Vidyya Medical News Service
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Volume 6 Issue 18 Published - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 18-Jan-2004 Next Update - 14:00 UTC 08:00 EST 19-Jan-2004-Jan-2004
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Information for patients: Household products database - Information on health and safety of everyday products

by Colette Hochstein

What's under your kitchen sink, in your garage, in your bathroom, and on the shelves in your laundry room? Do any of the household products you use pose a potential health risk to you and your family? A new online consumer guide from NIH's National Library of Medicine (NLM) provides easy-to-understand information on the potential health effects of more than 4,000 common household products.

Many household products contain substances that can pose health risks if they are ingested, inhaled, or come into contact with your eyes and skin. The new Household Products Database at http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov provides information on these substances and their potential health effects in language that's clear and easy to understand. And if you want more technical information, you can follow links directly into NLM's more technical databases on toxicology, hazardous chemicals, and other topics.

For many years, NLM has been providing databases for toxicologists and other scientists. The Household Products Database, however, is for both scientists and the general public. This database allows you to browse a product category, such as 'Pesticides' or 'Personal Care,' by alphabetical listing or by brand name. You can also search for products by type, manufacturer, product ingredient, or chemical name.

For example, say you're trying to decide which algae-killing product to use in your swimming pool. You can select the "Landscape/Yard/Swimming Pool" category in Household Products and click on "algaecide." You can then browse through several brands to look for chemical content and possible health hazards.

The Household Products Database can help you answer questions like:

  • What chemicals are found in a specific product, and in what percentages?

  • What are the potential health effects of the ingredients in a specific brand?

  • Which products contain a specific chemical you are concerned about?

  • Who manufactures a specific brand, and how can the manufacturer be contacted?

  • What other information about a chemical can you find in other NLM databases?

Information for the Household Products Database comes from a variety of publicly available sources, including brand-specific labels and information provided by manufacturers and manufacturers' web sites. The record for each product shows ingredients from 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, MSDS sheets are required by federal law from manufacturers.

Initial selection of products in the Household Products Database was based on market share within each product category, and on-shelf presence in retail stores in the Washington, D.C. and San Francisco areas. NLM plans to continue adding more brands to the existing seven categories (Auto Products, Pesticides, Landscape/Yard, Personal Care, Home Maintenance, Hobbies, Home/Inside). Based primarily on user feedback, NLM will also continue to add new types of products to the Household Products Database as well as work to keep the existing information in the database current and accurate.

— a report from The NIH Word on Health, December 2003

Visit the Household Products Database at http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov.

For more information about this and other databases from NLM's Division of Specialized Information Services, please contact: tehip@teh.nlm.nih.gov.

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