FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 22, 2019 – Today, over 25 scientists, researchers and academics released an open letter urging New York-based consumer product goods manufacturer Prestige Consumer Healthcare, makers of Summer’s Eve, to eliminate toxic chemicals and disclose all ingredients in their iconic personal care brand. Circulated by national health non-profit, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), the letter calls into question the ingredients found in Summer’s Eve products, including wipes, washes, powders, douches and sprays.
The letter follows the 2017 launch of WVE’s awareness campaign, Summer’s Deceive, which calls on the makers of Summer’s Eve to address harmful ingredients in their products, body-shaming marketing and incomplete ingredient disclosure.
Outlined in the letter are the various ingredients of concern found in Summer’s Eve products including carcinogens, unknown fragrance ingredients, and hormone disruptors.
“This isn’t the first time we have asked Prestige to address the lack of transparency and presence of toxic chemicals in Summer’s Eve products,” said Amber Garcia, Executive Director at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “This letter is the next step in the conversation, joined by specialists in reproductive health and public health professionals who share our concerns about the dangers these products may pose to public health.”
One chemical of particular concern is octoxynol-9, a contraceptive drug that effectively kills sperm. Summer’s Eve products containing octoxynol-9, however, are not considered contraceptives, nor are they required to have any caution labeling to their potential effect on a person’s fertility. In addition, due to higher use rates of intimate care products, people of color experience a greater burden of toxic exposure.
“It is especially egregious that these products, marketed and sold under the guise of vaginal and sexual health, are in fact exposing people to chemicals that can negatively impact their reproductive well-being,” said Jan Robinson-Flint, Executive Director of Black Women for Wellness. “People of color are bearing the brunt of this toxic exposure. Hiding a contraceptive drug in a personal care product takes away a person’s ability to determine their own reproductive future. The message to Prestige is clear – this has to stop.”
The letter also outlines the problems with undisclosed fragrance ingredients. The term ‘fragrance’ can contain potentially hundreds of different ingredients, many of which are linked to serious health problems from skin irritation to hormone disruption and breast cancer. The majority of Summer’s Eve products contain unknown fragrance ingredients.
“These undisclosed chemicals are of special concern in intimate care products given research findings linking vaginal douching with higher levels of certain phthalates – chemicals commonly found in fragrance and linked to reproductive harm – in the body,” said Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research at WVE who referenced a 2015 study that identified that Black women bear higher rates of phthalate exposure due to higher prevalence of vaginal douching. In fact, Black women had phthalate levels that were 48% higher than white women.
“What we do know about fragrance ingredients is troublesome; what we don’t know is even more so,” said Scranton. “With major companies like Procter and Gamble and Unilever committing to disclose fragrance ingredients used in products, there is simply no excuse for Prestige Consumer Healthcare to keep fragrance secrets.”
Taking the Right Steps
In light of public demands and WVE’s Summer’s Deceive campaign, Prestige Consumer Healthcare removed harmful colorants from their Summer’s Eve vaginal washes in 2018.
“Prestige Consumer Healthcare is listening. In addition to removing these dyes, Summer’s Eve has also eliminated specific preservatives linked to cancer,” said Scranton. “When a popular brand like Summer’s Eve removes toxic chemicals from products, it’s a huge win for public health.”
Under FDA guidelines, colorants FD&C Red 33 and Ext Violet #2 are not authorized for use in products which come into contact with mucous membranes. The use of Yellow #5 requires a specific safety warning regarding allergic reactions when used in drugs that are applied vaginally. Yet WVE’s research identified these colorants in washes specifically designed for vaginal use. Summer’s Eve no longer uses these colorants or any other dyes in their products.
“We are very glad to see Prestige Consumer Healthcare taking these concerns seriously,” said Garcia. “Removing these colorants is an important and positive step for Summer’s Eve, but there are still critical and considerable disclosure, ingredient safety and harmful marketing that exploits decades of stigma meant to make people feel ashamed of their bodies.
“Taking care of our bodies – however we choose – should never put our heath at risk and we hope the makers of Summer’s Eve will continues to make the right changes to ensure their products never expose people to harmful chemicals,” said Garcia.
This open-letter marks the latest escalation of Women’s Voices for the Earth’s campaign for safe period and intimate care products. Launched in 2013 with the report, Chem Fatale, WVE’s work has helped elevate the topic of period health into the public mainstream.
“People are tired of having products pushed on them from companies that don’t prioritize their health,” said Garcia. “We hope the makers of Summer’s Eve will agree that it is simply unacceptable that any personal care product may be exposing people to harmful chemicals.”
Beth Conway, Communications Director at Women’s Voices for the Earth
firstname.lastname@example.org | 406-543-3747
Alexandra Scranton, Director or Science and Research at Women’s Voices for the Earth
email@example.com | 406-543-3747
Chris Bobel, Professor and Chair of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies
College of Liberal Arts, University of Massachusetts Boston
Chris.Bobel@umb.edu | 617.287.6781
ABOUT Women’s Voices for the Earth
Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national environmental health organization that works to amplify voices to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities.