By Stephanie Stahl


PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Checking ingredients in everyday products with a few clicks on your phone is the new high-tech way to check on potentially dangerous chemicals. There have been growing concerns about the chemical ingredients in products like soap and skin cream, and much of that is still being debated by scientists, but some apps on the market claim they’ve got it figured out.

It’s estimated the average American uses nine personal care products everyday, things like shampoo and deodorant that contain 126 unique ingredients.

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Reports have said some of the ingredients contain potentially dangerous chemicals you put on your body. Even the experts say it can be tricky to sort out what is what.

“It’s an ongoing, very difficult scientific task to keep up with all that,” said Dr. David Davenport, an infectious disease specialist at Ascension Borgess Medical Center.

There are now apps that offer information and advice on everyday products. One is called Healthy Living, created by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. It provides ratings for more than 120,000 products.

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You simply scan a product and if it’s in its database, you can see differing ratings on the product, like allergy and cancer concerns, but there are questions on how reliable that information is.

“Some of the nonprofits that monitor this, they have some good information but they are not monitored,” Davenport said. “It’s not always crystal clear if they have a vested interest in some of these products they are promoting.”

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Experts say the most reliable information comes from sources like the EPA and FDA, but add some information online is surprisingly accurate.

“If you look at the track record for drugs and cosmetics in this country compared to other countries, we are far ahead of the curve. Is there room for improvement? Yes, there’s always room for improvement but the products are safer,” Davenport said.

Experts say if you’re really concerned about ingredients, it’s best to do your own investigating, relying on different websites and look for products that have the fewest number of ingredients and chemicals.

Stephanie Stahl