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Colorants in Feminine Washes May Be Violating FDA Use Restrictions

Posted August 18th, 2015

‘For External Use Only’ – This language-loophole on feminine care product labels may be putting women’s health at risk

MISSOULA, MT — Today, national women’s health non-profit, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), filed a citizen’s petition to the FDA regarding clear safety guidelines on the use of colorants in feminine care products. The petition argues that colorants found in some feminine washes come in contact with vaginal mucous membranes –violating the FDA’s use restrictions, and may adversely affect the health of women using these products.

WVE’s research identified several feminine wash products currently on the market that contain the colorants FD&C Red 33, Ext Violet #2 and Yellow #5.

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 these colorants are ending up products that are specifically designed for vaginal use.

“While most feminine wash products have the words ‘For external use only’ on their labels, it’s undeniable that even manufacturers expect both the internal and external use of their products,” said Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “For example, many feminine wash brands make claims such as ‘pH balanced’ or ‘helps maintain a healthy pH balance’. A product could only affect vaginal pH if it is applied to internal vaginal tissue.”

Studies show that there are many potential chemicals of concern found in feminine care products, but there are few for which the FDA has specifically identified use restrictions. Colorants, however, are one of the few exceptions.

“What’s more, aside from aesthetics, the use of colorants in feminine wash serves no purpose in these products,” said Executive Director of Women’s Voices for the Earth, Erin Switalski. “Instead, they are exposing women to unnecessary, additional health risks — risks already recognized by the FDA.”

In support of their petition to the FDA, WVE also identified and documented numerous consumer reports of adverse reactions including rashes, bleeding and vaginal discomfort resulting from the use of these products.

“We are strongly in support of WVE’s campaign for better safety warnings on feminine washes. It is unacceptable that women are suffering from itching, bleeding and soreness in their most intimate parts, all because of completely unnecessary colorants, which are already known by the FDA to be potential allergens,” said Jessica Gitsham of Natracare feminine care products.

The fact that manufacturers are putting chemicals like these colorants into feminine care products, further illustrates the need for greater research, attention and scrutiny from the FDA regarding chemicals used in products that come in contact with one of the most sensitive and absorbent parts of a woman’s body.

Just as a recent study identified disproportionate health risks to African American women due to higher exposure to chemicals in douche, colorants in feminine washes also represent an unaddressed risk to women of color.

“We’re especially concerned about feminine washes as they may disproportionately affect black and Latina women since they tend to be greater users of these products,” said Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “Many Latinas who already have health disparities also face financial, economic, and geographic barriers to accessing safe alternatives. That’s why the FDA must do its job and ensure that all washes on the market are safe. This is a reproductive justice issue, and a fundamental human rights issue that we must expose.”

“Our petition asks the FDA to close the language-loophole that manufacturers are using to include harmful chemicals into their products,” said Switalski. “The guidelines need to be clear. And, most importantly, they need to protect women’s health.”

Feminine washes on the market that contain colorants FD&C Red 33, Ext Violet #2 and Yellow #5 include well-known brands including Vagisil, CVS and Summer’s Eve. Click here, for a complete list of these products.

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About Women’s Voices for the Earth
Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. www.womensvoices.org.

WVE has published various factsheets on toxic chemicals and feminine care products, including their ground-breaking report, Chem Fatale.

Media Contacts:
Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science & Research at Women’s Voices
alexs@womensvoices.org, 406-543-3747, office.
Beth Conway, Communications & Outreach Manager at Women’s Voices
bethc@womensvoices.org, 406-543-3747, office.

Amendments Needed to Strengthen the Personal Care Products Safety Act

Posted July 9th, 2015

Congress takes action on cosmetics, but major flaw in bill must be addressed to ensure salon worker and consumer safety

Women’s Voices for the Earth is pleased Senators Feinstein and Collins have introduced the Personal Care Products Safety Act (S. 1014). The bill presents a real opportunity to protect salon workers and consumers from harmful exposure to toxic chemicals in cosmetics. Consumers are exposed to a host of chemicals from everyday use of products, and salon workers are disproportionately impacted by exposure to chemicals like formaldehyde, toluene and dibutyl phthalate (often found in nail polish, for example) because they work with these chemicals for long periods of time for days on end. This new bill addresses a number of issues that are overlooked in current regulation and are necessary to help protect salon workers’ health. These include:

  • Providing the FDA with the authority to issue mandatory recalls of dangerous products
  • Requiring disclosure of most ingredients in salon products (except for fragrance)
  • Requiring mandatory reporting of any harmful or adverse reactions salon workers encounter from products exposed to at work
  • And finally, requiring the FDA to perform a safety review of formaldehyde and other cosmetic ingredients within the first year (and thereafter the FDA is required to review at least 5 chemicals a year)

We urge the Senate HELP committee to consider the bill and ask the committee to include amendments that address the most significant shortcomings of the legislation. The bill’s major weakness is the fact it allows manufacturers to determine ingredient safety based on “adequate evidence”. Unfortunately, this means safety assessments could be issued by the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel and the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials. This is essentially the system we have in place now – and it’s failing to provide adequate protection. Manufacturers should be required to meet a more stringent safety standard that won’t rely on industry-backed science.

Women’s Voices for the Earth looks forward to working with Senators Feinstein and Collins and members of the HELP committee to ensure strong protections for salon workers and consumers are included in the bill. To read Women’s Voices analysis of the bill, click here.

New Data Reveals Toxic Chemicals in Nail Products

Posted May 21st, 2015

Research underscores the need for stronger regulations over ingredients used in salon products

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – May 21, 2015
National women’s health organization, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), has unearthed new data on the use of toxic chemicals in nail products. The data was culled from the California Safe Cosmetics Database and reveals that at least a dozen toxic chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm are being used in nail products.

The California Safe Cosmetics Database requires companies to report ingredients in their cosmetic products that are considered carcinogens or reproductive toxins under Proposition 65. The California Safe Cosmetics Act (the Act) requires companies that manufacture cosmetics to report any cosmetics products that contain ingredients known or suspected to cause cancer, birth defects or other reproductive harm.

Click here to review data.

The chemicals reported in nail products include the carcinogens formaldehyde, Cocamide DEA, benzophenone, as well as the reproductive toxins toluene and di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP). There are also a number of different artificial nail products that contain carcinogens and/or reproductive toxins, but companies do not have to disclose this ingredient, and instead hide these specific chemicals from consumers behind the term “trade secrets”.

The data underscores the Food and Drug Administration’s lack of authority when it comes to regulating ingredients in salon products. Currently, the FDA does not require premarket safety testing of ingredients in cosmetics and salon products, and because of a loophole in the law, salon products do not commonly carry a full listing of ingredients. While some ingredients may be listed on a Safety Data Sheet for a product, workers often have very limited knowledge of the chemicals to which they are being exposed. The data from the California Safe Cosmetics Database is one way to provide salon workers with ingredient information that otherwise wouldn’t be accessible.

Nail salon workers, and salon workers in general, are disproportionately impacted by toxic chemicals used in salon products, because they are handling the chemicals for on a daily basis for hours on end. The report, Beauty and its Beast, illustrates that nail salon workers are at greater risk of developing immune disorders such as lupus and primary biliary cirrhosis. Salon workers also experience higher rates of asthma than other professions, and have been shown to have decreased lung function. Sixty percent of salon workers suffer from skin conditions, such as dermatitis, which can be extremely debilitating.

“Salon workers can use protective equipment like nitrile gloves and respirators with organic carbon chemical cartridges, or N95 respirator dust masks to help reduce exposure to toxic chemicals in the workplace. Adequate ventilation at work stations can also help,” said Jamie McConnell, director of programs and policy at Women’s Voices for the Earth.

“But the bottom line is many of these chemicals, like the ones reported to California, shouldn’t be in these products in the first place,” said McConnell. “To truly protect the health of salon workers, we need to pass federal legislation that adequately regulates what’s allowed in these products.”

Recent regulations announced in New York by Governor Cuomo, will require a health review of chemical agents to determine whether action is needed on chemicals used in salon products. California has also introduced healthy salon recognition programs to help reduce the use of products that contain toxic chemicals.

“Over the last twenty years, nail salon services have tripled and cosmetology is now the fastest growing profession in California,” said Julia Liou, of the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and Administrator at Asian Health Services. “But while demand grows, regulation continues to lag on the toxic chemicals that end up in beauty and nail products – products that salon workers are consistently exposed. Salon workers are concerned about these harmful chemicals. And, quite simply, federal regulation is failing this growing workforce.”

“State initiatives are definitely a step in the right direction and help to bring attention to the harmful chemicals salon workers encounter on a daily basis,” said McConnell. “This issue, however, is a nationwide problem that needs a federal solution—namely legislation that will require manufacturers to substantiate the ingredients used on salon products.”
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Media Contacts:
Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science & Research at Women’s Voices
alexs@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office

Beth Conway, Communications & Outreach Manager at Women’s Voices
bethc@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office

Julia Liou, California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative and Administrator at Asian Health Services
jliou@ahschc.org, 310-804-9953

*The California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative & Women’s Voices of the Earth convene the National Healthy Nail & Beauty Salon Alliance

Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. www.womensvoices.org.

WVE has published several reports and factsheets on salon worker health safety including Glossed Over; Toxic Chemicals in Salon Products: What Stylists Need to Know; The Blowup on Brazilian Blowout and their most recent report, Beauty and Its Beast, which provides a comprehensive review of the unique chemical exposures that salon workers experience and the health impacts they suffer.

Clorox, SC Johnson, RB and Procter & Gamble Exposed in New Product Safety Report

Posted April 28th, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Media Contacts:
Beth Conway, bethc@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office
Alexandra Scranton, alexs@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office

Missoula, MT APRIL 28 2015 — A new report released by national women’s health non-profit, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), finds that the cleaning product industry is falling short in meeting consumer demands for safer products.

Titled Deep Clean: What the cleaning industry should be doing to protect your health, the report exposes how cleaning product companies use the lack of industry regulations as a loophole to keep customers in the dark about how they screen for dangerous chemicals and their overall standards of product safety.

The report rates four leading cleaning product manufacturers:

  • The Clorox Company: Clorox, Pine-Sol, S.O.S., Tilex, Liquid-Plumber, Green Works
  • Procter & Gamble: Tide, Cascade, Dawn, Mr. Clean, Dreft Laundry, Febreze, Gain, Cheer
  • RB (formerly Reckitt Benckiser): Woolite, Lysol, Finish, AirWick, Old English
  • SC Johnson & Son, Inc.: Pledge, Shout, Windex, Glade, Scrubbing Bubbles

According to the report, none of the four companies are fully transparent about the criteria included in their ingredient safety standards, making it impossible to compare the quality of any one company’s screening process to another.

“SC Johnson & Son often holds up their GreenlistTM screening process as evidence of its products safety,” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “But the company does not reveal to the public the actual standards it uses to assess safety. This simply doesn’t cut it anymore.”

The report reveals that SC Johnson is one of the only major companies still using hormone disrupting synthetic musks, calling into question the integrity of their screening process. In contrast, both RB and Clorox have publicly stated in recent years that they no longer allow the use of synthetic musks in their fragranced products.

“Consumers are not content to take marketing rhetoric at face value. They want to know how a synthetic musk that’s linked to hormone disruption can pass SC Johnson’s GreenlistTM,” said Switalski. “We need clear insight into how a company determines whether or not a chemical is safe to use in their products.”

Little regulation exists in the U.S. to limit or control the use toxic chemicals in consumer products. Until federal and state regulations set safety and transparency standards, it’s up to companies to set their own safety standards for products.

“Unfortunately, external oversight of chemical screening processes is virtually nonexistent, and there’s an overwhelming absence of industry standards,” said Alexandra Scranton, WVE’s Director of Science and Research. “Deep Clean provides the clear framework of what we expect – of what consumers expect – an effective screening process to look like. Critical to this framework is the simple task of publishing a company’s safety criteria in a transparent way.”

With words like trusted, family, quality, healthy and responsible commonplace throughout their branding and advertising, it’s clear that companies care about gaining the trust and loyalty of the American consumer. But – as Deep Clean illustrates – cleaning product companies can no longer rely solely on language and marketing jargon.

“Studies reveal that consumers, especially women, are spending their money on brands that reflect their concerns for safe products,” said Switalski.

Specifically, between 2007 and 2011, retail sales of green cleaners doubled from $303 million in annual sales to $640 million. A 2014 survey found that 81% of respondents make purchasing choices with product safety in mind, but only 42% believe companies are doing enough to make products safe.  Furthermore, mothers in particular express how important safer products are to them, with 70% of mothers saying they ‘would buy more of a specific brand if they were aware of its positive impacts.’

Since WVE launched their Safe Cleaning Products Initiative in 2007, they have taken aim at product safety, ingredient disclosure and eliminating toxic chemicals from cleaning products. As detailed in the Deep Clean report, manufacturers are responding to consumer demands and have made considerable strides towards removing certain toxic chemicals from their products and in publicly disclosing product ingredients for the first time on their websites.

“We’re delighted that consumer product companies have made great strides in ingredient disclosure in the last few years,” said Dr. Ann Blake, Ph.D., WVE board member and environmental and public health consultant. “However, there’s still a long way to go to our vision of transparent, systematic, consistent and stringent screening criteria for consumer product ingredients that reflect the latest science on cumulative low dose exposures to chemicals of concern.”

“It’s a start,” said Switalski. “But transparency is still a huge issue.  Assuring customers that products are ‘safe to use’ will ring hollow if companies don’t also explain what they mean by ‘safe’.”

Deep Clean is a resource for consumers, and a guideline for companies to use to establish strong and transparent processes for assessing ingredient safety,” said Switalski. “How successful they are in following this framework is crucial to truly gaining the trust and loyalty of their customers.”

Click here to download a copy of the report, Deep Clean.
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Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. Learn more at http://www.womensvoices.org

New Bill Will Protect Women’s Health from Serious Gaps in Feminine-Hygiene Regulation

Posted April 8th, 2015

Media Contacts:
Jamie McConnell, jamiem@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office
Alexandra Scranton, alexs@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office
Beth Conway, bethc@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office

MISSOULA, MT, April 2, 2015 — Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY) introduced a renewed version of her legislation focused on protecting women from potential health risks associated with feminine care products. The Robin Danielson Feminine Hygiene Product Safety Act (H.R. 1708) – named after a victim of Toxic Shock Syndrome from tampon use – would require the National Institute of Health (NIH) to support or conduct research on the risks posed by the presence of dioxin, colorants, dyes, preservatives, chemical fragrance and other chemicals used in tampons, pads and menstrual cups, as well as feminine wipes, douches and sprays. The bill also requires public reporting of the research.

“The average woman, for example, uses nearly 17,000 tampons in her lifetime. Yet little is known about the health impacts of chemicals used in a product that most women put inside this sensitive part of their bodies for days at a time on a monthly basis,” said Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research for Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE). “The extent of possible dangers related to feminine care products is grievously under-researched and the overall industry, woefully unregulated.”

In their report, Chem Fatale, Women’s Voices for the Earth details how the feminine care industry sells products containing unregulated and potentially harmful chemicals, including preservatives, pesticides, fragrances and dyes.

“Douche use has been linked to pelvic inflammatory disease, cervical cancer and other conditions. Some feminine wipes and deodorant include ingredients linked to endocrine disruption and reproductive harm,” said Scranton, lead author of the report Chem Fatale. “We need more research to determine the effects these chemicals have on one of the most sensitive and absorptive areas of a woman’s body.”

Tampons are used by up to 85 percent of menstruating women and may contain dioxins or pesticide residues linked to cancer, hormone disruptors, allergens and irritants from fragrance. Feminine wipes, feminine washes and feminine deodorant products contain toxic preservatives like parabens, which may be hormone disruptors, or quaternium-15 and DMDM hydantoin, which release cancer-causing formaldehyde. Most feminine care products are fragranced and commonly contain known fragrance allergens—including anti-itch products. These chemicals sometimes exacerbate the very symptoms a woman is intending to self-treat with these products.

In 2014, WVE commissioned laboratory testing of the popular pad brand, Always, and found the tested products emit toxic chemicals including carcinogens, and reproductive and developmental toxins. None of these chemicals are disclosed on the product by the manufacturer.

“Given the universal use of products like these by women over their lifetimes, it is imperative that we learn more to better protect women’s health,” said Scranton.

“Chemicals found in feminine care products may disproportionately affect black and Latina women as they are greater users of products such as douche and feminine wipes,” said Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director of Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights “We know that many of the most dangerous products that are found to cause chronic diseases also target women of color. The reality is knowledge isn’t enough — Latinas who already have health disparities, also face financial, economic, and geographic barriers to accessing safe alternatives. This is a reproductive justice issue, and a fundamental human rights issue that we must expose.”

“Women of color experience disproportionate health impacts related to chemical exposures where we live, work, play and pray,” said Ogonnaya Dotson Newman, Director of Environmental Health at WE ACT for Environmental Justice. “This bill brings us one step to closer to policy that protects the most vulnerable members of our community.”

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies most feminine care products as “cosmetics”. Yet, under current law, FDA does not approve cosmetics, or require testing to determine their safety. Instead it is the voluntary responsibility of cosmetic manufacturers to ensure, before marketing their products, that the products are safe. And while the FDA has issued guidelines for manufacturers on monitoring dioxin and pesticide levels in tampons, there are no similar guidelines for contaminants that may be found in pads, liners, cups, sponges, douches, wipes and similar products used by millions of women.

“There is a serious data gap here, not to mention a glaring lack of oversight, and women’s health may be paying the price,” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director of WVE. “This new legislation is necessary to help fill this void and provide women with the knowledge they need to make informed decisions about their health.”

“Research and regulation into feminine care products is long overdue,” said Switalski. “We strongly support Congresswoman Maloney’s Robin Danielson Act and we’re not alone.”

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Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. Learn more at www.womensvoices.org.

Quotes of support from feminine care product manufacturers

“Natracare organic and natural tampons and pads were developed 25 years ago out of concern for the impact on women’s health of potentially harmful and damaging ingredients commonly used in feminine hygiene products. We have, for many years, been committed to supporting the Robin Danielson Act championed by Carolyn Maloney.”

–Susie Hewson, founder and developer of Natracare

“In the seven years since the launch of our Maxim brand of Organic and Natural Chlorine Free Menstrual Products, we have had the honor of being the sound board for many women who share with us their personal accounts of the negative affects conventional tampons and pads have on them; everything from TSS to irritation and itchiness. Since there isn’t too much scientific data that captures these very real experiences we come in contact with on a daily basis, we couldn’t be more excited to hear that Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney has made a breakthrough in her 18 year long struggle to get Congress to hear the voices of the women we serve every day.

We salute WVE and Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney for giving this very important cause a voice and will continue to stand by it as long as our loyal fans continue to share their need for it!”

— Rebecca Alvandi, Vice President of Maxim Hygiene Products

“We pay attention to food chemicals that we put in our mouth (an opening to the body) so why shouldn’t we be just as concerned about the chemicals we put in our vagina (another opening to the body)?”

— Stacy Lyon, Founder, healthy hoohoo

“It is common sense that anything entering the body impacts its health either beneficially or detrimentally. The manufacturer of Lunette menstrual cups believes that, just as with food and drugs, women need full disclosure of the contents within the feminine hygiene products they purchase. Such knowledge guides buying decisions that have real life reproductive health implications. Without full disclosure, women unknowingly play Russian roulette with each month — the bullet coming years later in the form of cancer or other life altering illnesses.”

–Caron Rohman, Lune North America, Inc.

“As someone who has heard literally thousands of anecdotal stories about infections, rashes and other health complications related to disposable menstrual products, I will be relieved to finally see this grossly overdue research be done. Consumers of these products deserve to know what’s in them: it’s that simple.”

–Madeleine Shaw, Co-Founder & Creative Director, Lunapads

“Women deserve to know if dioxin and other carcinogens are in their tampons. The Robin Danielson Act would go a long way toward cancer prevention by making everyone more aware of the negative effects synthetic ingredients have on a woman’s body.”

–Jeannie Gallucci, Founder & CEO, Orchidea

“This bill is critical to women’s health. Bringing awareness to an issue that’s been swept under the rug since 1997 (when Carolyn Maloney introcuded similar legislation) will finally signal to women that their government cares about them.”

–Shelli Wright, Founder, True Moon

 

FDA Stalls, While Stylists Remain at Risk for Formaldehyde Poisoning

Posted March 12th, 2015

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – March 12, 2015

Media Contacts:
Jamie McConnell, jamiem@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office
Beth Conway, bethc@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office

MISSOULA, MT — Women’s health non-profit, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), is taking aim at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for their failure to protect consumers and stylists from the carcinogen, formaldehyde. WVE demonstrates the agency’s idleness on the issue in a new infographic that outlines the history of actions taken by states and other countries against Brazilian Blowout and similar hair straightening products containing the toxic chemical, formaldehyde – while in contrast – illustrates the FDA’s failure to act.

“Within the last five years, Brazilian Blowout has been subject to everything from class-action lawsuits to international recalls,” said Jamie McConnell, Director of Program and Policy at WVE. “Yet the FDA has done virtually nothing to protect consumers from the dangers of formaldehyde in hair straighteners.”

A 2014 analysis done by WVE found that at least 33 hair straighteners sold in the U.S contain formaldehyde, in some cases up to 9% of the product. A known carcinogen and allergen, formaldehyde is an active ingredient in many popular hair straighteners. This year the American Contact Dermatitis Society (ACDS) named formaldehyde its 2015 contact allergen of the year.

“The dangers of formaldehyde in hair straighteners is well documented – even the industry’s own self-policing panel, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review, has determined that formaldehyde in hair straighteners is unsafe. Yet the FDA has still not issued a voluntary recall,” said McConnell. “So we’re wondering, why the delay FDA?”

In 2010, stylists in Oregon and California were among the first to report health problems they had with Brazilian Blowout, including difficulty breathing, nose bleeds, and eye irritation, to state regulatory authorities.  Stylists continue to report adverse effects from this and similar hair straightening products today.

Since these initial reports, hair straightening products have been the subject of ongoing scrutiny.  For example, in 2011, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued a “hazard alert” to salon workers and owners, warning of the dangers of using formaldehyde-based hair straighteners.

Also in 2011, the FDA did take initial actions, directly warning the manufacturers of Brazilian Blowout that its hair straightening treatments were “adulterated” and “misbranded” and thus were subject to seizure. Again in 2013, the FDA reiterated that Brazilian Blowout continues to be misbranded because the labeling is still misleading.

Despite the warnings, there has been no FDA action to restrict consumer access to these dangerous products.  This week, the FDA’s most recent response to inquiries from Women’s Voices for the Earth stated:

“FDA is evaluating the [Brazilian Blowout] firm’s actions following issuance of the 2012 Warning Letter and is considering possible next steps for this and similar products.”

Meanwhile other countries like Ireland, Canada, France, Italy and Australia have recalled hair straighteners for containing formaldehyde.

Review the infographic here.

The dangers of formaldehyde exposure are not limited to the salon.  In the last five years, major manufacturers have responded to consumer concerns in regards to formaldehyde found in various personal care products:

  • 2011: Johnson & Johnson committed to removing formaldehyde releasers from their baby products by the end of 2013.  In 2012, they committed to eliminate these releasers from adult products by the end of 2015.
  • 2014: Bed, Bath & Beyond, the owners of Buy Buy Baby, included formaldehyde on its list of restricted substances.
  • 2014: Cosmetic giant, Revlon, announced it’s removing both various long-chain parabens and formaldehyde-releasing chemicals from its products.

The latest company to make headlines for a product containing formaldehyde is Lumber Liquidators. On March 1, 2015 CBS’ program, 60 Minutes exposed the dangerous levels of formaldehyde in Lumber Liquidator’s laminate flooring – in one case, testing showed that some products released 13-times more formaldehyde than permitted by the California Air Resources Board (CARB).

Clearly consumers are concerned about exposure to formaldehyde – and companies are paying attention. But the manufacturers of Brazilian Blowout and similar hair straightening products remain steadfast in their refusal to remove this chemical from their products.  Consumers and salon workers are left with little recourse than to rely on the authority of the FDA for protection.

“The larger problem remains that laws governing what companies can put into products are broken.  People trust that the products they are using are regulated and safe, but that simply isn’t the case,” said McConnell. “Policy changes need to be made so cancer-causing chemicals like formaldehyde aren’t allowed in the product in the first place. In the meantime, WVE is calling on the FDA to issue a voluntary recall of Brazilian Blowout in the U.S.”

About Women’s Voices for the Earth
Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. www.womensvoices.org.

WVE has published several reports and factsheets on salon worker health safety including Glossed Over; Toxic Chemicals in Salon Products: What Stylists Need to Know; The Blowup on Brazilian Blowout and their most recent report, Beauty and Its Beast, which provides a comprehensive review of the unique chemical exposures that salon workers experience and the health impacts they suffer.

The Udall-Vitter Chemical Policy Legislation Seriously Flawed

Posted March 11th, 2015

Women’s Voices for the Earth is urging senators not to sign on to the Udall-Vitter bill until its serious flaws are addressed

March 11, 2015 — Chemical policy legislation introduced this week by Senators Vitter and Udall fails to adequately update and strengthen the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) and does little to protect the public from harmful exposures to toxic chemicals. The bill makes too many concessions to the chemical industry and doesn’t solve the problem of fixing our broken system of managing chemicals used in consumer products. Not only is the review process for chemicals weak, it also takes away state’s ability to regulate chemicals and doesn’t protect communities most impacted by pollution from chemical plants.

“Congress can and should do better to protect us from chemicals found in everyday consumer products that cause cancer, birth defects, infertility, and a whole host of other chronic diseases. We don’t need a bill written by the chemical industry. What we need is real reform that will give the public peace of mind that the products they are bringing into their home and using on a daily basis will not harm their health. Women’s Voices for the Earth is urging senators not to sign on to the bill until some of these serious flaws are addressed” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director of Women’s Voices for the Earth.  ​

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Jamie McConnell, jamiem@womensvoices.org, (406) 543.3747, office
Erin Switalski, erins@womensvoices.org, (406) 543.3747, office

First-of-its-Kind Report Links Long-Term Chemical Exposure in Salons to Adverse Health Outcomes

Posted November 10th, 2014

Salon workers face disproportionate odds of cancer, low birth weight babies, miscarriage, asthma, dermatitis

MISSOULA, MT, November 11, 2014—Today, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) released Beauty and Its Beast: Unmasking the impact of toxic chemicals on salon workers, a first-of-its-kind report that analyzes the unique chemical exposures that salon workers experience, the health impacts they suffer, and the need for greater research, regulation, and innovation to ensure improved health and safety in the salon industry.

“Many salon workers pay too high a price for their jobs,” said Executive Director Erin Switalski. “Salon workers should be able to enjoy their work without paying a toll on their health.”

According to the Beauty and Its Beast report, hair sprays, permanent waves, acrylic nail application, and numerous other salon products contain ingredients associated with cancer, neurological symptoms, reproductive harm such as miscarriages and birth defects, asthma, and dermatitis. Examples of hazardous chemical ingredients found in salon products include formaldehyde, toluene, methyl methacrylate, p-phenylenediamine and ammonium persulfate. Elevated levels of hazardous and irritating chemicals such as toluene, ammonia, and methyl methacrylate have been detected in salon air, particularly in salons with minimal or no ventilation.

“Studies across the globe have found correlations between chemical exposures in salons and adverse health outcomes in employees,” said Alexandra Scranton, director of science and research for WVE. “However, until now, there has never been a comprehensive review of existing science that brings all the players onto one stage.”

Based on a review of the scientific literature, WVE found studies showing that hair salon workers have an increased risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer, lung cancer, cancer of the larynx, bladder cancer, and multiple myeloma. Hairdressers and cosmetologists are also more likely to give birth to low birth weight babies, especially when their work involves using hairspray and permanent waves, and have an increased risk of miscarriage and babies born with cleft palates.

In addition, a significant proportion of salon workers experience skin conditions like dermatitis, and breathing problems, such as asthma and cough, due to chemical exposures from their work. Some studies found that over 60% of salon workers suffer from skin conditions, such as dermatitis, on their hands. Salon workers are significantly more likely than comparison groups like office workers to suffer from cough and nasal and throat irritation due to their work.

“Once hair smoothing products like Brazilian Blowout hit salons nationwide, these health issues went to a whole new level because of exposure to formaldehyde, which is very toxic,” said Jennifer Arce, a salon worker based in San Diego, California. “Salon workers can experience bloody noses, sore throats, rashes, and respiratory infections from breathing in these fumes while working in the salon each day.”

WVE’s new report includes recommendations for protecting salon workers health including improved ventilation, the manufacture of safer products, participation in healthy salon recognition programs, as well as using safer products and appropriate protective equipment.

This report also strengthens the case for the need to pass legislation that will require safety substantiation of ingredients in salon products. Currently, the FDA does not require premarket safety testing of ingredients in cosmetics and salon products, and because of a loophole in the law salon products do not commonly carry a full listing of ingredients. While some ingredients may be listed on a Safety Data Sheet for a product, workers often have very limited knowledge of the chemicals to which they are being exposed.

As salon workers’ occupational health concerns have become more evident in recent years, advocates, salon workers, researchers, allies in government agencies, and others have come together to advocate for salon worker health, safety, and rights. In conjunction with the release of the report, this week WVE is in Washington, DC, with a delegation of salon workers and advocates, called the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance, for their third annual “Healthy Salons Week of Action.” The Alliance will meet with members of Congress to spotlight the health threats workers face from exposure to toxic chemicals in salon products. The Alliance is advocating for the full disclosure of ingredients in salon products and for legislation that will require safety substantiation of ingredients before they are used in products. Salon workers and advocates will also meet with officials from federal agencies including the Environmental Protection Agency, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, and the Food and Drug Administration to discuss ways the agencies can use their power to make salon safer places to work.

Arce added, “I’m going to Washington, DC, to speak with policy makers because they have the power to change our laws, and also to put some pressure on the FDA. It’s time for them to use the power they do have to issue a voluntary recall of Brazilian Blowout and other hair straighteners containing formaldehyde.”

Last year Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) introduced the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act (H.R. 1385), which would help to ensure ingredients in salon products are safe and require full ingredient disclosure for salon products. “The salon industry knows how to use really hazardous chemicals to do cool things to hair and nails. But, from our research, the price to salon workers’ health is much too high,” said Scranton. “Ultimately manufacturers need to innovate to create benign solutions for hair and nails that can accomplish the same tasks and achieve the same effects. Salon workers’ health depends on it.”

For more information and to download a copy of the report, visit www.womensvoices.org/salons.

MEDIA CONTACTS
Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research
alexs@womensvoices.org, (406) 396-1639, cell

Jamie McConnell, Director of Programs and Policy
jamiem@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office

Anuja Mendiratta, Co-founder, National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance
Anuja.healthysalons@yahoo.com, (510) 414-4330, cell

Women’s Voices for the Earth can provide salon worker contacts to members of the media.

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Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. Learn more at www.womensvoices.org.

Testing Reveals Toxic Chemicals in Procter & Gamble’s Always Pads

Posted October 13th, 2014

STAT Analysis results reveal secret carcinogens and reproductive toxins

MISSOULA, MT, October 14, 2014—A national women’s health nonprofit has released independent product-testing results that reveal undisclosed toxic chemicals in Always menstrual pads.

In August Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) commissioned STAT Analysis to analyze volatile and semi-volatile organic compounds in scented, unscented, and Infinity versions of ultra-thin pads sold under the Always brand, which is manufactured by consumer-product giant Procter & Gamble (P&G).

The results of the testing indicate that both scented and unscented Always pads emit toxic chemicals, including chemicals identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Toxicology Program, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, and the State of California Environmental Protection Agency, as carcinogens and reproductive and developmental toxins. The manufacturer discloses none of these chemicals on the product.

Some chemicals of concern detected include styrene (a human carcinogen), chloromethane (a reproductive toxicant), chloroethane (a carcinogen), chloroform (a carcinogen, reproductive toxicant, and neurotoxin), and acetone (an irritant). These chemicals also have industrial uses such as in the manufacturing of car tires, nail-polish remover, and Styrofoam, as well as in petroleum refining.

“Millions of women use these products on a monthly basis on an exceptionally sensitive and absorptive part of the body,” said WVE’s director of science and research, Alexandra Scranton. “Toxic chemicals like these have no place in a product meant to support women’s health. At the very least, disclosure of the ingredients used in these products is necessary so that women can have the information they need to make safe choices to protect their reproductive health.”

“The results demonstrate the need for more testing of these products to better understand the chemical exposures and potential health risks associated with these products,” explained Ami Zota, assistant professor of public health at George Washington University, noting the general dearth of scientific research about how personal-care products impact women’s health.

Currently, the FDA classifies tampons and pads as medical devices, which means ingredient disclosure is not required the way it is with cosmetics. WVE staff hopes that these test results will lead to better regulation of feminine products, requiring disclosure of ingredients, and to support for more research to help protect women’s health.

The Robin Danielson Act was recently introduced in Congress, which would require more research on the risks posed by the presence of chemical fragrances, synthetic fibers, and chemicals like dioxin in tampons and pads.

“We need more information on the presence of chemical contaminants in menstrual hygiene products. The Robin Danielson Act would invest in new research to help women better understand the risks associated with hygiene products so that they can make informed decisions about their health,” said Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), who introduced the bill last spring.

Along with the test results, WVE has joined with consumer advocate Andrea Donsky to deliver more than 21,000 signatures to P&G asking the company to list all ingredients and remove toxic chemicals.

“Because sanitary pads are considered to be a ‘medical device,’ the ingredients don’t have to be listed on the label or disclosed by the manufacturer,” explained Andrea Donsky, founder of NaturallySavvy.com. “To date, we have collected more than 21,000 signatures from women and men across North America who believe we have the right to know what the ingredients are in feminine-hygiene products women use on a daily or monthly basis.”

The release of the Always test results mark the latest escalation of Women’s Voices for the Earth’s “Detox the Box” campaign, which so far has included a scientific report, Chem Fatale, and a spoof music video calling on the world’s largest feminine-product manufacturer, Procter & Gamble, to disclose and remove potentially harmful ingredients from Tampax and Always brands.

Learn more at www.womensvoices.org/DetoxTheBox.

DETOX THE BOX ADVISORY BOARD MEMBER QUOTES

“The fact that there are reproductive toxicants in products that are made for women is incredibly alarming,” said Kimberly Inez McGuire, director of public affairs at the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health. “Women have a right to know if there are chemicals that could harm their reproductive health in pads that are used for several days, on a monthly basis, on some of the most absorptive skin on their bodies. Products like these pose particular harm to Latinas, who are less likely to have access to health care and more likely to be exposed to toxic chemicals at home and at work.”

Kimberly Inez McGuire, Director of Public Affairs, National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health

“Corporate companies such as Tampax and Always have devised manipulative, marketable messaging in order to ‘miseducate’ young women about feminine care—and manipulate women who trust these products. Companies must disclose ingredients and make them accessible so that women will know what chemicals to look out for—such as chloroform and chloromethane, both of which are reproductive toxins. This is a reproductive justice issue and a fundamental human rights issue that we must expose.”
Cristina Aguilar, Executive Director, Colorado Organization for Latina Opportunity and Reproductive Rights

“Young women of all ages and backgrounds are facing a serious problem. From the results of this study, it’s obvious that we’re not being told the whole story, or the truth. In this case we stand with young women globally to demand transparency and their right to health. Ethical companies dedicated to the wellbeing of people and our ​planet have already proven their product’s efficacy, without the need for toxic chemicals.”
Ashley Ugarte, President, Teens Turning Green

“The time has come for us to hold companies accountable for products that contain carcinogens, teratogens, and all other harmful chemicals that inhibit the growth and development the of adults and children. We must begin to think about the importance of using the precautionary principle. In order to build healthy communities, we must have healthy products and protective policies.”

Ogonnaya Dotson-Newman, WEACT for Environmental Justice

MEDIA CONTACTS
Alexandra Scranton, alexs@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office
Cassidy Randall, cassidyr@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office

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Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. Learn more at www.womensvoices.org.

 

SC Johnson Announces an End to Fragrance Secrecy

Posted October 9th, 2014

Makers of Glade become the first major consumer product company to list product-specific fragrance ingredients

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
October 9, 2014

SC Johnson (Glade, Windex, Pledge) announced today that it would begin disclosing product-specific fragrance ingredients in its cleaning and air-care products beginning in 2015, becoming the first major mainstream company to break the long-held secrecy around fragrance ingredients. Reckitt Benckiser (Airwick, Lysol) and Clorox announced they would begin disclosing fragrance allergens in their U.S. products earlier this year, but SC Johnson’s announcement of full disclosure is the first of its kind.

“We’re proud to see SC Johnson truly embody their claims of honesty and transparency,” said Erin Switalski, executive director of Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), a women’s health organization that has been advocating for full ingredient disclosure in products since 2007. “SC Johnson’s historic announcement today means that consumers will finally have information they need to make safe and healthy decisions.”

SC Johnson’s move represents a major step in breaking the airtight secrecy companies have maintained around fragrance ingredients in consumer products. This announcement is likely to affect fragrance disclosure policies across industries, including cleaning products, personal care and salon products, and more.

Last year, WVE partnered with the advocacy group SumOfUs.org to deliver the cleaning product giant more than 51,000 signatures from consumers asking to know what ingredients make up the fragrances in the company’s scented products.

“We applaud SC Johnson for listening to its consumers and prioritizing their right to know what is in the products they’re using in their homes,” Switalski said.

By spring 2015, SC Johnson will begin to disclose product-specific fragrance ingredients in its air care products—including sprays, candles, oils and gels—initially in the U.S. and Canada, followed by Europe. Ingredients will be disclosed online at www.WhatsInsideSCJohnson.com. For those product categories outside of air care, such as home cleaning, SC Johnson has said it will list fragrance ingredients as the program expands, although the company hasn’t announced a timeline for this.

Chemicals of concern in fragrance are linked to allergies, cancer, birth defects, and infertility, yet companies across industries have historically maintained that these ingredients are trade secrets. The only ingredient information consumers usually see on a label is the word “fragrance” and any one fragrance can be a mixture of up to 100 different chemicals, out of more than 3,000 commonly used fragrance chemicals.

Since 2007, Women’s Voices for the Earth has run a sustained campaign to promote full ingredient disclosure in the cleaning products industry. In 2007, WVE released Household Hazards, a report identifying chemicals of concern listed on cleaning product safety data sheets—the only form of ingredient disclosure available to consumers at the time. The cleaning product industry responded by initiating a voluntary online ingredient disclosure program, which led to major manufacturers disclosing most cleaning product ingredients for the first time. In 2010, WVE released What’s That Smell?, a report examining the impact of undisclosed toxic chemicals in fragranced cleaning products on women’s health, including phthalates, synthetic musks, and allergens. Cleaning product manufacturers including SC Johnson, Clorox, and Procter & Gamble responded by publicly releasing fragrance ingredient palettes used to manufacture their scented products. In 2013, WVE released the report Secret Scents: How Hidden Fragrance Allergens Harm Public Health, which reported that tens of millions of people suffer from skin allergies associated with fragrance ingredients. Clorox and Reckitt Benckiser responded by committing to disclose fragrance allergens on a product-specific basis. SC Johnson is now the first mainstream cleaning product company to disclose all fragrance ingredients on a product-specific basis.

“We hope that other companies will follow SC Johnson’s lead,” Switalski said. “At this point, companies that don’t list all fragrance ingredients look like they have something to hide. Consumers have a right to know, and increasingly, they’re demanding that right.”

Media Contact
Cassidy Randall, Director of Outreach & Engagement
cassidyr@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office

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Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With members across the United States and Canada, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. Learn more at www.womensvoices.org.