[En Español]

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.

Clorox Breaks Secrecy Around Fragrance Ingredients

Posted September 15th, 2014

Company announces disclosure of fragrance allergens in response to consumer demand

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 16, 2014

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

Clorox victory image

Clorox announced today that it would begin disclosing fragrance allergens in its cleaning and disinfecting products in the U.S. and Canada, becoming the second major cleaning product company to do so. (Reckitt Benckiser (Airwick, Lysol) began disclosing fragrance allergens in its U.S. products earlier this year.) Clorox’s disclosure represents another huge step forward in breaking the airtight secrecy companies have maintained around fragrance ingredients in consumer products.

“As a household name in this country, Clorox’s move to disclose fragrance allergens means that millions of people will have more information to protect their health and the health of their families,” said Erin Switalski, executive director at Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE). “People want to be able to avoid potentially harmful ingredients in products they use everyday, and we applaud Clorox for listening to its consumers’ concerns.”

Clorox announced that allergens will be disclosed online on the company’s Ingredients Inside website and smartphone ingredient app beginning in early 2015.

In 2013, Women’s Voices for the Earth released the report Secret Scents: How Hidden Fragrance Allergens Harm Public Health that found that tens of millions of people suffer from fragrance allergies. Consumers in the U.S. have virtually no way to avoid chemicals that trigger allergic reactions because federal laws don’t require disclosure of ingredients used in cleaning products. In the European Union, cleaning product companies are required to disclose the presence of allergens.

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

In 2011 Clorox was the first major company to increase disclosure of fragrance ingredients with the publication of a master list of 1,200 fragrance ingredients used in all their products, although the ingredients on that list are not associated with specific products. The company’s announcement to list fragrance allergens will give consumers the information they need to avoid allergens in a specific product.

Clorox’s major competitor SC Johnson (Glade, Windex) has yet to commit to disclosing fragrance allergens in the U.S., although the company lists fragrance allergens in its E.U products.

“We hope that SC Johnson will follow Clorox’s lead and increase fragrance ingredient disclosure,” Switalski said, noting that WVE’s “Glade’s Toxic Secrets” campaign and spoof website, www.whatsreallyinsidescjohnson.com, has led to more than 60,000 consumers urging the company to make this change.

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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.

 

Women’s Health Organization Criticizes Always “Like a Girl” Ad

Posted July 21st, 2014

 Viral Always ad peddles products with toxic chemicals that harm women’s health

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 21, 2014

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

CINCINNATI—Procter & Gamble has hit it big—21 million views so far—with its new “Like a Girl” ad promoting female empowerment and Always menstrual pads, but as far as one leading national women’s health organization is concerned, the company has missed the mark.

“While it’s great to encourage girls to challenge stereotypes of what they can and can’t do, coming from a company that markets products that include toxic chemicals known to cause cancer, reproductive harm, and hormone disruption, the message seems hypocritical,” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director of Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Women’s Voices for the Earth’s “Detox the Box” campaign includes a report as well as a spoof music video that demands P&G’s Tampax and Always brands disclose all ingredients and remove harmful chemicals from pads and tampons. Despite receiving more than 30,000 views on YouTube, P&G has not yet responded to WVE’s requests.

“It’s condescending to assume women will buy products based on a slickly-produced ad by one of the world’s biggest companies rather than weighing scientifically-sound information when deciding whether or not Always products are right for them,” said Switalski. “If they truly care about empowering women to make the best decisions for themselves and their daughters, P&G would disclose all ingredients in its tampons and pads and remove those that may harm our health.”

“Like a Girl” has been shared 300,000 times on Facebook and 40,000 times on Twitter.

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. Learn more at www.womensvoices.org.

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New Patent Analysis Shows Toxic Risk From Tampons

Posted July 15th, 2014

Women’s Voices examines harmful chemicals in common products

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
July 15, 2014

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

CINNCINATI—New research and analysis by Women’s Voices for the Earth about toxic chemicals in tampons examines what ingredients comprise this product used by a vast majority of women nationwide, including specific toxic chemicals that may be found in the product’s absorptive materials, as well as additives and fragrances that may put women’s health at risk.

According to WVE’s director of science and research, Alexandra Scranton, the potential impact of toxic chemical exposure from tampons on health is significant because they are used internally, in direct contact to some of the most sensitive and absorptive skin on a woman’s body.

“Despite the widespread use of tampons by numerous women, relatively little research has been conducted to assess the health impacts of chemical exposure from these products,” Scranton said.

Vaginal tissue is lined with permeable mucous membranes, which protect the body from bacteria, but which can also easily absorb or be irritated by other chemicals, Scranton said, adding that vaginal tissues are filled with blood vessels and thus are a direct route for chemicals to be absorbed into the bloodstream. She cited a study by the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology that showed that hormone chemicals, like estrogen, are absorbed vaginally at 10-80 times the rate that the same dose would be absorbed orally.

What’s in a Tampon Anyway?

Scranton’s research shows that while manufacturers disclose the main components of tampons, the list usually looks something like this: “Rayon and/or cotton fiber, polyethylene overwrap, cotton cord, cardboard applicator.” What’s missing is the disclosure of the other potential absorptive materials, additives, fragrances, and potential contaminants that can be found in tampons. Public patent documents acquired by WVE and held by tampon and pad manufacturer Procter & Gamble (US Patent #6,840,927) indicate a number of other chemicals they may be adding to tampons, including:

  • Creped cellulose wadding
  • Meltblown polymers
  • Chemically-stiffened fibers, polyester fibers, peat moss, foam
  • Tissue wraps and laminates
  • Super absorbent gels and open-celled foams

Examples of additives that may be used in tampons include:

  • Myreth-3-myristate (as lubricant) (US Patent # 5,591,123)
  • Natural and synthetic zeolites (as odor-absorbing particles) (US Patent # 5,161,686)
  • Alcohol ethoxylates
  • Glycerol esters, polysorbate-20 (as surfactants to disperse fragrance)
  • Unnamed anti-bacterial agents (US Patent # 8,585,668)

Scented tampons are infused with fragrance, which could be made up of combinations of any of nearly 3,000 different chemicals. Examples of potentially harmful chemicals that have been found in fragrance include:

  • Cancer-causing chemicals such as: styrene, pyridine, methyleugenol, and butylated hydroxyanisole
  • Phthalates of concern (DEP and DINP)
  • Synthetic musks (potential hormone disruptors)
  • Numerous allergens.[i]

WVE’s analysis also showed that contaminants can occur in tampons from the processing of individual components. Dioxins and furans are contaminants that come from chlorine bleaching of cotton and have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm, and endocrine disruption.[ii] Additional studies have confirmed that tampons contain low levels of dioxins and furans. While the studies generally conclude that the health risk from exposure to dioxins and furans from tampon use is insignificant compared to the risk of exposure to dioxins and furans we get from eating food, Scranton said women deserve to know all of the ingredients they are inserting into their bodies.[iii],[iv]

“The discussion of the impacts of exposure did not address the application or location of the exposure,” she explained. “While the overall contribution of dioxins and furans to a woman’s blood stream may be minor compared to contributions from the food supply, the health impacts of direct exposure of dioxins and furans to vaginal tissue needs greater examination.”

Lastly, WVE’s research analysis shows pesticide residues can contaminate tampons made from traditionally grown cotton,[v] including Procymidon, which EPA has determined to be a “probable human carcinogen,” and piperonyl butoxide, which has been determined to be a “possible human carcinogen.”

“The biggest problem is the lack of research on this topic,” Scranton said. “Given the widespread use of these products by women across their lifetime, greater scrutiny is clearly needed.”

WVE suggests women concerned about toxic chemicals in feminine products purchase unscented, unbleached tampons, and look for companies – like the ones in their “No Secrets” feminine care coalition of companies – that list all of their ingredients and make products without toxic chemicals.

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. Learn more atwww.womensvoices.org.

Sources

[i] International Fragrance Association (IFRA) (2013) IFRA Survey: Transparency List. Available at: http://www.ifraorg.org/en-us/ingredients

[ii] DeVito, MJ and Schecter, A. (2002) Exposure assessment to dioxins from the use of tampons and diapers. Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 110, No. 1, pp:23-28. Jan. 2002.

[iii] DeVito, MJ and Schecter, A. (2002) Exposure assessment to dioxins from the use of tampons and diapers. Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 110, No. 1, pp:23-28. Jan. 2002.

[iv] Archer JC., Mabry-Smith R., Shojaee S., Threet J., Eckert JJ. and Litman VE. (2005) Dioxin and Furan Levels Found in Tampons. Journal of Women’s Health. Vol. 14, No. 4. 2005.

[v][v] Naturally Savvy (2013). http://naturallysavvy.com/care/is-there-pesticide-residue-on-your-tampons-our-independent-testing-gets-specific

‘Detox the Box’ Video Highlighting Toxic Pads, Tampons, Goes Viral

Posted May 23rd, 2014

Spoof of SNL’s “Dick in a Box” Reaches 15,000 views in under a week

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
May 27, 2014

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Cassidy Randall, cassidyr@womensvoices.org, (406) 543-3747, office
Caitlin Copple, caitlin.j.copple@gmail.com, (406) 493-4281, mobile

MISSOULA, Mont.— More than 15,000 people have viewed Women’s Voices for the Earth’s hilarious “Detox the Box” video less than a week after it was released. Based on SNL’s wildly popular “Dick in Box” featuring Justin Timberlake, “Detox the Box” aims to convince Procter & Gamble, maker of Tampax and Always and one the world’s largest feminine product manufacturers, to disclose and remove toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, allergic rashes and more.

“We’re thrilled that thousands of women are responding to the serious message behind this fun spoof video,” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “Women have tremendous economic power, and the more this catches on, the more companies will be held accountable for ingredients that harm our health.”

According to WVE’s groundbreaking “Chem Fatale” report released last fall, 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.

So far, Procter & Gamble has remained silent about WVE’s findings and the new video.

“Our research shows Procter & Gamble uses carcinogens likestyrene, pyridine and methyleugenol in its products, as well as endocrine disruptors like synthetic musks,“ Switalksi said. “In the absence ingredient disclosure, women have no way of knowing whether Tampax and Always, which women may use for several days each month on extremely sensitive skin, contain these toxic chemicals.”

“This video is not only a hilarious way to talk about an uncomfortable subject,” said Cassidy Randall, Director of Outreach and Engagement at Women’s Voices for the Earth and producer of the film. “It sends a hard-hitting message to the biggest consumer product company on the planet that women will no longer stand for secret toxic chemicals in products we use on some of the most absorptive skin on our bodies.”

Special thanks to film directors Gita Saedi Kiely of West of Kin Productions and Katy-Robin Garton of Sprout Films.

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. Learn more at www.womensvoices.org.

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