@GreenMoms Take On Cosmetics: Safe or Unsafe? And Should We Support the Safe Cosmetics Act?: It’s the Green Moms Carnival!

July 31st, 2010

We’ve got a wonderful round-up of posts from members of the Green Moms Carnival, women who have been following the debate about cosmetics ingredients for years, and have interesting stories to share.

Let’s start off with Diane MacEachern of Big Green Purse. Diane blogs “evidence is emerging that the cumulative use of these products may be contributing to asthma, the onset of puberty in girls as young as three years old, and even the feminization of baby boys. Because cosmetics, soaps and shampoos are washed down the drain, they get into our water system, where they’re wreaking havoc on wildlife. And what about their relationship to breast cancer?”

But Diane doesn’t leave us hanging – she gives three common-sense ways we can reduce our exposure to the potential risks of cumulative exposure to low doses of chemicals.

Beth Terry of Fake Plastic Fish tells the story of why she tried to get away from a cute seat mate on a recent flight. “His Axe cologne, or whatever heinous product he was wearing, made my eyes water, nose itch, throat close up, and left me with a throbbing headache.”

That’s something I’ve experienced as well. Once you stop using synthetic fragrances, it’s hard to even be around them. A walk down a grocery store aisle – or a whiff of last year’s BlogHer room drops – can leave you feeling miserable.

Lisa from Condo Blues recounts an interesting discussion with a research scientist from a personal care company.

“One of the biggest secrets about what chemicals (or not) is in a product is what makes up the product’s fragrance,” she notes.  “Last summer, I had the chance to talk to a representative from a large personal care company. She claimed that even her company didn’t know what was in the fragrances of their products because they buy the fragrance from a special fragrance house that has a super secret formula and ironclad nondisclosure agreement that says the fragrance house won’t tell the company what’s in the signature scent of their brand of shampoo.”

Katy at Non-Toxic Kids makes a case for showing The Story of Cosmetics to friends who may be unfamiliar with the battle for safer cosmetics. As she puts it, “Why should you care?  There is a growing body of research showing links between many of the chemicals in our personal care products and serious diseases and conditions.  Chemicals like triclosan, phthalates, parabens are in most cosmetics.   Phthalates are often labeled as “fragrance”.  Triclosan is labeled as an “antibacterial.”

And no one is looking at their synergistic effect on our bodies, especially those who are developing and growing at rapid rates:  our children.   The companies who make these products are using many chemicals that have never been independently tested for safety.  That’s right, never.”

Linda from Citizen Green presents a well researched post that follows-up on Katy’s assertion. As Linda blogs, “Only 11 percent of the 10,500 ingredients in personal care products have been assessed for safety by the cosmetics industry.”

And that’s the reason Deanna of Crunchy Chicken blogs “Make sure you start checking your product labels!” 

Karen of Best of Mother Earth pulls no punches when she asks, “How can cosmetic companies like Estee Lauder raise funds for cancer research and produce products with carcinogens in them? Shouldn’t they start in their own back yard and produce a safe cosmetic in the first place?”

I always especially enjoy the contributions of our Carnival members from outside the United States. In Amber’s post at Strocel.com, Story of Cosmetics:  Canadian Edition,  she blogs about the situation in Canada – how in some ways it parallels the situation in the US, and yet how there are subtle differences. For example, Canadian cosmetic makers are required to list ingredients – “but not all of them.” Huh? So what good does that do? But Amber’s main message is one that is universal:

“But we must recognize that the beauty industry is trying to sell us stuff, just like any other industry that markets consumer goods. They want us to believe that we are flawed and need their stuff. If we aren’t concerned about the state of our skin or the shininess of our hair, we’re not going to shell out for products to fix them. Even initiatives like the Dove Movement are marketing campaigns aimed to make us feel favourable towards a certain brand.

My daughter Hannah is 5 years old. I don’t want her to feel that she needs to coat herself with stuff to be OK, and I especially don’t want the stuff she coats herself with to contain toxins. That’s why I want to see change in the cosmetics industry.”

I always see  myself in Micaela’s (aka Mindful Momma’s) posts.  Maybe it’s because we have kids around the same age, and while we are passionately committed to living sustainably, too often our lives intersect with the real world of Toys R Us and Pokemon.

In her post, “Maybe I Just Bought the Wrong Stuff,” Micaela blogs,  “In The Story of Cosmetics, Annie Leonard comes out and says what a lot of us might be thinking when it comes to buying cosmetics and personal care products:  “maybe it’s my fault…maybe I just bought the wrong thing”…meaning it’s our own damn fault for buying personal care products loaded with toxins and petroleum products…because we didn’t take the time to research the hell out of them before we went to the store.

I’m telling you – that is often how I feel.  And it’s very frustrating.”

Frustrating? Lisa from Retro Housewife Goes Green goes even farther when she blogs, “I don’t know about you but I’m pissed off at the amount of work I have to do to keep myself and my family safe from cancer causing chemicals. We need to change the whole system and work together to demand safer cosmetics.”

I’m with Lisa  – the whole system needs to change, and in my opinion, that includes regulation. But I’m not so sure the Safe Cosmetics Act is the answer. Check my post out here, where I blog about what I’ve learned in two years of following these issues – the things people inside the industry have told me – and my surprise and concern about the backlash opposition to the Safe Cosmetics Act that is being led by small, independent cosmetics makers.

Jennifer Taggert of The Smart Mama (and an attorney)  voices her concern that the Safe Cosmetics Act may mean for small businesses. Jennifer has a unique take on this, and her full post is worth a close read. Here’s an excerpt:

“I bring the CPSIA up after watching The Story of Cosmetics because well intentioned legislation can go badly wrong.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t urge you to understand what it is you are buying. To adopt the precautionary principle in your purchasing decisions.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t think we should advocate for sensible legislation and regulations.

But that’s it – the legislation and/or regulations must be sensible. And that is hard to do. The devil is in the details. Overbroad legislation has unintended consequences and collateral damage.

As said by Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis:

The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”

What do you think?

Leave a comment and let us know!

And did you know you can get ALL of our posts pushed out to you via Twitter? Just follow us here:  http://www.twitter.com/GreenMoms

— Lynn

Copyright 2010 OrganicMania

7 Responses to “@GreenMoms Take On Cosmetics: Safe or Unsafe? And Should We Support the Safe Cosmetics Act?: It’s the Green Moms Carnival!”

  1. Shelly on August 2, 2010 5:21 am

    I personally do not think we have enough data here to make a choice on this. I know a family that makes fragrances from lavender and everything in the fragrance is natural. At the same time they keep the details as safely guarded as possible. The fact is it’s so easy to make anyone can do it. I’m not saying there are not bad companies putting chemicals in fragrances, but more detailed research needs to be presented.

    For example coffee has formaldehyde in it naturally. Formaldehyde is known to cause cancer. Most doctors will argue that the benefits of drinking coffee out weight the minimal traces of formaldehyde. Not only that but it is present in some of the food we eat.

    Instead of focusing on the bad stuff, what are the risk factors? How many people have been known to get asthma or cancer from these products? I think this is going in the right direction, but more research needs to be done.

  2. Lynn on August 2, 2010 7:00 am

    Shelly, thanks for your comment. I agree with you – more research is needed. I’ve thought about this a lot, and asked people in the industry about it (see my post for the carnival – My Story of Stuff – The Stuff Industry Insiders Have Told Me About the Battle for Safe Cosmetics).

    I just don’t think anyone is willing to step up and do the research. Apparently the cosmetics industry is afraid of lawsuits.

    The government – well, I’m not sure the government has the capacity or the funding.

    My ideal would be an independent consortia such as a standards body – that did the testing. A board comprised of consumer, industry, NGO and government reps could oversee the research direction, interpretation and results.

    This is also a case where we could probably collaborate with the work that has been done internationally.

    But I’m just guessing here. I’m not an expert, I’m just a frustrated consumer and pundit/blogger/industry watcher.

    As things stand now, I don’t see the situation improving AT ALL.

    And I do believe SOMETHING in our environment is causing: decreased sperm count, dropped testicals in boys, infertility in women; rising cases of ADHD and autism, early puberty….We as humans have not evolved this quickly in the past 30 years for this to be a natural phenomenon.

    It’s environmental. But is it due to:
    – personal care products?
    – pesticides?
    – household products?
    – bad (fatty) diet?
    – water and air pollution?

    What? Can we isolate the causes? And how do we move forward?

    I really believe our society is at risk. And we need to take action? But what course of action is best? That’s the million-billion dollar question.

    And regrettably, I don’t see many truly impartial parties looking into this…I see biased parties on all sides, with axes to grind. In the end, the consumer will lose.

  3. Tweets that mention Organic and Green Mom Blog | @GreenMoms Take On Cosmetics: Safe or Unsafe? And Should We Support the Safe Cosmetics Act?: It’s the Green Moms Carnival! at Organic Mania -- Topsy.com on August 2, 2010 11:44 am

    […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Green Moms Carnival, Lynn Miller, Louise Henderson, Louise Henderson, Living Nature and others. Living Nature said: Three doable steps for healthier beauty choices http://ht.ly/2jUy7 […]

  4. Shelly on August 3, 2010 5:22 am

    I think the biggest thing right now is for people to stand together on what they want to see happen. For the most part reaching these goals will probably not be cheap. Using products that are better for us than others is good. Of course most of this is food related. I for one quit drinking regular coffee, and now I am glad I did. I feel a lot better after a cup of organic coffee. I will continue to support these kinds of products that I find and like. Over all it will take a bigger following and interested people who can stick together.

  5. best of mother earth aka karen hanrahan on August 3, 2010 9:18 am

    I wonder 100 years ago, what issues folks had like this to be concerned about?? Our “because we can” society has to get back to the basics. I love this collection of resources and opinions. Thank you for hosting Lynn!!
    .-= best of mother earth aka karen hanrahan´s last blog ..Back To School Freak =-.

  6. Melissa @ GreenAndFrugalMama on August 4, 2010 9:32 am

    I also just had a post about toxins in cosmetics and other personal care products!


    The amount of stuff in everyday products is very, VERY scary. And yes, most people don’t think a thing about it.

  7. Patricia Butter on August 10, 2010 8:35 am

    Thank you, Lynn, for the well balanced and thoroughly researched post. I created a line of natural skin care products for children (Buttercup & Jake) because I was concerned about my own children’s exposure to harsh chemicals in most over the counter products. Our products are made with mostly organic ingredients that are food safe as well as locally grown Calendula flowers and honey. Even so, the Safe Cosmetics Act as it is written would put me and hundreds of other small natural brands out of business.
    Subchapter B, Sec. 611, (E) requires
    “testing and listing on the product label contaminants present at levels above technically feasible detection limits” for all ingredients. These tests cost $5000 each. There are many of small natural soap and skin care companies that use local, sustainably grown ingredients (like goat’s milk soap) that would not be able to absorb cost of the testing fees that this proposed Federal Statute would require.
    The Toxic Chemicals Safety Act which is also currently under review would resolve the majority our concerns with the testing of chemicals and not present the danger to hundreds of small, family owned businesses that SCA does. In this economic environment, the last thing we want to do is to squash innovation of small businesses and create an environment where only the largest manufacturers who can absorb these costs by manufacturing overseas can survive.

Trackback URI | Comments RSS

Leave a Reply

Name (required)

Email (required)


Speak your mind

CommentLuv badge