by Katie Garrison
[tag]Chemicals[/tag] enter our bodies through the air we breathe, the soil, food, and through our skin.
As more and more of us are becoming aware of the chemicals in our lives, from air and water pollution, to the cleaning products used around our homes, to the amounts of pesticides and fertilizers used on our food, on cotton etc., we may be overlooking the very things we use on our bodies. The growing concern about the chemicals used in everyday products has been brought painfully to light. Studies by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) are clarifying the dangers.*
Chemicals enter our bodies through the air we breathe, the soil, food, and through our skin. These accumulate in our bodies, in our blood and fatty tissues… this chemical load is now called the “body burden.” This burden is revealing the causal connections between chemical exposure and health problems.
As a result, EWG, [tag]The Breast Cancer Fund[/tag] and others have joined together to create “The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics” to raise awareness. They point to such chemicals as [tag]phthalates[/tag], commonly used in nail polish, perfumes, hairspray and their hormone disrupting effects. These “endocrine disruptors” can have damaging effects even in small doses, resulting in problems with reproductive health and fetal development.
Women are at particular risk. According to a survey of more than 2,300 people, conducted by the EWG and five other public health and environmental organizations, the average adult who responded uses nine personal care products daily, exposing herself to 126 chemicals every day – the majority of which are not adequately tested for safety. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t have authority over the chemical compilations used in cosmetics and body products. The FDA cannot require companies to do safety testing of ingredients or products before they are put on store shelves. The makers of these products are essentially in a self regulating industry.
At a press conference this past June, Janet Nudelman, Director of Program at The [tag]Breast Cancer[/tag] Fund, explained that “according to 2000 FDA statistics, 89% of the over 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety by the industry-appointed Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel (CIR) or anyone else.” She went on to say that the cosmetics industry alone uses more than 5,000 chemicals in products – from shampoo, shaving cream, lotions and lipstick – many of which “are also used in industrial manufacturing processes to grease gears, clean industrial equipment, stabilize pesticides and soften plastics.”
“It is particularly egregious that, in this time of a growing breast cancer epidemic, products marketed specifically to women contain [known and suspected] breast carcinogens.”
U.S. companies should be held accountable to their consumers, and these companies even have an exemplary policy to follow. The European Union has already passed legislation (the Cosmetics Directive) which bans chemicals, commonly found in cosmetics, known to or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects. As a result, pressure on manufacturers is mounting, not just regarding the safety of products in Europe, but also in the U.S. and globally.
The reality is that this is an industry and social problem. It will take public education and empowerment to drive legislative policy to force changes in the industry and to greater protect our health. As consumers and investors, we can make cosmetic and personal care product companies listen. So speak up. We need your commitment to demand safer products, and your personal lifestyle choices will make a difference.
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