CINCINNATI — In a move that sets a new industry precedent, the world’s largest consumer products company, Procter and Gamble (P&G), announced it will voluntarily start disclosing all fragrance ingredients in their products.
Thousands of synthetic chemicals are used to create modern day fragrances for everyday products from tampons to detergent. For decades, manufacturers have kept fragrance ingredients — even those linked to allergies and other serious health issues like cancer and birth defects — a secret from their customers.
“This is a major victory for public health,” said Erin Switalski, executive director at Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE). “Fragrance safety, and fragrance disclosure, are hurdles for countless of women and men impacted by the chemicals hidden in scented products. People need to know if the products they bring into their homes contain powerful allergens, or synthetic musks linked to breast cancer, or known hormone distruptors like phthalates, all of which can be found in fragrance. This was the right move by P&G.”
Fragrance is one of the most frequently identified substances causing allergic reactions and fragrance allergy affects 2-11% of the general population. Having this information is an absolute necessity in order to avoid allergenic substances.
Procter and Gamble’s announcement follows that of Unilever (Dove, Lever 2000, Ponds) which launched a similar disclosure policy earlier this year, but limited it specifically to personal care products. P&G’s disclosure commitment is company-wide, which includes cleaning, feminine care and personal care products.
“This move by Procter and Gamble solidifies the notion that keeping ingredients a secret from consumers is simply not acceptable anymore – not in personal care products, not in cleaning products, not anywhere,” said Sarada Tangirala, WVE’s national campaigns manager. “This changes everything.”
P&G will expand its product ingredient list both online and through the SmartLabel™ app to include the fragrance ingredients in a product’s formulation above 0.01%. The company aims to achieve this goal for all products sold in North America by the end of 2019. With top brands like Tide, Tampax, Febreeze and Olay, P&G’s commitment will impacts millions of people nationwide.
“When we started our disclosure campaign in 2007, companies repeatedly told us that fragrance ingredients were a ‘trade secret’ and even a discussion about fragrance disclosure was simply off the table,” said Switalski. “Within a decade, concerned women and men across the nation made it clear that this ‘off the table’ response was unacceptable.
“Companies know their customers want and need more information about the products they use in their homes. Now more than ever, P&G has helped make it clear that not providing a detailed ingredient list will suggest that companies have something to hide,” said Switalski.
Since 2007, Women’s Voices for the Earth has run a sustained campaign to promote full ingredient disclosure in the cleaning, feminine care and personal care products industry. Their fragrance campaign work includes reports Secret Scents and What’s That Smell? and, most recently, Unpacking the Fragrance Industry: Policy Failures, the Trade Secret Myth and Public Health, an investigative report calling attention to the failures of the industry’s self-regulating safety policy.
“Ingredient disclosure leads to safer products,” said Tangirala. “Transparency often follows product reformulations or the removal of toxic chemicals, because companies know that women don’t like seeing chemicals linked to cancer in their laundry detergent, or allergens in their menstrual pads and will avoid products that carry these ingredients.”
“We applaud P&G and other companies that are making transparency a priority. The fragrance ‘black box’ is coming to an end. Companies that come clean on their ingredients can both gain trust and credibility from customers, as well as learn from each other to further best practices industry-wide, produce safer products and ultimately improve public health,” said Switalski. “This is a win.”
Beth Conway, Women’s Voices for the Earth, (406) 543-3747, firstname.lastname@example.org
About Women’s Voices for the Earth
Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national environmental health organization that works to amplify women’s voices to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. Learn more at www.womensvoices.org.
Timeline of WVE’s disclosure work and P&G’s movement towards full fragrance ingredient disclosure:
2007: WVE releases Household Hazards report (Highlights hazardous and unknown chemicals in cleaning products. First request to cleaning product manufacturers to fully disclose ingredients)
2008: WVE releases The Dirt on Cleaning Product Companies report (Scorecard tracked major manufacturer progress on disclosure of ingredients)
2009: WVE releases Disinfectant Overkill report
2010: WVE releases What’s That Smell report (Requested cleaning products manufacturers disclose fragrance ingredients specifically)
2010: P&G begins to disclose ingredients in cleaning products online
2011: WVE releases Dirty Secrets report (Product testing revealed undisclosed hazardous chemicals from fragrance in cleaning products)
2012: WVE launches Tide, Take the Cancer Out campaign
2013: P&G agrees to reformulate Tide to significantly reduce 1,4-dioxane (carcinogen)
2013: WVE releases Secret Scents report (Highlights hazards of hidden allergens in fragrances)
2013: WVE releases Chem Fatale report (Requests that feminine care product manufacturers disclose ingredients)
2014: WVE launches Detox the Box campaign
2015: WVE releases Deep Clean report
2015: WVE holds demonstration in Cincinnati outside P&G annual shareholder meeting
2015: P&G begins to disclose ingredients in pads and tampons online
2015: WVE releases Unpacking the Fragrance Industry report on IFRA policy failures, the trade secret myth and impacts on public health
2016: P&G releases a list of 140 fragrance chemicals it will not use in it’s products
2017: P&G supports California legislation SB258, which requires full ingredient disclosure of all cleaning products sold in the state of California
2017: P&G announces it will disclose product-specific fragrance ingredients company-wide by end of 2019; down to 0.01% of product formulation