FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Jan 25, 2018 – Today, 25 environmental, health, and justice organizations released an open letter urging New York-based consumer product goods manufacturer Prestige Brands, makers of Summer’s Eve, to eliminate toxic chemicals and disclose all ingredients in the iconic feminine care brand. Circulated by national women’s health non-profit, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), the letter calls into question the ingredients found in Summer’s Eve products, including wipes, washes and sprays, to which women are exposed without their knowledge or consent.
The letter follows the 2017 launch of WVE’s awareness campaign, Summer’s Deceive, which featured a series of spoof ads aimed to mobilize women to call for safe feminine hygiene products and stand up against body-shaming marketing. Classified as “cosmetics” by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), these products come in contact with some of the most sensitive and absorptive parts of the body.
Outlined in the letter are the various ingredients of concern found in Summer’s Eve products following an in-store survey, including carcinogens, unknown fragrance ingredients, powerful allergens and hormone disruptors.
“This isn’t the first time we have asked Prestige to address the lack of transparency and presence of toxic chemicals in Summer’s Eve products,” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director at Women’s Voices for the Earth. “Signatories of the letter represent hundreds of thousands of people across the country who share our concerns about the dangers these products may pose to women’s health.”
One chemical of particular concern is octoxynol-9, a contraceptive drug that effectively kills sperm. Summer’s Eve products containing octoxynol-9, however, are not considered contraceptives, nor are they required to have any caution labeling to their potential effect on a woman’s fertility.
In addition, targeted advertising to women of color has resulted in feminine cleansing product use at higher rates, resulting in a greater burden of toxic exposure.
“It is especially egregious that these products, marketed and sold under the guise of vaginal and sexual health, are in fact exposing women to chemicals that can negatively impact their reproductive well-being,” said Amber Garcia, Field and Advocacy Manager for Colorado Organization for Latino Opportunity and Reproductive Rights (COLOR). “Women of color are bearing the brunt of this toxic exposure. Hiding a contraceptive drug in a feminine care product takes away a woman’s ability to determine her own reproductive future. The message to Prestige is clear – this has to stop.”
The letter also outlines the problems with undisclosed fragrance ingredients and Summer’s Eve trademarked ‘odor-control’ formula, Neutresse®. The term ‘fragrance’ can contain potentially hundreds of different ingredients, many of which are linked to serious health problems from skin irritation to hormone disruption and breast cancer. All of Summer’s Eve products contain unknown fragrance ingredients.
“These undisclosed chemicals are of special concern in feminine care products given research findings linking vaginal douching with higher levels of phthalates – a chemical commonly found in fragrance and linked to reproductive harm – in the body,” said Sarada Tangirala, Director of Corporate Accountability at WVE who referenced a recent study that identified that Black women bear higher rates of phthalate exposure due to higher prevalence of vaginal douching. In fact, Black women had phthalate levels that were 48% higher than white women.
“Again, we see women of color carrying the weight of this toxic assault,” said Tangirala. “It is inexcusable that companies like Prestige are allowed to target women’s reproductive organs with harmful chemicals in products that they falsely claim are necessary and safe, especially when studies so clearly show otherwise.”
“What we do know about fragrance ingredients is troublesome; what we don’t know is even more so,” said Switalski. “With major companies like Procter and Gamble and Unilever committing to disclose fragrance ingredients used in products, there is simply no excuse for Prestige Brands to keep fragrance secrets.”
Also alarming are colorants found in some Summer’s Eve feminine washes that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has prohibited from use in products that come into contact with mucous membranes. Yet the makers of Summer’s Eve and other feminine product manufacturers continue to use these colorants in feminine washes that are meant for vaginal use.
“Why Summer’s Eve would continue to use these colorants — ingredients that do little more than provide aesthetics — when it is painfully clear they should not be used in vaginal products is hard to comprehend and even harder to excuse,” said Tangirala.
This open-letter marks the latest escalation of Women’s Voices for the Earth’s campaign for safe feminine care products. Launched in 2013 with the report, Chem Fatale, WVE’s work has helped elevate the topic of period health into the public mainstream.
“Women are tired of having products pushed on them from companies that don’t prioritize their health,” said Switalski. “We hope the makers of Summer’s Eve will agree that it is simply unacceptable that any feminine care product may be exposing women to harmful chemicals.”
Summer’s Deceive Campaign
Beth Conway, Communications Director at Women’s Voices for the Earth
firstname.lastname@example.org | 406-543-3747
Sarada Tangirala, Director or Corporate Accountability at Women’s Voices for the Earth
email@example.com | 406-543-3747
ABOUT Women’s Voices for the Earth
Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth is a national environmental health organization that works to amplify women’s voices to eliminate toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. www.womensvoices.org