Friday, April 11, 2008

Lets talk Cosmetics, Creams and Fragrances.

I came across this website while doing baby research but it actually applies much more globally than babies. Lets face it our current government is quite flawed, and many government agencies that are supposed to be acting in accordance with our (the people's) best interest are being 'bought' by lobbyists and big businesses to make sure that we (the people) don't find out that they are using the cheapest (insert anything here) instead of the safest. Now I'm not going to go crazy and get all 'conspiracy theory' on you but we have to acknowledge that the system is flawed if we are going to do anything about it. You are now thinking 'what the heck does this have to do with cosmetics and/or baby's?'

Here's the deal. The Environmental Working Group (EWG) is a not for profit group of 'scientists, engineers, policy experts, lawyers and computer programmers' that make it their mission to understand and uncover potential threats to our health and the environment. They compile published scientific studies with their own lab testing in order to "bring to light unsettling facts that you have a right to know." One of their projects is the cosmetic safety database. Among other things they are very keen on putting pressure on the government to fix the flaws in the system that hide hazards from the public.

Currently the FDA does not require cosmetic companies to test the safety of their products before placing them on the market (you are surprised aren't you? I certainly was!) Therefore, the EWG is compiling information to educate the people about some possible concerns we should have regarding products you put on your body, in your mouth, or on your children. For example, it is perfectly legal for a company to use known carcinogens in these types of products and its actually a pretty common practice (they are often cheap apparently). I certainly don't have a running list of all known carcinogens with which to compare to ingredients on the back of bottles, so this website does the dirty work. Prepare to be very surprised by some of the ratings. They rate things on a scale of 0-10 with 10 being the most hazardous and 0 being the least. I can pretty much guarantee most of the products you use are somewhere around a 6.

Here is where you tell me "I (my parents, my grandparents) have been using these products for years and haven't had any problems, why should I be concerned?" (that is probably a nicer version than I've actually heard from some people). My response. Don't be so ignorant. I know, I know that isn't really a nice thing to say to someone but it's sort of true. Look at these graphs (I stole them from this website and yes I realize it's Canadian data but it is simply to prove a point)

This should make the point that something isn't correct. I will NOT say that there is higher rates of cancer because of cosmetics but there is a chance (and I think it's a good one) that this is a part of the issue. And here is the kicker, your small sample size of you and your family using a product for years and not having it effect you is not proof that it is safe. So take a few minutes and look up your favorite brands, educate yourself in a small way about the potential hazards to you and your family. Isn't it worth knowing that product A contains less known hazards than product B and therefore you should buy product A? This constitutes a very small change but who knows what years of exposure to product B might have caused, maybe nothing, maybe not. Didn't mom always say "It is better to be safe than sorry?"

Further, buying organic products is not a sure bet to having a lower hazard rating. Just because a product is all natural doesn't make it safe (e.g. poison ivy, nicotine and alcohol are all natural).

Before placing any baby products on my registry I cross checked them against this database to make sure they had a 2 or lower hazard rating. That is my (personal and arbitrarily made up) criteria for anything I plan to use on a baby on a regular basis. For myself and other adults my criteria shifts a bit higher and I try to avoid regular use of anything above about a 5. The problem with a lot of products is that they list 'fragrance' as an ingredient. Fragrance can basically mean anything. It appears to me that any product with that on the ingredient list gets a higher hazard rating because of how little that is known about it.

I don't want to scare anyone, nor is it my intent to piss you off, I only wish to educate. You can't protect yourself from potential dangers unless you know about them so even if you only make one small change and stop using a product with a 10 hazard rating, I will consider this post time well spent. If you believe in what I'm saying, don't forget to tell your friends and family too. Someday the world will be a safer place, until then knowledge is power. I look forward to your questions and comments.


Kristeen said...

I just have to say I'm always impressed with the extent of your research, and the fact that you put yourself out there to tell other people what you've learned knowing full well that you'll probably take some crap for it. This is why you've always been someone I respect so highly... you do what you believe no matter what.

Kristy said...

I concur!

Anonymous said...

I love EWG...and I think what they are doing is highly interesting and helpful...I have been RSS their feed on Toxics for the last year! I'm glad that you posted about PCP because the more people that know about it the better! speaking of RSS feeds...anyway you can include that feature on your blog??