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Failed Cosmetics Law Leaves Stylists Exposed to Toxic Chemicals

Posted September 17th, 2013

New resource helps stylists, manicurists, and customers advocate for safer products

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – September 12, 2013

MEDIA CONTACTS:
Jamie McConnell, jamiem@womensvoices.org, (406) 543.3747, office
Caitlin Copple, caitlin.j.copple@gmail.com, (406) 493.4281, mobile

SAN DIEGO — Bloody noses. Blistering rashes. Piercing migranes. These are just a few of the symptoms veteran hairstylist Jennifer Arce experienced after before diagnosed with chemical poisoning by her physician. The source? A product millions of women use to straighten their hair every day: Brazilian Blowout.

Arce, a stylist in San Diego for more than 18 years, used the experience to organize other affected colleagues to take their stories to California lawmakers and the FDA. Brazilian Blowout has since been banned in the state, but similar hair smoothing products also containing carcinogenic formaldehyde remain on the market. Her next step is distributing a new fact sheet from Women’s Voices for the Earth to salon workers and clients. The fact sheet describes chemicals to avoid in hopes more salons will choose to go green for the health of their customers and stylists.

“Many of my collegues have been bullied, threatened physically, and threatened to be fired for speaking up about being sick or for not wanting their clients exposed to toxic formaldehyde,” Arce said. “Many of us don’t have health insurance. Our health and our livelihoods are being taken away from us and we are not going to let this happen without a fight.”

The fact sheet can be viewed here.

“We hope the fact sheet will educate consumers and workers and inspire them to work for change at the policy level,” explained Erin Switalski, WVE’s executive director. “Salon products are exempt from ingredient labeling requirements, limiting the availability of this important information on chemical exposure, so we are trying to fill in the gaps.”

Like many products containing toxic chemicals, what’s considered good enough for American consumers is banned in the European Union. A recent study by RAPEX, an EU regulatory body, discovered nine keratin hair smoothing products containing high levels of formaldehyde, which resulted in their removal from European markets.  Yet they remain widely available in the US, and several of the products are falsely touted “formaldehyde-free.”

Under current federal regulations, it is legal for cosmetics manufacturers to use unlimited amounts of virtually any ingredient in salon and professional use products, as well as those sold to the general public, including chemicals linked to cancer, reproductive and developmental harm, hormone disruption and other adverse health impacts, with no pre-market safety assessment.

A growing body of scientific evidence indicates there is reason for concern, showing hairdressers are at increased risk of cancers of the lung, larynx, bladder and multiple myeloma compared to the general population. One study has shown that nail salon workers have higher levels of di-n-butyl phthalate (DBP), a reproductive and developmental toxicant, than the general population. Another study found that beauticians and hairdressers are likely to have significant exposure to solvents that are linked to birth defects. Other studies have found cosmetologists are at a higher risk for having spontaneous abortions and low birth weight babies.

As for Arce, she’s considering switching careers. She doesn’t want to stop being a stylist—she loves helping her longtime clients look and feel their best, but her health can’t withstand the constant exposure.

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Founded in 1995, 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 is changing corporate practices, holding government accountable, and ensuring a toxic-free future for all. Learn more at www.womensvoices.org. WVE is a founding member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the National healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance.

For more information about the Safe Comestics and Personal Care Products Act, visit the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics website here.

Walmart Announces Prohibition of 10 Toxic Chemicals and Increased Disclosure of Ingredients

Posted September 12th, 2013

September 12, 2013 – Today, the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, announced that it will begin a process to phase out at least 10 harmful chemicals from the cleaning products, cosmetics, and personal care products they carry, and require increased ingredient disclosure for these product categories.

“We are pleased that Walmart is making this commitment towards safer products and transparency,” said Erin Switalski, executive director of Women’s Voices for the Earth. “In particular, Walmart’s announcement is a good step forward in increasing transparency in the cleaning product industry, where no federal law currently exists to require this disclosure.”

Starting in January 2014, Walmart will begin to identify private brand cleaning products for labeling in accordance with the EPA’s Design for the Environment (DfE) Safer Labeling program. This means that product ingredients must be disclosed either on a product label, through a website, or through a toll-free number. The labeling program also requires the disclosure of the Chemical Service Abstract number or CAS #, which is a unique chemical identifier.

“Unfortunately, the DfE program does not require full disclosure of fragrance ingredients, so customers will still be left in the dark about some of the chemicals they are being exposed to in a product,” said Ms. Switalski. “Overall, it’s a great first step and we applaud Walmart’s initiative towards safer products and ingredient transparency.”

Procter & Gamble Eliminating Phthalates, Triclosan from Products Worldwide

Posted September 5th, 2013

Safe cosmetics activists pressure other companies to stop using toxic chemicals in personal care products, fragrances

PG products

For Immediate Release:
September 4th, 2013

Contact:
Margie Kelly, 541-222-9699, mkelly@breastcancerfund.org
Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org

Due to public pressure and growing concerns about the safety of chemicals found in common cosmetics, household cleaners and fragranced products, Procter & Gamble (P&G) will achieve total elimination of the toxic chemicals triclosan and diethyl phthalate (DEP) from all its products by 2014, according to an announcement on the company’s website. P&G is the world’s largest manufacturer of consumer products, home to iconic brands including Cover Girl, Tide, Crest and Ivory.

“The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics congratulates P&G for taking bold and globally-significant action to protect the health of its 4.8 billion consumers by eliminating two dangerous toxic chemicals—triclosan and DEP—from all its products,” said Janet Nudelman, program director at the Breast Cancer Fund and co-founder of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has been urging companies to eliminate phthalates from personal care products since 2002. Because of this pressure, many cosmetics companies have stopped using two dangerous phthalates, DBP and DEHP, but the industry has continued to widely use DEP in fragrance.

“P&G is taking an important step in the right direction,” said Nudelman. “Major multinational cosmetic companies have no business using toxic chemicals linked to health concerns including cancer and reproductive harm to manufacture personal care products. Now it’s time for the other industry giants like Avon, Estee Lauder, Revlon, L’Oreal and Unilever to clean up their act by eliminating these and other toxic chemicals from their cosmetics and personal care products.”

Jamie McConnell, director of programs and policy at Women’s Voices for the Earth, said, “P&G has taken a great step in giving consumers more confidence in their products. We hope the company continues this trend and eliminates the other toxic chemicals it uses in fragrance, like styrene.”

P&G reports on its website that the company has been “working for several years to eliminate DEP from the fragrances used in our products” and is “70% of the way there and will be finished by 2014.” Although P&G maintains that DEP is safe and, according to its website, is phasing out the chemical because “we understand that DEP can get mistakenly linked to other phthalates in the public discussion because of its name,” the company’s move is expected to have a ripple effect throughout the industry.  Said Nudelman, “A company of P&G’s size and stature taking this kind of action proves that any company can and should also do so.”

Clearly P&G’s top leadership has determined making safer products is good for business. And they are not alone. In 2012, Johnson & Johnson’s (J&J) made a historic commitment to remove chemicals linked to adverse health effects from its products. These actions by P&G and J&J validate that companies are seeking to grow their businesses while satisfying consumers concerns about the presence of toxic chemicals in products they bring into their homes.

“It’s encouraging to see large multinational companies like Johnson & Johnson and now Procter & Gamble listening to their customers’ feedback in terms of safer products,” said Cindy Luppi, Clean Water Action New England Director. “This is smart business as well as smart health protection for families concerned about cancer and other chronic illness linked to toxic cosmetic chemicals.”

According to P&G’s website, triclosan was targeted for elimination due to outstanding questions about its efficacy in reducing bacteria over regular soap and water. The FDA is reviewing triclosan for safety due to scientific studies that show triclosan contributes to antibacterial resistance. In response to consumer concerns, J&J also pledged to remove triclosan from its products by 2015.

Timeline: Campaign for Safe Cosmetics Pressures Companies to Eliminate Phthalates for More than a Decade

2002: The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics released the report “Not Too Pretty,” which tested 72 personal care products and found 72 percent contained multiple phthalates, which were linked to birth defects, asthma, early puberty, and decreased sperm count.

2004: A combination of pressure by advocacy groups and the European Union’s decision to ban two dangerous phthalates, DBP and DEHP, led companies to move away from those two chemicals; however the industry continues to widely use the phthalate DEP.

2008: The Campaign released a follow-up report “A Little Prettier” that found much of the industry had made progress in removing phthalates from their products, and was primarily relying on DEP.

2010: The Campaign’s report “Not So Sexy” found DEP in 12 of the 17 fragrances tested.

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The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a national coalition of more than 175 nonprofit organizations working to protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics. Women’s Voices for the Earth is a co-founder and on the steering committee of the Campaign.

 

50,000 Consumers Demand Fragrance Information from SC Johnson

Posted July 9th, 2013

Women’s Voices for the Earth, SumOfUs.org join forces against secret toxic chemicals in Glade

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 9, 2013

CONTACT
Cassidy Randall, cassidyr@womensvoices.org, 406.543.3747
Rob Wohl, rob@sumofus.org, 528.481.7436

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today advocacy groups SumOfUs.org and Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) presented cleaning product manufacturing giant SC Johnson & Son with more than 51,000 signatures from consumers demanding to know what ingredients make up the fragrances in the company’s scented products. The groups hope SC Johnson will respond by listing fragrance ingredients for each of their products.

The petition delivery comes the same day that Women’s Voices for the Earth launched “What’s Really Inside SC Johnson” at www.whatsreallyinsidescjohnson.com.The website features a commercial that spoofs the corporate website, “What’s Inside SC Johnson,” and mocks the company’s stated commitment to ingredient disclosure.”

“SC Johnson publicly touts their commitment to honesty and transparency while keeping fragrance ingredients in products a secret, and their customers find this double standard unacceptable,” said Cassidy Randall, Director of Outreach and Engagement at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “Consumers have a right to know what chemicals are in products like Glade, especially if those chemicals may harm their health.”

Consumer outrage at the cleaning product giant ignited after independent test results commissioned by WVE revealed that the iconic air freshener product line, Glade, contains chemicals linked to hormone disruption, reproductive harm in baby boys, increased risk of breast cancer, and allergic reactions.

“In the European Union, where disclosure rules are stricter, Glade products already have labels about their ingredients, so we know that S.C. Johnson could easily be more transparent.,” said SumOfUs Campaign Manager Kaytee Riek. “But it’s chosen to keep customers in the U.S. in the dark. S.C. Johnson wants to be seen as a leader on transparency, and this is its chance to live up to that billing. By labeling potentially harmful ingredients in Glade products, it can help set a new standard in the fragrance industry.”

Last year, SC Johnson published a master list of nearly 1,500 ingredients used in their fragrances. However, these ingredients aren’t product-specific; the company’s fragranced products may include any of those chemicals, meaning that consumers can’t tell what specifically is in their products.

Based on this list, some chemicals of concern found in SC Johnson products include:

  • • Galaxolide and Tonalide, which are synthetic musks linked to hormone disruption. These chemicals are showing up in blood and breast milk and research shows they may break down the body’s defenses against other toxic exposures.
  • • All 26 of the chemicals that the EU has identified as allergens and already require on product labels there.
  • • Terpenes, which can react with ground level ozone in the air to form cancer-causing formaldehyde.
  • • Petroleum – the same compound in gasoline.

The tagline in WVE’s spoof website and commercial is, “Secret toxic chemicals: from the SC Johnson family to yours.” It parodies SC Johnson’s own statements about the company’s commitment to honesty and transparency: “We know you value transparency, and we’re committed to sharing what’s inside our products,” “Today’s families want to know what’s in the household cleaning and air freshening products they use in their homes,” and “That’s why we disclose all ingredients… So you know what you’re bringing into your home.”

Consumers who signed the petition to SC Johnson are also outraged by the company’s double standard on allergen disclosure. SC Johnson discloses allergens directly on product labels in the EU, but has refused to disclose the same allergens in their U.S. products because they’re not required to by law.

Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm women’s health by changing consumer behaviors, corporate practices and government policies. To learn more, visit www.womensvoices.org.

SumOfUs is a world-wide movement for a better global economy. To learn more, visit www.sumofus.org.

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Bipartisan Chemical Reform Bill Introduced in Congress

Posted May 22nd, 2013

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Women’s Voices for the Earth Statement

May 22, 2013

Today, Senators Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) and David Vitter (R-LA) introduced a groundbreaking bipartisan bill in Congress to modernize the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA). TSCA has not been updated since 1976, and is not sufficient for protecting public health from toxic chemicals like phthalates, lead, BPA, flame retardants, and other harmful chemicals.

Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE) is pleased to see bi-partisan support for chemical policy reform with the recent introduction of the Chemical Safety Improvement Act of 2013 (S.1009). However, there are many areas of the bill that need to be strengthened in order to achieve meaningful reform of our broken chemical policy laws. WVE will continue to work to ensure S. 1009 includes provisions that will protect women’s health to the highest standard possible and increase transparency of the chemicals used in products we come into contact with every day.

To learn more, read the press release from Senator Lautenberg’s office on the bill release here.

Toxics Reform Bill Debuts in Senate

Posted April 11th, 2013

Montana Senators Cosponsor Bill to Protect Kids and Families

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 10th, 2013

Contact:
Jamie McConnell, Women’s Voices for the Earth, 406-543-3747
Sarah Cobler, Montana Conservation Voters, 406-581-2284

Missoula, MT –Today Montana’s Senators Baucus and Tester joined 25 other U.S. Senators introducing the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013. The legislation would provide long overdue fixes to the nation’s broken chemical policies and limit the use of unsafe chemicals linked to cancer and other illnesses.

With toxics turning up in furniture, soup cans, baby lotion and thousands of other products, the bill is viewed as essential by some of the nation’s top health and environment groups. The 37-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act that is currently in place is riddled with loopholes that permit harmful ingredients into every corner of the home.

“Our cabinets and cupboards are filled with products containing toxic substances that are dangerous and it’s absolutely preventable” said Chantel Scheiffer, Bozeman mom and board member for Montana Conservation Voters. “Our senators are champions for kids and families in Montana, and it is time for Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act.”
The Safe Chemicals Act would go a long way toward protecting Americans from chemicals that are linked to reproductive and developmental disorders, cancers and other illnesses that are costly to treat and often preventable. Specifically, it would:

  • Require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify and restrict the “worst of the worst” chemicals.
  • Require basic health and safety information for chemicals.
  • Upgrade scientific methods for assessing chemical safety.
  • Arm the EPA with the authority it needs to restrict chemicals that pose health and environmental concerns.
  • Provide incentives to grow the green chemistry industry.

“Hundreds of chemicals are drifting unchecked into our bodies, chemicals that are strongly linked to a whole host of diseases including asthma, autism, and cancer.  When you look at the numbers of how these diseases have been on a steady rise over the last several decades, it raises questions.  As a nurse, you have to ask yourself, how many fewer patients would walk through our doors if we weren’t constantly exposed to toxic chemicals in everyday products?” said Kelli Barber, co-chair of the Nurses Workgroup for Health Care Without Harm.

Hundreds of Montanans across the state have spoken up for safer chemicals by emailing, writing letters and signing petitions urging Senators Baucus and Tester to support strengthening chemical policy laws in the U.S.
“This is an issue that is very important to women in Montana and we’re pleased that Senators Baucus and Tester have responded to their concerns,” said Jamie McConnell, director of programs and policy at Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Several groups in Montana support passing stronger chemical policies including: Health Care Without Harm, Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund and Women’s Voices for the Earth. http://www.womensvoices.org/campaigns/safe-chemicals/

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Toxics Reform Bill Debuts in Senate

Posted April 10th, 2013

Montana Senators Cosponsor Bill to Protect Kids and Families

For Immediate Release:
April 10th, 2013

Contact:
Jamie McConnell, Women’s Voices for the Earth, 406-543-3747
Sarah Cobler, Montana Conservation Voters, 406-581-2284

MISSOULA, MT – Today Montana’s Senators Baucus and Tester joined 25 other U.S. Senators introducing the Safe Chemicals Act of 2013. The legislation would provide long overdue fixes to the nation’s broken chemical policies and limit the use of unsafe chemicals linked to cancer and other illnesses.

With toxics turning up in furniture, soup cans, baby lotion and thousands of other products, the bill is viewed as essential by some of the nation’s top health and environment groups. The 37-year-old Toxic Substances Control Act that is currently in place is riddled with loopholes that permit harmful ingredients into every corner of the home.

“Our cabinets and cupboards are filled with products containing toxic substances that are dangerous and it’s absolutely preventable” said Chantel Scheiffer, Bozeman mom and board member for Montana Conservation Voters. “Our senators are champions for kids and families in Montana, and it is time for Congress to pass the Safe Chemicals Act.”

The Safe Chemicals Act would go a long way toward protecting Americans from chemicals that are linked to reproductive and developmental disorders, cancers and other illnesses that are costly to treat and often preventable. Specifically, it would:

  • Require the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to identify and restrict the “worst of the worst” chemicals.
  • Require basic health and safety information for chemicals.
  • Upgrade scientific methods for assessing chemical safety.
  • Arm the EPA with the authority it needs to restrict chemicals that pose health and environmental concerns.
  • Provide incentives to grow the green chemistry industry.

“Hundreds of chemicals are drifting unchecked into our bodies, chemicals that are strongly linked to a whole host of diseases including asthma, autism, and cancer.  When you look at the numbers of how these diseases have been on a steady rise over the last several decades, it raises questions.  As a nurse, you have to ask yourself, how many fewer patients would walk through our doors if we weren’t constantly exposed to toxic chemicals in everyday products?” said Kelli Barber, co-chair of the Nurses Workgroup for Health Care Without Harm.

Hundreds of Montanans across the state have spoken up for safer chemicals by emailing, writing letters and signing petitions urging Senators Baucus and Tester to support strengthening chemical policy laws in the U.S.

“This is an issue that is very important to women in Montana and we’re pleased that Senators Baucus and Tester have responded to their concerns,” said Jamie McConnell, director of programs and policy at Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Several groups in Montana support passing stronger chemical policies including: Health Care Without Harm, Montana Conservation Voters Education Fund and Women’s Voices for the Earth. http://www.womensvoices.org/campaigns/safe-chemicals/

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Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics, Shampoos, Targeted by Congress

Posted March 25th, 2013

Federal legislation introduced today will ensure all cosmetics are safe

For Immediate Release: 
March 21st, 2013

Contact:        
Margie Kelly, 541-222-9699, mkelly@breastcancerfund.org
Shannon Coughlin, 415-336-2246, scoughlin@breastcancerfund.org

WASHINGTON – While natural body-care products represent the fastest growing segment of the cosmetics market, your local pharmacy shelves are still full of products laden with toxic chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive harm. To address this problem, today, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, D-Ill., and Rep. Ed Markey, D-Mass., introduced the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013, which would give the Food and Drug Administration authority to ensure that all personal care products are free of harmful ingredients. Existing law, which has not been significantly updated since 1938, has loopholes that allow chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, learning disabilities and other illnesses in products we use on our bodies every day.

“The cosmetics industry has an ugly problem: make-up, shampoos, and lotions are contaminated with toxic chemicals that harm health,” said Janet Nudelman of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Products used every day by men, women, and children contain unsafe chemicals, whether it’s baby shampoos contaminated with cancer-causing formaldehyde, lead in lipsticks or mercury in skin creams. The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2013 will give the beauty industry a much-needed make-over,” said Nudelman.

Because of the growing consumer concern about hazardous chemicals, the natural products sector has been the fastest growing segment of the cosmetics market—even during the recession. This segment is expected to top $11 billion by 2016. Yet industry self-regulation is not working when it comes to making safe shampoos, lotions or diaper creams. Carcinogens, as well as chemicals that harm reproduction and development, can be found in common cosmetics and personal care products made for women, men, and children.

“The simple truth is everyday products that women, men, and children use contain ingredients that can cause cancer as well as reproductive and developmental harm,” said Rep. Schakowsky. “Consumers think the Food and Drug Administration is a watchdog preventing harmful ingredients from being in their shampoos, cologne, makeup, deodorants, lotions, and other products, but the truth is, the FDA has little power under current law.  This bill will remedy that by giving FDA the authority to create and enforce a safety standard that will get harmful toxins out of our products.”

Rep. Markey applauded the bill:  “The last thing you want to worry about first thing in the morning is whether the products that make us and our children clean and comfortable also contain cancer-causing chemicals. From diaper cream to deodorant, our medicine cabinets are filled with personal care products that may contain harmful ingredients. This bill will help close the gaping holes in federal law that allow companies to use potentially untested and unsafe ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products. Consumers deserve to have confidence that the products they use every day use will not harm them.”

The legislation will:

  • Phase out ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm
  • Create a health-based safety standard that includes protections for children, the elderly, workers and other vulnerable populations
  • Close labeling loopholes by requiring full ingredient disclosure, including salon products and the constituent ingredients of fragrance, on product labels and company websites
  • Give workers access to information about unsafe chemicals in personal care products
  • Require data sharing to avoid duplicative testing and encourage the development of alternatives to animal testing
  • Provide adequate funding for the FDA Office of Cosmetics and Colors so it has the resources it needs for effective oversight of the cosmetics industry
  • Level the playing field so small businesses can compete fairly

“Families shouldn’t have to bring a toxicologist with them to the make-up aisle to feel safe,” said Cindy Luppi, Clean Water Action’s New England Director. “We stand in support of modernized personal care product policies together with a host of small business innovators who share our concern that the U.S. is lagging behind other countries across the globe in terms of safety.”

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has raised awareness of toxic dangers lurking in common products intended for women and children including lead in lipstick and formaldehyde in baby shampoo. However, toxic chemicals are equal opportunity contaminants, with men’s products hosting a number of dangerous chemicals. A search of the Skin Deep Cosmetics Database finds that at least five men’s hair products, including men’s hair color and conditioner, contain lead acetate, which is banned or found unsafe for use in cosmetics in Canada and the European Union. The state of California recognizes lead acetate as a developmental and reproductive toxicant. Five men’s hair dyes contain toluene, which is a volatile petrochemical that is a potent neurotoxicant and a possible carcinogen. Twelve products, including dandruff shampoos, contain coal tar, which is a carcinogen that is banned or found unsafe for use in cosmetics in Canada and the EU. More than 170 eye makeup products contain the colorant carbon black, which is not approved by FDA for cosmetics used around eyes.

“When there are cancer-causing chemicals and neurotoxins in the products we’re using on our skin every day, you know the regulatory system is broken,” said Nudelman. “Industry self-regulation just isn’t working. This bill recognizes that consumers have a right to safe personal care products and that companies have a responsibility to ensure their products are safe.”

Advocates for consumers and workers support the new legislation. Jamie McConnell, Director of Programs and Policy at Women’s Voices for the Earth said, “This bill provides commonsense protections for not only consumers but those working in the salon industry who are exposed to toxic chemicals on a daily basis. For example formaldehyde is a chemical that has been banned for use in professional hair straighteners in other countries, but because of our lax laws, is still permitted in the U.S. Passage of this bill is long overdue.”

For more info: http://www.womensvoices.org/campaigns/safe-cosmetics-salons/safe-cosmetics-act/

 

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The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a national coalition of more than 175 nonprofit organizations working to protect the health of consumers and workers by eliminating dangerous chemicals from cosmetics. Steering committee members include Women’s Voices for the Earth, Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Action, and Commonweal. www.safecosmetics.org

Fragrance Allergies Common Unsuspected Culprit in Skin Conditions, Report Finds

Posted February 19th, 2013

Environmental Health Group Advocates for Immediate Disclosure of Secret Fragrance Ingredients

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Feb. 20, 2013

CONTACT:
Alexandra Scranton, alexs@womensvoices.org, 406-396-1639
Sian Wu, swu@colehourcohen.com, 206-701-4734

MISSOULA, Mont. – A new report by the women’s health advocacy group Women’s Voices for the Earth has found that allergic reaction and sensitivity to fragrance chemicals in cleaning and personal care products affects millions of Americans. According to the report Secret Scents: How Hidden Fragrance Allergens Harm Public Health, fragrance in household and personal care products is one of the most frequently identified allergens.  However, since companies are not required by the FDA or EPA to disclose fragrance ingredients, it is difficult for dermatologists to pinpoint specific fragrance allergens among the hundreds of ingredients that make up a scent.

Fragrance allergy usually manifests itself in the form of red bumps, blisters, itchiness and blotchiness of the skin.  Frequent exposure to fragrance allergens can lead to chronic dermatitis.  Fragrance can also exacerbate asthma. But because of lack of disclosure of fragrance ingredients, dermatologists face an uphill battle in identifying what is causing a patient’s reactions, making it difficult for the patient to avoid the allergen in question.

“Every day too many women suffer from reactions to the secret chemicals used in fragrances in their household products,” said Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research for Women’s Voices for the Earth. “We need to know what chemicals are used in scented products so we can make informed choices to protect our health.”

The report notes that allergic contact dermatitis, once a rare skin condition, is now quite common among children, and eczema has seen worldwide increases in the last decade. Overall, girls have higher rates of sensitization than boys.  Women, who are more likely to use more perfumed personal care products and cosmetics, are 200-300 percent more likely to have fragrance allergies than men. They are two times more likely to report adverse symptoms from exposure to fragrance.  The disproportionate impact on women is likely due to women’s considerably greater exposure to fragranced products throughout their lives.

The most common cosmetic products associated with fragrance allergy are deodorants, perfumes and lotions. The most common fragrance allergens found in cosmetic products are geraniol and eugenol, which give off rose and clove-like scents. The most common fragrance allergens in cleaning products are limonene and hexyl cinnamal, which give off orange and floral scents.

“Fragrance exposures from personal care products and cleaning supplies are having a major effect on public health,” says Anne Steinemann, PhD, Professor of Civil and Environmental Engineering and Public Affairs, at the University of Washington. “Plus, the risks are widespread, because fragrance is so difficult to avoid.”

Secret Scents found that annual costs to insurance companies and Medicaid for treatment of contact dermatitis and eczema in the U.S. totaled $1-3.8 billion dollars. More than 70 percent of patients with eczema seek professional medical care for their condition, and nearly one-fifth of fragrance allergy sufferers take sick leave from their work due to their condition.

Choosing fragrance-free products is an unrealistic option for allergic consumers. The report found that fragrance is found in 96 percent of shampoos, 91 percent of antiperspirants and 95 percent of shaving products. Although most companies including fragrances in their products do not reveal allergens in the U.S., they do disclose the presence of 26 common fragrance allergens for their products sold in the European Union.

A survey by WVE found that some companies in the U.S. do voluntarily provide this information to their customers, but few cleaning product companies do, although they purchase about half of the total fragrance ingredients sold worldwide. Seventh Generation, a leader in the “green” products category, has been disclosing all fragrance ingredients, including allergens, since 1990.

“We’ve always believed that consumers have the right to know what’s in the products they buy,” said Ashley Orgain, manager of Corporate Consciousness for Seventh Generation.  “We also take great care in the ingredient choices that we make so we are proud to list them on our labels.”

Women’s Voices for the Earth is calling on other cleaning product companies to begin disclosing allergens immediately.  Sunshine Makers, the makers of the popular Simple Green cleaning products, announced today that it has begun disclosing allergens in its products on their web site.

Carol Chapin, Vice President of Research & Development for Sunshine Makers, Inc. says, “While we understand the desire for, even the importance of, fragrance in cleaning products for many consumers, we also understand that there is a growing population who have allergies to some fragrance components.  To address this growing concern, we have committed to list fragrance allergens within the ingredient disclosure information already found on our online consumer product Detail pages found at www.simplegreen.com.  In addition, the Simple Green product line offers some products that are allergen-free.”

“We are pleased to see companies like Sunshine Makers recognize the value of disclosing fragrance allergens found in their products to their consumers,” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director of Women’s Voices for the Earth.  “We encourage other companies to follow the example set by Sunshine Makers. Furthermore, we hope that the disclosure of fragrance allergens is a first step for complete fragrance ingredient disclosure.”

Major cleaning product companies Procter & Gamble, Clorox, and SC Johnson & Son have refused to disclose allergens in their U.S. products, even though each of these companies disclose the allergens in their products in the E.U.

Two legislative solutions were introduced in Congress that will require greater ingredient transparency in consumer products.

The Cleaning Product Right to Know Act, which will be introduced this year by Rep. Steve Israel (D-NY), will require that cleaning products disclose all ingredients, including fragrance ingredients and allergens on the label. The Safe Cosmetics Act would phase out chemical ingredients linked to cancer, birth defects and developmental harm and require fragrance ingredients to be disclosed.

Additionally, the research in this report demonstrates the public health need for more information about the chemicals to which people are exposed. The Safe Chemicals Act, which was introduced in Congress last year, would require the chemical industry to disclose essential information on health and safety data on chemicals, including the chemicals that make up fragrance.

Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm women’s health by changing consumer behaviors, corporate practices and government policies. To download the report and other materials, go to www.womensvoices.org/science/reports/secret-scents.

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Tide Reformulates Detergents to Reduce Cancer-Causing Chemical

Posted January 25th, 2013

Advocacy group Women’s Voices for the Earth and Consumers Claim a Public Health Victory

For Immediate Release
Friday, January 25, 2013

Contact:
Sian Wu, 206-701-4734, swu@colehourcohen.com
Alex Scranton, 406-396-1639, alexs@womensvoices.org

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – On Jan. 24 Procter & Gamble, makers of Tide and Tide Free & Gentle detergents agreed in a California court to significantly reduce the levels of the chemical 1,4 dioxane in its laundry products. I,4 dioxane is classified as a known carcinogen under Proposition 65 in California. Women’s Voices for the Earth, the women’s environmental health advocacy group that has been calling on P&G to remove the carcinogen, claimed a public health victory.

“We’re glad that P&G is finally taking responsibility for this toxic contamination in their products,” said WVE director of science and research, Alexandra Scranton. “It’s obvious that it is possible for companies to manufacture products without 1,4 dioxane. We believe all companies should do the same to protect public health.”

1,4 dioxane is a known cancer-causing chemical that has been linked in animal studies to increased risk of breast cancer. In November of 2011, WVE published the report Dirty Secrets: What’s Hiding in your Cleaning Products? with independent testing results revealing 1,4-dioxane at 89 parts per million in Tide Free & Gentle and 63 ppm in Tide. Tens of thousands of people subsequently called on the company to demand they make their top-selling detergents safer by removing the chemical.

Following the report, As You Sow, an Oakland-based nonprofit organization that promotes corporate responsibility through shareholder advocacy and innovative legal strategies, filed a lawsuit against Procter & Gamble for violating levels of 1,4 dioxane in their detergents without a warning label under Proposition 65, the California state law governing toxic chemical exposure in consumer products.

On Jan. 24, a Superior Court Judge signed the consent judgment on the case, resolving As You Sow’s claims against P&G.  In the consent judgment, P&G has agreed to reformulate its detergents to reduce levels of 1,4 dioxane to below 25 parts per million.

“When we learned that Tide Free & Gentle — a product marketed to mothers as a healthier choice for their children — contained high levels of a carcinogen, we knew women would be outraged,” said Cassidy Randall, campaign and outreach manager for Women’s Voices for the Earth who led the organization’s campaign against the company. “Of course women expect Tide to work well.  But they also expect it to do so without putting their family’s health at risk.  They called P&G out on that, and the company listened.”

WVE member, mother of three and blogger Lori Alper began a Change.org petition in February, 2012, asking P&G to strip 1,4 dioxane from Tide detergents. The petition received more than 78,000 signatures.

“It’s so gratifying to know that my petition brought more than 78,000 voices together to alert the public that Tide contained a cancer-causing chemical and motivated P&G to make a change,” said Lori Alper, blogger at Groovy Green Livin. “I wanted to show people that we can make a difference when we believe in something, and I’m glad that P&G finally listened to consumers and took action to reduce 1,4-dioxane.”

P&G will complete the reformulation process by September of 2013. It’s unlikely that old versions of the product will remain on the shelves for long after September. Although Procter & Gamble has signed the agreement in California, the company is likely to distribute the new reformulated product nationwide.

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Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national organization that works to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm women’s health by changing consumer behaviors, corporate practices and government policies. www.womensvoices.org