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SPRING GREENING!

CHICAGO - It's spring-cleaning time, and as Americans get ready to scrub down their homes this year they're finding they can choose from an array of new detergent products that claim to be safer to use than those currently under the kitchen sink.

Products marketed as "nontoxic," "natural" or "green" now crowd store shelves, promising to be safer to the people who use them as well as the environment. And more of these products are in the works.

IS `NATURAL' BETTER?

Manufacturers claim that all their products are screened for safety, and they're safe if used as directed. But environmentalists will point to negative health effects and environmental consequences from exposure to some traditional ingredients.

A FEAR FACTOR?

Some consumers feel that if a product hasn't been proven to cause cancer or reproductive harm it's safe if used as directed, Rangan said. Others are leery of unknown health and environmental effects or are concerned about the consequences if their children are exposed to harmful ingredients. For these people, natural products have a certain appeal.

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