Saturday, November 8, 2008

Your Fragrance is Killing Me -- and You and Your Children

Have you ever counted how many cosmetics or personal care products you use in a day? Chances are it's nearly 10. And chances are good that they include shampoo, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, hair conditioner, lip balm, sunscreen, body lotion, shaving products if you're a man, and cosmetics if you are a woman. And what about your children? On any given day you might rub, spray, or pour some combination of sunscreen, diaper cream, shampoo, lotion, and maybe even insect repellant on their skin.

Most people use these products without a second thought, and believe that the government must certainly be policing the safety of the mixtures in these myriad containers. But they are wrong about this.

The government does not require health studies or pre-market testing for these products before they are sold. And as people apply an average of 126 unique ingredients on their skin daily, these chemicals, whether they seep through the skin, rinse down the drain, or flush down the toilet in human excretions, are causing concerns for human health, and for the impacts they may have to wildlife, rivers and streams.

Why personal care products? At first blush it may seem that mascara and shaving cream have little relevance to the broader world of environmental health. Think again. In August 2005, when scientists published a study finding a relationship between plasticizers called phthalates and feminization of U.S. male babies, they named fragrance as a possible culprit. When estrogenic industrial chemicals called parabens were found in human breast tumor tissue earlier this year, researchers questioned if deodorant was the source. And when studies show, again and again, that hormone systems in wildlife are thrown in disarray by common water pollutants, once again the list of culprits include personal care products, rinsing down drains and into rivers.

At the Environmental Working Group we have researched and advocated on personal care product safety for five years now, and consider it an integral part of our work to strengthen our system of public health protections from industrial chemicals. Here's why:

Industrial chemicals are basic ingredients in personal care products. The 10,500 unique chemical ingredients in these products equate to about one of every eight of the 82,000 chemicals registered for use in the U.S.

Personal care products contain carcinogens, pesticides, reproductive toxins, endocrine disruptors, plasticizers, degreasers, and surfactants. They are the chemical industry in a bottle.
No premarket safety testing required — this is a reality of both the personal care product industry and the broader chemical industry as a whole. For industrial chemicals, the government approves an average of seven new chemicals every day.

Eighty percent are approved in three weeks or less, with or without safety tests. Advocating that industry have an understanding of product safety before selling to the public finds common messages, common methods, and common gains whether the focus is cosmetic ingredients or other industrial chemicals.
Everyone uses personal care products. Exposures are widespread, and for some people, extensive. Our 2004 product use survey shows that more than a quarter of all women and one of every 100 men use at least 15 products daily. These exposures add up, and raise questions about the potential health risks from the myriad of unassessed ingredients migrating into the bodies of nearly every American, day after day.

No safety testing. According to the agency that regulates cosmetics, the FDA's Office of Cosmetics and Colors, "...a cosmetic manufacturer may use almost any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without an approval from FDA" (FDA 1995). The industry's self-policing safety panel falls far short of compensating for the lack of government oversight. An EWG analysis found that in its 30-year history, the industry's self-policing safety panel has reviewed the safety of just 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products. FDA does no systematic reviews of safety. And collectively, the ingredients in personal care products account for one of every eight of the 82,000 chemicals industries have registered for commercial use with the Environmental Protection Agency.

The article above is excerpted from In a recent post I commented on chemical sensitivity which is a deadly problem for some of us. When you read the above and other information about the chemicals we ingest into our bodies, our childrens' bodies and how many of these chemicals pollute the air that others have to breathe, I hope you will think carefully about reading labels and becoming an advocate for the health of all of us. I've heard from others who have to deal with chemical sensitivity and it is a very serious problem.

82,000 chemicals are manufactured in this country and the people, you and I, are being subjected to the danger of them every day and in every place, including our own homes.


linda said...

Thanks for discussing this important issue.

There was a recent study about what's really in "air-fresheners" and laundry products, things that when used, we have contact with 24/7, and the VOC's migrate, attach to your clothing and body so you force everyone else you come into contact with to inhale them also:

Toxic chemicals found in common scented laundry products, air fresheners

Link to Dr. Steinemann's PDF (university website):

We have some serious work to do as far as getting toxic chemicals regulated and out of everyday products, and then providing assistance to those who are injured by them.

Amy said...

I love what you wrote.:) I wrote something similar on my blog awhile ago, but you portrayed it very well! Do you know where you found the article on EWG? I would love to check it out! I have been searching, but I cannot find it! You can contact me thru my blog at Thanks!

Glenda C. Beall said...

Hi Amy,
Thanks for visiting my blog. I like your site and you are discussing some important topics. Keep up the good work. I'll try to find the article above. when I do I'll send it to you.