Why I Hope the EWG is Wrong

July 20th, 2009

No one makes a habit of displaying the inside of their medicine cabinet. But I’m doing it to make a point.


The other night I took my skeptical husband to watch the filming of what’s being billed as “ ‘Inconvenient Truth’ for environmental health.” The Environmental Working Group’s  President,  Ken Cook, has presented “10 Americans” to countless groups across the country, and it’s even available on the web. But at this filming at DC’s Source Theatre, the EWG captured the reaction of a group of Washingtonians who gathered  to hear that:
•     82,000 chemicals were declared safe for use in household and personal care products with little or no data to support their safety;
•    the US has the highest cancer rate in the industrialized world;
•    industrial chemicals are showing up in the womb. In other words, embryos are being exposed to chemicals in the mother’s body before birth;
•     chemical exposures in people are increasingly associated with a range of serious diseases and conditions from childhood cancer, to autism, ADHD, learning deficits, infertility, and birth defects.

So why am I showing you my medicine cabinet? I’m like most Moms – my heart is “deep green,” but my buying patterns are a lighter shade of green.   The items I buy organic and green are those that my family consumes most often, particularly those items that are most often used by my children. But we still buy plenty of conventional  products (although we try to use them sparingly).

When I first learned about the linkages between probable human carcinogens and everyday personal care and household products,  I was shocked. That’s why I reached out to industry representatives to get some reassurances, as you can read here. And their reaction? While they spend hundreds of thousands to court Mom bloggers at  BlogHer and other conferences and launch fancy viral advertising campaigns, they still haven’t answered these three simple questions I posed here.

– What is your stance on the Kid Safe Chemical Act?
– What do you think about the adverse affects of long term exposure to the thousands of chemicals used in personal care products?
– Is this issue even being discussed at the industry level, through groups like the Personal Products Council?

In fact, as I blogged here, the Industry reps did everything they could to discredit the Moms asking these questions.

So now you know why I hope the EWG is wrong. Because like so many of you, I still use a lot of these products.

And as for my skeptical husband?

As he put it after watching Ken Cook in action,

DDT used to be called safe too.”

Watch the video yourself and tell me what you think.

@ Yahoo! Video

If you want to do something now that you’ve seen this video, visit the EWG’s Action Page.

And please leave a comment and let me know  your thoughts!


Copyright OrganicMania 2009

15 Responses to “Why I Hope the EWG is Wrong”

  1. Brenna on July 20, 2009 3:17 pm

    Lynn, you are one brave woman! :) I just added up my “score” based on the EWG’s Skin Deep ratings and was absolutely shocked. I am so careful when buying bath products for the kids, but much less careful when it comes to myself. I love this: “my heart is “deep green,” but my buying patterns are a lighter shade of green.” I am right there with you… I wish that EWG was wrong too, but I am sure they aren’t.

  2. Pierrette on July 20, 2009 7:21 pm

    We no longer buy anything without first doing our research, sometimes that means it takes 30 mins to buy toothpaste but once you find the brand you trust you just stick to it and you don’t have to do the research again.

    Pierrette’s last blog post..100,000 on the Hill

  3. Lynn on July 20, 2009 7:43 pm

    Pierrette – The problem is finding that brand…I seem to have to try several different products before I find one that I like…and even now, as you can see, I still haven’t totally switched over from all my old “conventional” products. And the ones where both DH and I need to agree? Oh, boy. But the next generation will be different. They’re learning to trust these green brands now. It’s where brand loyalty starts – at home. That’s one reason so many women took offense at my friend Sommer’s post about baby shampoo. It’s the brand they trust and that their mother’s trusted – how could it be bad for their kids? — Lynn

    Brenna – So typical. We Moms always put ourselves last, don’t we? — Lynn

  4. Green Bean on July 20, 2009 9:03 pm

    Yikes!! That is some seriously bad news and I firmly believe, in my heart of hearts, that the increase we are seeing in autism, ADHD, and other neurological diseases stems from our kids’ exposure to toxins.

    Green Bean’s last blog post..You might be going green

  5. Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish on July 21, 2009 12:25 am

    I love that you showed us your medicine cabinet. I think we should start a medicine cabinet meme. I think you should tag 5 bloggers and make them show their cabinet and also write a bit about what’s inside. Not for guilt or shame. No no no. For educational purposes only. They could pick 5 things and look them up on the EWG’s Skin Deep database and let us know how they rate. It’s an eye opening experience. After doing it a while back, I ended up taking a whole bag full of cosmetics to the hazardous waste facility. Check it out:


    Beth Terry, aka Fake Plastic Fish’s last blog post..Plastic-free Farmer’s Markets need our thanks!

  6. Lynn on July 21, 2009 7:54 am

    Beth, I love the meme idea, but I think I’ll do that post-Blogher. I think everyone is too slammed getting ready now! :)

    Green Bean – Yes, I do believe there is something in our environment that has caused these dramatic increases in strange illnesses, allergies, etc. How much could we save on health care if we addressed this issue alone?

    Thanks for your (always) insightful comments, ladies! — Lynn

  7. Organic and Green Mom Blog | Two New OrganicMania BlogHer Sponsors Join Stonyfield: Snikiddy and Mom Made Foods at Organic Mania on July 21, 2009 10:19 am

    […] about making a switch to more organic, green and natural products is knowing what to buy. As I blogged yesterday, I still haven’t completed the switch myself. That’s one reason I’m so glad I’ll have […]

  8. Brandie on July 21, 2009 9:41 pm

    As much as we’ve changed at our house, there is so much we haven’t. I’m sure our medicine cabinet would reflect this as well. Anyway, great post that really makes you think! I’m sharing it over at themotherhood.com, linking back to you =)

    Brandie’s last blog post..Some towels!

  9. Lynn on July 21, 2009 10:12 pm

    I’m so glad you liked it, Brandie, and thanks for linking to me on The Motherhood! — Lynn

  10. Theresa on August 17, 2009 11:44 am

    Thanks for sharing. I am like you, Lynn. But I have to say our buying patterns are slowly turning to a medium shade of green…just think of the shade it will be for our children!

  11. Lynn on August 18, 2009 6:54 am

    Yes, honestly I exaggerated a bit for that photo…I have many more green things in the house, but they’re mainly for the kids. I still haven’t switched my toothpaste yet, but boo uses a green brand. Big Boy was raised on conventional toothpaste after toddlerhood and can’t seem to adjust to the taste.

  12. Mooreganicslife on August 25, 2009 1:34 pm

    My cabinets used to look like that too. However 2 years ago I learned about all the toxins in personal care products and freecycled them off. They have now been replaced with certified organic products. Our skin has never been healthier!
    .-= Mooreganicslife´s last blog ..MiHealth – Berry Radical Recipes =-.

  13. Aaron on August 29, 2009 4:33 pm

    People are paranoid about all the wrong things. Everything can cause cancer. Rather than sheltering yourself from everything, you may as well just assume the risk for a little easier life. How many people honestly get cancer because they used a non-organic product of an organic one? You’re making all these life changes (that are less convenient, and less effective) to change very little to your life. It’s like investing an extra 10,000 in your car for tires with slightly better traction.

    It’s just so marginal. When you put it into perspective, it’s really a waste of time to be this passionate about. Getting in your car and driving to work is more dangerous than several lifetimes of normal exposure to household chemicals. You can’t hide from everything, and if you want to, this should probably be the least of your worries.

  14. Annabelle on November 13, 2009 2:55 pm

    Can’t agree with you all any more!! Im slowly making my changes as well. Thats why I’ve put together some healthier products. http://www.keengreenliving.com
    Healthy Living!!

  15. Erik Kreider on February 20, 2012 3:45 pm

    You’re right, Lynn. I realize this post is pretty old, but can’t help contribute to the thread – perhaps we can collaborate for a future one. (can’t seem to find your direct contact info)

    I’m a biochemist. (Stanford-trained) The rationale is simple: youth and health are promoted by limiting environmental exposure to chemistries that are not naturally present in our bodies. The more crap we accumulate, the more likely it is to adversely influence our normal biochemistry, whether it’s related to embryogenesis, puberty, normal physiology, cancer and everything else. If you wouldn’t eat it, it shouldn’t be used in personal care. It’s actually more dangerous to absorb things through your skin than eat them, because everything you eat goes directly to your liver which is essentially the HEPA filter of our bodies’ nutrient supply – bad stuff goes there first and normally gets excreted before being pumped all over our bodies. Absorption through our skin has no such protection.

    Aging and disease are a result of exposure. Some of this exposure we directly control – we live clean, we don’t smoke, we eat organic – and we shouldn’t be using anything petrochemical in our personal care routine. Period. Some exposure we can’t control as readily – breathing exhaust on the highway, residues in our water, atmospheric pollution fallout on those organic vegetables that increases mercury and arsenic levels, and our genetic predisposition to succumbing to the exposure. Even the oxygen we breathe that gives us life also slowly destroys live-giving biochemistry via the creation of free radicals and oxidative damage, which is why no one lives forever.

    But, since skin is our largest organ, and what we put on it gets absorbed into our tissue, organs and nervous system readily, it’s imperative we eliminate the noxious chemistries from our daily exposure profile. As you observe, this is hard to do – almost every product in your medicine chest is petroleum-based. Given the exposure levels, clean skin care may be even more important than an organic diet. Parabens, pthalates, etc – those are just the painfully obviously toxic and bioaccumulating chemistries, and scratch only the surface.

    So where to start? Although there’s no higher source of petrochemical exposure in our lives than from skin care products, sunscreens are public enemy number one given the concentration of benzene-based petrochemicals – up to 45%. Get a good mineral sunscreen for you and your children. Preferably zinc oxide vs. titanium dioxide.

    I’ve created one such line if you’d like to check it out – click on my name. We use simple ingredients anyone can understand, certified organic ingredients wherever possible, and no petrochemicals.

    Precisely because, the only way to know a product is healthy is to understand the ingredient list.

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