The Aftermath of the Green Moms Carnival: Hysterical Mommy Bloggers?

April 10th, 2009

By now, I thought my mind would be on blogging about Tips for an Eco-Friendly Easter. But instead, I keep thinking about how the personal care products industry responded to the concerns raised by last week’s Green Moms Carnival. The Green Moms asked questions about the safety of the tens of thousands of untested, unregulated chemicals used in personal care products such as shampoos and household cleaners, and the presence of small amounts of probable carcinogens such as 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde in products such as baby wash.

The industry’s response was to:

1) ignore our questions – even when we telephoned;

2) send out form emails like this one that didn’t address our questions; and

3) engage this “crisis management” PR firm to leave comments on our blogs alleging that both the Green Mom bloggers and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Environmental Working Group, the environmental groups behind the studies, were “irresponsible,” were causing “hysteria,” and suggesting that we needed to do more “critical thinking.”

Check out my friend Jennifer Taggert’s post, “Oh, don’t worry, you’re just a mommy blogger & just a little bit of a carcinogen is okay.” Read the comments.

Prior to the carnival, I was a bit skeptical of the need for the Kid Safe Chemicals Act. Because Ad Age recently reported on J&J‘s new social media campaign and their desire to “deepen engagement” with Mom bloggers, I expected they would welcome a call from a blogger asking for J&J’s perspective prior to publishing a blog post. Regrettably, that was not my experience with J&J, nor with the Personal Care Products Council.

I hoped that my efforts to reach out to industry before publishing my post for the Green Moms Carnival would lead to more confidence in the state of the industry and the existing regulatory system, not less confidence.

As Mary Hunt says here, “I find it amusing that if women are surveyed by a paid for research firm, their answers are sanctified and considered valid feedback. But if women give the same opinions freely on the web without “being asked,” then they are hysterical or overreacting. The only difference is that someone in the middle was paid to ask the question. Go figure.”

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, everyone. I’m going to try to go off and focus on dying eggs the natural way. I’ll try not to eat too much Fair Trade Easter chocolate. But this isn’t over. If anything, the industry’s response to our concerns has galvanized us to action.


Copyright 2009 OrganicMania

21 Responses to “The Aftermath of the Green Moms Carnival: Hysterical Mommy Bloggers?”

  1. Lisa on April 10, 2009 8:00 am

    Normally when people go out of there way to do things like that it means they are worried so good job ladies. 😉

  2. TexasRed on April 10, 2009 9:14 am

    I know it doesn’t help with how you were treated, but I started looking into green shampoos after reading Sophie Uliano’s “Gorgeously Green” and have been very impressed with Yes2Carrots.

  3. Sommer on April 10, 2009 9:41 am

    All of this blog construction is leaving me sometime to read post and I’m so glad I’ve read this. I’m really proud of what we did and think that this is just the beginning.

  4. Jenn (The Green Parent) on April 10, 2009 10:16 am

    Hang in there Lynn! I agree with Sommer. I’m very proud of the issues that the carnival raised and I see this as just the beginning…not the end.

  5. Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish on April 10, 2009 11:00 am

    Hi Lynn. I hear you. From personal experience, I find that focusing on my own mission and less on the response of the target helps. Companies put out a party line and hide behind their “spin” but that doesn’t mean they are not listening and taking all of our concerns to heart. This is what I learned through the Brita campaign. Just because they feel they have to maintain a certain public image doesn’t mean they are necessarily dismissing what we are saying. And the fact that they have paid PR people commenting on our blogs means that they are in fact taking us seriously.

    Enjoy your weekend!

  6. Lynn on April 10, 2009 1:51 pm

    Lisa, Jenn, Beth, Sommer, and TexasRed – Thanks so much for your comments. I agree with all of you (no surprise there!). — Lynn

  7. Condo Blues on April 17, 2009 8:07 am

    Did you know that a link to your “Hysterical Mommy Bloggers?” post is on the front page of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics page I’m researching an article on Dr. Bronner’s soap and followed the CFSC link from their site to yours.

    NO, actually I didn’t know! Thanks so much for letting me know! — Lynn

  8. Meredith Johnson on April 19, 2009 9:00 pm

    I have just started looking into the chemical use in personal care products and am appalled. I’m excited to read more blogs posted through your site. I have started using Norwex organic products…haven’t found anything else that is Eco-cert yet. They don’t have baby care products and it looks like my Burt’s Bees stuff isn’t all that pure either. What does everyone use for their kiddos?

    Ay, yi, yi Meredith, it’s a mixture of products…it’s very hard to find any one line that is consistent across all products. Some goods ones are EcoStoreUSA, Earth Baby Angel Mama, California Baby (although not all products). You really have to read labels, and less is more! — Lynn

  9. Would you bathe your baby in formaldehyde? | Effortless Eating on April 28, 2009 9:32 am

    […] The caustic baby shampoo story was covered across the United States, around the world and online. Concerned moms called Johnson & Johnson – and then blogged about the company’s dismissive response. […]

  10. Vanessa on May 7, 2009 8:11 pm

    Hi Lynn, love your blog.

    Just in response to Meredith’s comment on finding products that are pure and your reply that its very hard to find any one line that are consistent across all products.

    I invite you to look at my site – we are internationally certified organic to food standard – USDA, IFOAM and ACO. Our range is extensive: skin care, hair care, body care, oral care, baby range, home care, health care and cosmetics….it is basically your one stop shop for food grade, toxin free, certified orangic products. You can literally eat them (my daughter has been know to do this :)
    Not only are the products fabulous, concentrated, 100% beneficial, 100% active ingredients but the company has a bigger mission around education, sustainable agriculture, ecological business practices, non-toxic non-leaching containers which are recyclable and lightweight, vacuum sealed for purity.

    Please contact me through my website or email as I am happy to provide you with any information, products to try and also we have samples and travel sizes.

    The range is expanding all the time – slowly but surely – products like this take time to develop.

    Also no animal testing (its all food so no need, and international food certification is more stringent than the questionable labeling that goes on with that!).

    I look forward to connecting with anyone interested to learn more.
    Vanessa *(vjcorganics)

  11. Nancy on May 14, 2009 5:45 pm

    More greenwashing, with the most innocent-sounding ingredient possible, “honeysuckle extract.” What next? This, from the Organic Consumers Assocation website. (You have to log in to the Forum to see it, under Organic Body Care Issues… you can’t get to it as a visitor, unfortunately.) The front page of the site has an article refuting the allegation, by one of the offending companies. I have a background in food science, and understand the preservation issue. I followed the links and read the supporting materials and I am convinced that “honeysuckle extract” is a source of hidden parabens. Please, educate yourself and make your own decision. Here it is:

    More on Parabens: Greenwashing With Honeysuckle Extract

    By Eliza Moriarty
    Organic Consumers Association, 4/27/2009

    For a refresher on parabens, here is an appealing article written for laypeople (Find it at…mp;id=2024753.)

    QUOTE, from the article above:
    Parabens are in widespread use by the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries as an effective preservative. Parabens work to prevent fungal and bacterial growth in water based products, such as creams (a mixture of oil and water). Parabens are found in a variety of cosmetic products including moisturizers, shaving gels, personal lubricants, tanning solutions and even toothpaste.

    Until recently it was thought that Parabens where safe due to their low toxic profile. However, new research has shown that the build up of Parabens in the body and their interaction with other commonly used chemicals may lead to hormone disruption and can lead to an increased cancer risk. It is very difficult to conclusively say whether Parabens are harmful. Any definitive study would likely take 10-20 years and would have to study the interactions of Parabens with a vast number of other synthetic chemicals. Paraben allergies are thankfully very rare. However, they do occur in a small number of people, and their reported incidence is increasing as people are exposed to Parabens in more of their food and cosmetic products.
    Many companies dismiss the concern over Paraben usage as a media inspired scare story. However, those who are most active in rubbishing claims of Paraben health concerns either work for or are linked to companies that extensively use Parabens in their products. There are many alternatives to using Parabens in personal care products and consumers are seeking out “Paraben Free” skin care in ever-greater numbers. However, some manufacturers are cynically employing other chemical preservatives that are known irritants or have far great health concerns – such as Sodium Hydroxymethylglycinate. So long as it doesn’t say “Paraben” on the label, they are happy.

    Other companies continue to use Parabens, but describe them on the ingredients list as “Japanese Honeysuckle”, a natural source of Parabens but chemically identical to the synthetic variety. There are alternatives to using Parabens or other synthetic preservatives in personal care products – but these are often more expensive to source or require extensive changes to the manufacturing process.

    Another quote, from “Gaia Research”, in defense of parabens:

    Contrary to popular misbelief, parabens are not diabolical chemical poisons invented by mad scientists to inflict havoc on human health. Parabens do have direct correlates in nature. In fact, all plants normally produce p-hydroxybenzoic acid, albeit in small quantities (Viitanen P et al, Plant Physiol, 136(4), 2004). Well-known plants known to significantly synthesise parabens as defensive chemicals against attack by micro-organisms include carrot, olive, cucumber, honeysuckle and ylang ylang (Bach M et al, Plant Physiol, 103(2), 1993); (Aziz N et al, Microbios 93(374), 1998); Smith-Becker J et al, Plant Physiol, 116(1), 1998); (Dweck A, “Natural Preservatives”, Cosmet Toilet, Aug 2003).

    From Eliza:
    Of course, this misses the point entirely. The parabens present in their whole, natural state do not have the paraben concentration necessary to provide preservation. The real problem at present is that Campo is producing a “honeysuckle” derived paraben that is concentrated and processed specifically for use as a preservative; further, isolated synthetic and natural parabens are bio-identical, and we have no evidence to show that concentrated natural parabens are any less toxic than concentrated synthetic parabens (presuming that Campo is not spiking their “natural” paraben preservative with synthetic parabens.) Since the INCI recommended for this concentrated paraben based preservative is ” Lonicera Caprifolium “, otherwise listed as Japanese Honeysuckle, Honeysuckle Flower Extract, Honeysuckle Extract, etc, unwitting consumers are fooled into assessing a label as miraculously innocent and pay premium prices to purchase what appears to be a wonderfully green product. More often than not, products that contain “Honeysuckle Flower Extract” (and truly, could any ingredient sound more gentle?) also make the false claim “NO PARABENS” all over the label and marketing materials.

    Since I began making noise, a few have shifted marketing language to state, “No synthetic parabens.” Tricky.

    Here is a marketing page for Campo’s Plantservative

    Also, please find the Campo Plantservative MSDS attached, and see:

    16. Other Information

    Uses as Cosmetic additive 0.4 – 1.0%

    Supplementary Dietary/food use 0.01 – 1.0% (food preservation)


    Recommended Mandatory Ingredient Listing of INCI name: Lonicera Caprifolium

    Please refer to, “An Update On Natural Preservatives” Personal Care Magazine; September 2005, (Anthony C. Dweck BSc CSci CChem FRSC FLS FRSH – Technical Editor), excerpted as follows:

    Japanese Honeysuckle extracts

    A plant preservative that is based on the Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is available that is described as being a complex mixture of esters of lonicerin and natural p-hydroxy benzoic acid (Fig. 10). The commercial material from Campo is called Plantservative WSr, WMr INCI: Lonicera Caprifolium Extract).

    Clearly this is a naturally occurring paraben, and we would expect this material to have antimicrobial properties. Lonicerin is luteolin-7-O-galactoside Fig. 11) (Chen et al). It has been reported Lee et al) that Lonicera japonica has anti-inflammatory activity and though not as potent as the normal benchmark of prednisolone, it would nonetheless be effective in treating inflammatory disorders. This factor makes the preservative very attractive, since it has benefits for its soothing properties and also has antimicrobial activity. There are not many preservatives that would have this dual benefit. I have not searched the literature to see whether other luteolin derivatives have been found to have antimicrobial properties, but the flavonoids are certainly well respected for their anti-inflammatory activity wherever they are found in plant materials.

    The author, Anthony C. Dweck is a noted expert on parabens and defends their use, based upon their existence in nature.

    Please see more about Dweck and parabens here:

    Many others among us understand that there is a difference between a chemical component of a whole plant and a concentrated chemical compound used to preserve a product. I do not object to the use of a simple aqueous extract (tea) of honeysuckle, labeled as “Japanese Honeysuckle Extract”, but I do object to the misrepresentation involved in the use of Plantservative, labeled as “Japanese Honeysuckle Extract.” It is a highly processed and concentrated paraben extraction that may or may not be contaminated with synthetic parabens where is it manufactured in Singapore. I am particularly distressed by the fact that so many companies are evidently using the latter version of “Japanese Honeysuckle Extract” and simultaneously claiming “NO PARABENS” on their labels.

    Another post from Eliza:
    I am a product formulator myself and would be happy to tutor others through the “label sleuthing” process of determining whether it is likely that a specific product contains a simple honeysuckle infusion or Plantservative’s paraben preservative, listed as any of the folowing: Japanese Honeysuckle, Japanese Honeysuckle extract, Japanese Honeysuckle flower extract, Honeysuckle extract, Honeysuckle flower extract, Honeysuckle, Lonicera Caprifolium, Lonicera, or any other variation of the above phrases.

    When I began contacting companies that are using this ingredient, several companies removed ingredient lists from their websites. One company in particular maintained ingredient lists on their website, but actually removed “Honeysuckle flower extract” from the posted ingredient lists. I did note that the ingredient is still included in their ingredient glossary as of this posting, however, and the accurate ingredient lists are still posted by other sites that carry their products. I did make a copy of the changes as they have ocurred, which is a disturbing exercise in “whitewashing” the “greenwashing.”

    I invite everyone interested in “label sleuthing” to join me here with questions, tips, and observations!

    Another post, from Amalie:

    As a small manufacturer of USDA certified organic body care, I am relieved that OCA is providing a forum for a discussion of hidden parabens. I have reviewed the data and, as a formulator, am convinced that the Plantservative honeysuckle preservative in question cannot possibly be a simple CO2 extract of honeysuckle as claimed by Grateful Body. The MSDS and documentation for Plantservative is available online, and a review of those materials clearly states that it is a broad-spectrum anti-microbial and behaves as any synthetic paraben. No known whole plant extracts or materials provide anything resembling the industrial strength preservation claimed in the Plantservative documentation. Additionally, if CO2 honeysuckle extract were as effective as Plantservative, every personal care manufacturer interested in producing USDA certified organic products would be willing to pay a very high price for a USDA OG CO2 honeysuckle extract. It would be the end of all of our formulation challenges!

    In regard to the May 14, 2009 issue of Organic Bytes, there is one very important error. I do request that OCA send a correction immediately, or in the very least, specifically correct the error in a visible location the next issue of Organic Bytes.

    Under Headlines and Issues of the Week, OCA states:

    1) Coming Clean News of the Week: Grateful Body Refutes Claims That All Honeysuckle Extracts Contains Parabens
    In last week’s issue of Organic Bytes, we linked to an article where organic supplier Eliza Moriarty made the claim that products using honeysuckle extract as a ‘natural’ preservative are simply hiding parabens in their products. This week, USDA organic personal care product leader, Grateful Body, says those are false claims and shows documentation that its products have been tested free of parabens, despite the use of honeysuckle extract. Let the debate begin!

    I am surprised by the mistakes. It does illustrate the fact that even some OCA staff members have difficulty distinguishing between USDA certified organic and inauthenticated organic claims in the personal care marketplace. Grateful Body has NO third party certification and does not produce USDA certified organic body care.

    While Grateful Body modifies most ingredient names with the word “organic”, it does not specify the certifying body, so we don’t know if they refer to USDA, Eco-cert or any other program. Grateful Body claims some ingredients are “organic” when the ingredient doesn’t exist as an organic ingredient. Grateful Body also claims to use no synthetics. (They claim “organic xanthan” for example, which cannot be organic. It is an allowed synthetic.) In the absence of a third-party certifier, organic claims by body products manufacturers have no meaning. Any company that wishes to prove its organic and clean ingredient status may do so at any time by cleaning up their ingredient decks and earning the USDA seal of approval. Any company that is not eligible for the USDA seal is certainly not a leader in USDA organic body care!

    Unfortunately, when OCA describes Grateful Body as “USDA organic personal care product leader,” it offers meaningful credibility to a company that has not earned it, misleads consumers into believing that their products are USDA organic, and undermine OCA’s own Coming Clean Campaign in regard to hidden ingredients! As a manufacturer of USDA certified organic products, it also undermines my company’s position in the marketplace when I must compete with companies that aren’t meeting the USDA organic standards, but are credited by OCA as such.

    Additionally, the description of Eliza Moriarty as an “organic supplier” is inaccurate. I am on an organic industry listserve with Eliza and am familiar with her work. She is an experienced phytochemist, researcher and professional organic body care formulator, and is also a certified Organic Processing Inspector. She’s an organics advocate with a sharp eye for “greenwashing.” From our mutual positions as natural products formulators, the documentation speaks for itself, as does the action of the preservative in question.

    As Mr. Dweck (international expert on parabens and former Associate Editor of the International Journal of Cosmetic Science) states, Plantservative is clearly a natural paraben. I see that the quote taken from “An Update On Natural Preservatives,” Personal Care Magazine; September 2005, (Anthony C. Dweck BSc CSci CChem FRSC FLS FRSH – Technical Editor) has been removed from Eliza’s OCA article. I have a copy, as follows:

    Japanese Honeysuckle extracts
    A plant preservative that is based on the Japanese Honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) is available that is described as being a complex mixture of esters of lonicerin and natural p-hydroxy benzoic acid (Fig. 10). The commercial material from Campo is called Plantservative WSr, WMr (INCI: Lonicera Caprifolium Extract). Clearly this is a naturally occurring paraben, and we would expect this material to have antimicrobial properties.

    If Grateful Body tested Plantservative and found no synthetic parabens, it merely tells us that it has not been spiked with synthetics. It does NOT tell us that it is not a natural paraben, and it certainly does not indicate that it is a whole plant extract. The “industrial strength” preservation action of Plantservative very strongly indicates that it is a highly processed and concentrated natural paraben.

    I hope OCA will correct the misstatement in the May 14 issue of Organic Bytes, lest Organic Consumers believe that Grateful Body is USDA certified organic and give undue credence to their products and their claims.

  12. Lynn on May 14, 2009 6:42 pm

    Nancy, thanks so much for going to the trouble to copy this whole string of messages from the OCA list. I was not familiar with the Honeysuckle issue – but I’m definitely going to be on the look out for this. You also raise an important issue. Just because something is “natural” doesn’t mean it’s good for us.
    Thanks so much, Lynn

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  15. Deanna Vazquez on June 28, 2009 9:51 pm

    No matter how you slice it, there simply is no way around the need to adequately preserve a skin care product and, as consumers become more informed and more choosey about what they will and won’t put on their skin, apparently so do some natural beauty product manufacturers become sneakier about declaring what it really is that they have put in your product!

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  19. Mark on September 1, 2010 6:33 pm

    You would think they would have a hard time getting this stuff approved, the way it sounds on here. Some of this stuff sounds toxic.
    .-= Mark´s last blog ..California Car Insurance =-.

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