners primarily for quick-drying products such as glass and mirror cleaners or no-rinse cleaners. The most widely used: ethanol and isopropyl alcohol. Alcohol can also serve as a thinner or solvent for certain active ingredients.

Products with alcohol contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

All Bio-Vert products are alcohol-free.

Ammonia

Ammonia in an aqueous solution, i.e. dissolved in water, is mostly found in glass cleaners because it enables the product to evaporate without leaving streaks.

Ammonia irritates the eyes and the respiratory tract. Also, when mixed with bleach, it releases a poisonous gas.

Water-based ammonia is considered a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999).

All Bio-Vert products are ammonia-free.

Benzophenone

Benzophenone is the organic compound. Benzophenone prevents ultraviolet light from damaging scents and colors in products such as perfumes and soaps. It can also be added to the plastic packaging as a UV blocker. Its use allows manufacturers to package the product in clear glass or plastic. Without it, opaque or dark packaging would be required. In the area of food packaging benzophenone and 4-methylbenzophenone are used as initiators for printing inks cured by UV radiation. Due to their volatility they can migrate through the packaging to the food if there is no functional barrier. Based on the negative in vitro and in vivo results from tests with definite protocols the Panel concluded that benzophenone has no genotoxic potential. Benzophenone 2 (BP2) has been found to have potent thyroid function disruption. BP2 is a endocrine disruptor, that affects the endocrine system by attaching itself to the receptor sites and mimicking hormonal activity.

Biodegradability

A substance's or product's ability to break down through the action of micro-organisms present in the environment into simpler substances that do not accumulate in the environment or interfere with the natural cycles of ecosystems.

Biodegradability should not be the only benchmark used to determine whether a product is green. Products can be biodegradable and also harm the environment. For more information on the subject, see Does biodegradable necessarily imply environmental?

Biodegradability is rated according to the OECD testing method.

All Bio-Vert products readily biodegrade within 28 days as per OECD 301 testing.

Bleaching agent

A powerful oxidant that, through the chemical reaction of oxidation, eliminates stains the surfactant is unable to remove, e.g. colour stains on white fabric.

The main bleaching agents are:

  • sodium hypochlorite (bleach)
  • sodium dichloroisocyanurate
  • sodium percarbonates
  • sodium perborates
  • hydrogen peroxide

Sodium hypochlorite, better known as household bleach, is one of the most widely used bleaching agents on the market, thanks to its discoloration properties.

Although it is highly effective, bleach is not biodegradable and is harmful to your health and the environment. Sodium hypochlorite actually oxidizes organic matter and can produce toxic organic chlorinated by-products and many undesirable degradation products, e.g. chlorides, when found in the environment and ingested by aquatic organisms. This toxic effect on wildlife is lingering and is transmitted through the food chain.

All Bio-Vert products are sodium hypochlorite-free. Sodium hypochlorite is a toxic and corrosive product whose use would contravene company policy.

The Bio-Vert Powder Stain Remover is a bleaching agent made from sodium percarbonate, a low toxicity biodegradable compound. The Bio-Vert stain remover’s bleaching action is triggered by the active oxygen released in the solution during the wash cycle. The process is further aided by the hot water temperature.

Chlorine

Essentially used in cleaners for its disinfecting and bleaching properties. Chlorine is a toxic element that adversely affects, or more precisely, kills living organisms.

Because chlorine is so toxic, greener cleaning products generally use alternative bleaching agents like percarbonates, perborates or hydrogen peroxide.

Cleaning products containing a chlorinated compound cannot be EcoLogo certified.

All Bio-Vert products are chlorine-free.

Disinfectant

A chemical or physical product that kills or deactivates micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses. Disinfectants are not necessarily effective cleaners. E.g. bleach is a powerful disinfectant devoid of any cleansing properties. Disinfectants, by definition, kill living organisms, and as a result cannot be deemed environment-friendly.

We discourage the regular use of household disinfectants as it could eventually hinder your immune system.

All Bio-Vert products are “cleaners,” not disinfectants.

Dyeing plastic

This refers to dye integrated into the plastic during the bottle manufacturing process. In most cases, dye is purely aesthetical. By minimizing the use of dye when manufacturing our bottles, we are actively practicing “reducing at the source” since we are essentially reducing the extraction of commodity materials required to produce the dye and reducing the processing stages at the end of the bottle’s life.

Dyes

Dyes generally serve one simple purpose: aesthetics. Some dyes are made from metal-based pigments and can be toxic, whereas others are made from organic sources without any notable impact on the environment.

Dyes do not affect a product’s effectiveness, which is why they are not used in our Bio-Vert line. This policy helps reduce the resources required to manufacture the products and the products released into the environment after their use.

Essential oil

Essential oils are non-fatty volatile substances secreted by aromatic plants. Their composition is often a complex blend of organic molecules. Essential oils are obtained by steam distilling or cold pressing various parts of a plant. They are used in perfumes, cosmetics, maintenance products and for aromatherapy purposes.

There is no international consensus regarding the use of essential oils in the manufacture of cleaning products or cosmetics. Some European standards outright prohibit the use of certain essential oils or certain compounds they contain, whereas other environmental certification programs, like Canada’s EcoLogo Program, encourage the use of essential oils indiscriminately.

We use essential oils in Bio-Vert products in very low concentrations, and always in compliance with EcoLogo requirements.

Fragrance

A well-balanced mix of scented substances from natural or synthetic sources.

Fragrances are used in cleaning products strictly for marketing reasons because consumers associate cleanliness with a pleasant scent. Fragrances have no cleansing power.

All fragrances found in Bio-Vert products are made according to the IFRA (International Fragrance Association) Code of Practice.

Some Bio-Vert products are available in unscented versions.

Nonylphenol

Highly effective surfactant that is or has been used in a wide variety of applications. Despite being effective and biodegradable, alternatives are gradually being considered as nonylphenol has been determined to cause health problems, especially on the hormonal system.

Nonylphenol and its ethoxylate derivatives are listed as toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999).

Products containing nonylphenol cannot be EcoLogo certified.

All Bio-Vert products are nonylphenol-free.

OECD testing method

OECD: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development

A standardized, international testing method that simulates the degradation process of wetting agents in treatment plants. The test generally lasts 28 days, but can be shorter if complete biodegradability is achieved sooner.

All ingredients used in Bio-Vert products have been assessed for biodegradability according to OECD 301 testing. This step is a prerequisite to earning EcoLogo certification.

Optical brightener

Causes more blue light to be reflected to achieve even brighter whites. Most optical brighteners are not biodegradable and their use is prohibited in EcoLogo certified products.

All Bio-Vert products are EcoLogo certified, and therefore optical brightener-free.

Parabens

Parabens are a class of chemicals widely used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries. They are also used as food additives. These compounds, and their salts, are used primarily for their bactericidal and fungicidal properties. Studies on the acute, subchronic, and chronic effects in rodents indicate that parabens are practically non-toxic. Parabens are rapidly absorbed, metabolized, and excreted. Average levels of 20 nanograms/gram of parabens have been detected in a small sample of 20 breast tumors. No direct evidence of a causal link between parabens and cancer, however, has been shown. A 2005 review of the data available at that time concluded "it is biologically implausible that parabens could increase the risk of any estrogen-mediated endpoint, including effects on the male reproductive tract or breast cancer". The American Cancer Society also concluded that there was insufficient scientific evidence to support a claim that use of cosmetics such as antiperspirants increase an individual's risk of developing breast cancer, but went on to state that "larger studies are needed to find out what effect, if any, parabens might have on breast cancer risk.

pH

The measuring unit for determining a product's degree of acidity or alkalinity. The pH scale ranges from 0 (very highly acidic) to 14 (very highly alkaline). Liquids with a pH level of around 7 are designated as pH-neutral.

pH greatly influences a cleaner's stability and effectiveness:

  • Laundry liquids have a pH of 8.5 to 10.5
  • All purpose cleaners have a pH of around 7 or 8
  • Dishwashing liquids have a pH of 7 to 8
  • Degreasers have a pH of 9 to 11.8
  • Some bathroom cleaners have a pH of 2 to 4
  • Oven and grill cleaners have a pH of 12 to 14

When the pH level nears 2 or exceeds 12, the product is deemed corrosive, which means it can burn your skin.

All Bio-Vert products have pH levels that are EcoLogo compliant, i.e. ranging from 3 to 11.

Phosphates

Chemical compounds mostly used in cleaning products, dishwashing soaps and laundry detergents to soften water. Phosphates interact with calcified particles in the water and trap them during the wash cycle. The particles are essentially prevented from sticking to the clothes or the tableware.

The main concern respecting the use of phosphates in soaps and detergents is that it can lead to excessive nutrients being released into waterways, causing blue-green algae to form and potentially triggering eutrophication-related problems. Eutrophication refers to the accelerated and unwanted development of algae and plant life that can ultimately unbalance the organisms in the water, degrade water quality, and eventually smother the affected waterway.

At present, the use of phosphates to manufacture laundry detergents is capped at 2.2% under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act’s Phosphorus Concentration Regulations. There are, however, no standards regulating dishwashing detergents or other household cleaning products. Regulation capping phosphorus concentration in laundry detergents, dishwashing detergents and other household cleaning products at 0.5% will come into effect July 2010. Until then, most big name brands of dishwashing detergent may contain phosphates amounting to nearly 10% of the product’s composition.

Products containing phosphates cannot be EcoLogo certified.

All Bio-Vert products are phosphate-free.

Post-consumer recycled plastic (bottles)

This figure refers to the percentage of plastic granules from post-consumer recycled resin used to manufacture the bottle, i.e. plastic recovered from household recycling bins.

Post-consumer recycled cardboard (boxes)

The percentage shown indicates the amount of post-consumer recycled fibre, i.e. paper and cardboard from recycling bins, used in the manufacturing of the cardboard box.

Post-consumer recycled paper (labels)

The percentage shown indicates the amount of post-consumer recycled fibre, i.e. paper and cardboard from recycling bins, used in the manufacturing of the paper intended for our labels.

Preservative

Prevents the product’s different ingredients from decomposing during storage and losing their intended effect. It also stems the growth of fungi and bacteria that could infect the product.

Formaldehyde is a preservative that is still widely used in the manufacture of cleaning products, despite the overwhelming findings confirming the toxic effects of this chemical compound. In fact, formaldehyde has been determined to be a toxic substance under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999).

Studies conducted to measure the effects of exposure to different concentrations of formaldehyde in homes have revealed allergic consequences as well as significant links between exposure to airborne formaldehyde and children being hospitalized for asthma (Health Canada).

Bio-Vert products contain preservatives in concentrations never exceeding 0.05%.

All Bio-Vert products are formaldehyde-free.

Recyclable container

The percentage shown indicates the share of the container sorting centres will accept. All containers across the Bio-Vert line are 100% recyclable, except the refill bag of hand soap, which means they should never be discarded in the trash, and should instead be recycled, or better still, reused.

Reduced plastic use compared to previous generation bottles

Thanks to modifications to the shape of the bottle and/or the choice of plastic, plus the integration of post-consumer recycled plastic, numerous Bio-Vert products are now sold in containers requiring less plastic than their predecessors. The percentage shown indicates by how much plastic use has been reduced based on the changes to the bottle’s design and the use of recycled resin.

SLS

Concerning Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Sodium Lauryl Ether Sulfate (SLES).

The SLS and SLES are surfactants wildly used in many household and institutional cleanings and personal care products due to their efficiency, good foaming properties and availability.

The environmental profile of these two surfactants is excellent. They are readily biodegradable, are not toxic for aquatic life in detergent's formulations (laundry detergents, hard surface cleaners).

Over the last few years, SLS and SLES have been a subject of controversy. According to specialists, the SLS irritates the skin with long and constant exposure (more than an hour). SLS may worsen skin problems in individuals with chronic skin hypersensitivity, with some people being affected more than others.

The SLES is considered as less irritant than SLS. However, because of the presence of Dioxane, that is supposed to be carcinogen according to some researches, the SLES can be dangerous for human health.

The toxicological researches executed by OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), NTP (United States Department of Health and Human Services) as well as IARC (International Agency for Research on Cancer) have supported a conclusion of CTFA (Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association) as well as ACS (American Cancer Society) that SLES is not carcinogen.

As there is a possible influence on the human health, Savons Prolav Inc. has decided not to use the SLS and SLES in any of its formulation of household cleaning products.

Surfactant (wetting agent)

Amphiphile substance (both water repelling and water absorbent) that reduces the surface tension of water and allows the cleaning product to penetrate the fabric's surface more easily. A surfactant, which can be petrochemical, plant or animal based, is the main active ingredient found in most cleaning products.

Phosphates are effective surfactants, but they are undesirable due to their impacts on the environment.

Bio-Vert products use strictly plant or animal based surfactants.

Toxic

In Canada, as per section 64 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, a substance is toxic "if it is entering or may enter the environment in a quantity or concentration or under conditions:

  • that have or may have an immediate or long-term harmful effect on the environment or its biological diversity;
  • constituting or that may constitute a danger to the environment on which life depends; or
  • constituting or that may constitute a danger in Canada to human life or health."

Toxicity

Toxicity measures the degree to which a substance is able to damage a life form or any part of it, e.g. an organ. Toxicity is measured several ways. E.g. water toxicity indicates whether a product adversely affects aquatic life (namely plants and fish). Cytotoxicity, on the other hand, measures a product’s impact on cells, whereas reproductive toxicity refers to how a product affects the reproductive system.

No cleaning product can claim to be thoroughly non-toxic. Toxicity in cleaning products can vary between products and brands, nevertheless, even the greenest products on the market are toxic to a certain extent. Toxicity levels can be extremely low, but never “0.”

Toxicity should always be considered when evaluating the potential impacts of a cleaning product on the environment. To learn more: Does biodegradable necessarily imply environmental?

Triclosan

Triclosan is an antibacterial and antifungal agent. Triclosan has been used since 1972, and it is present in soaps, deodorants, toothpastes, shaving creams, mouth washes, and cleaning supplies, and is infused in an increasing number of consumer products, such as kitchen utensils, toys, bedding, socks, and trash bags. It is supposed that triclosan can combine with chlorine in tap water to form chloroform, which the United States Environmental Protection Agency classifies as a probable human carcinogen. Triclosan is toxic to aquatic bacteria at levels found in the environment. Triclosan inhibits photosynthesis in diatom algae which are responsible for a large part of the photosynthetic activity on Earth. A 2006 study concluded that low doses of triclosan act as an endocrine disruptor in the North American bullfrog. Another 2009 study demonstrated that triclosan exposure significantly impacts thyroid hormone concentrations in the male juvenile rats.

Volatile organic compound (VOC)

Volatile organic compound (VOC) means any substance containing at least one atom of carbon and one atom of hydrogen. These molecules tend toward the gaseous state at ambient temperatures and pressure, and under sunlight, can participate in atmospheric photochemical reactions capable of triggering the constituents of greenhouse gases and smog.

In addition to these unwanted impacts on the environment, some VOCs, e.g. formaldehyde (preservative), have also been determined to be toxic substances under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (1999) by virtue of their effect on people’s health.

Water hardness

Caused by calcium and magnesium ions dissolved in the water. The harder the water (as opposed to soft), the less effective the surfactant on the ions, resulting in the formation of insoluble soap salts that stick to the fabric and reduce the detergent’s effectiveness, hence the need to add a water softener.

Water softener, or sequestering agent

Detergent formulas thrive on this ingredient since soft water (see Water hardness) is a prerequisite for effective laundry results. Water softeners interact with calcified particles in the water and trap them during the wash cycle in order to reduce the water’s hardness. The particles are essentially prevented from landing on the clothes or any part of the washer.

The main water softeners are:

  • phosphates
  • phosphonates
  • zeolite
  • ethylene diamine tetraacetic acid (EDTA)
  • nitriloacetic acid (NTA)
  • citrates
  • silicates
  • carbonates

Concerns have been raised about the use of some of these compounds. EDTAs and NTAs, for instance, are bioaccumulable compounds, i.e. they can be absorbed by living organisms when found in nature, causing high concentrations of heavy metal to form in the environment or in the organisms that have been penetrated, rendering them toxic.

All Bio-Vert products are EDTA- and NTA-free. We use citrates, sodium carbonates and Trilon M as water softeners.

Wetting agent