Six dry cleaning businesses in Santa Monica have agreed to stop making “environmentally friendly” claims in their advertising after an investigation found that they lacked evidence to support those claims.
According to a joint investigation by the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit and the city Office of Sustainability and the Environment, the businesses most commonly claimed that their products were “non-toxic,” “safe,” “environmentally safe,” and “environmentally friendly.” The businesses included Cleaner By Nature, Courtyard Cleaners, Dry Clean Express, Eco Cleaners, Plaza Cleaners and TJ Cleaners, according to the investigation.
Investigators said that one of the six businesses uses a product called “Green Earth,” made from a chemical known as D5, in its dry cleaning process, while the other businesses use a hydrocarbon-based dry cleaning process. They added that neither of these solvents has been proven non-toxic to humans, according to the California Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment.
Under the Federal Trade Commission’s revised Green Guides, a set of rules that govern environmental advertising claims nationwide, the use of broad and vague environmental claims are prohibited. The rules also require any factual claims to be supported by competent and reliable scientific evidence.
According to the city investigation, none of the six dry cleaners produced evidence to back their “green” claims in their operations.
Although the D5 and hydrocarbon solvents are generally recognized as being safer than previously used chemicals, the city maintains that calling them “non-toxic” or “environmentally friendly” is misleading and unsubstantiated –and violates the FTC guidelines, said Adam Radinsky of the Consumer Protection Unit.
“More and more consumers want eco-friendly products,” said Radinsky. “It’s big business these days. That makes it all the more important for consumers to be sure that the advertising claims are true.”
Dean Kubani, director of the Office of Sustainability and the Environment, added, “We’re glad these companies have started using less toxic chemicals, but marketing them as ‘eco-friendly’ just goes too far.”
The Consumer Protection Unit and OSE began investigating the local cleaners last year after learning that many were making environmental claims about their operations and having doubts about their truthfulness, Radinsky noted.