Friday, February 26, 2010

Report From the Field: Fighting for Non-Toxic Products

The following post has been submitted by guest blogger, Mia Davis, National Grassroots Coordinator for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

It seems that every week brings a new story of common chemicals linked to harm. Carcinogens in bubble bath? Reproductive toxicants in water bottles? What is going on?

There are more than 85,000 chemicals in the marketplace, only a fraction of which have been assessed for possible impacts on human health or the environment. And chemicals linked to cancer, developmental disabilities, and infertility are still allowed in cosmetics, water bottles, electronics and other products. We know that these toxins are entering our bodies –without our permission- and that they migrate and sometimes persist in the environment. At the same time, serious health issues are on the rise and increased diagnosis alone cannot account for the uptick.

People usually think of environmental pollution as coming from smokestacks or leaching from factories into rivers, and unfortunately, that’s still commonplace and a serious threat to the ecosystem and human health. But for most of us, toxins in the “environment” have gotten even closer to home—specifically, in our homes.

Take personal care products. Did you know that most people use about 10 cosmetics every day? Yep- we apply an average of 126 unique ingredients directly to our skin before we even leave the house in the morning. Industrial chemicals are basic ingredients in personal care products, and no publicly accountable body has made sure that those chemicals are safe for long term use, or safe for the ecosystem. And some ingredients (like fragrance components and contaminants) aren’t even on the ingredient labels.

In the U.S., the law that governs the cosmetics industry has not been updated in 70 years—a very long time when one considers the market changes since World War II—and it doesn’t give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to assess the safety of cosmetic ingredients before they hit the market. Instead, the cosmetics industry itself ensures the safety of their products.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a national coalition of women’s and environmental and public health organizations that works with companies that manufacture safer cosmetics products, and applies pressure to companies and agencies that need a push. We sent a letter to Johnson & Johnson asking the company to reformulate their products to remove hazardous chemicals. We’ve targeted Estee Lauder for using carcinogens and hormone disruptors in their “pink ribbon” cosmetics, L’Oreal for putting lead in U.S. lipstick even though it is banned from lipstick in France (where L’Oreal is headquartered), and Wal-Mart for selling so many antibacterial soaps made with toxic triclosan.

The Campaign is at a point of great momentum. We have a strong collective voice calling for both market and regulatory change, and we’re empowering people to advocate for protections at the individual, community and national levels.

We know the move away from toxic chemicals toward safer alternatives will help to build an economic system that values health and sees real growth potential in sustainability. We need to make this transition as soon as we possibly can- So please get involved!

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