Greener Pastures: Time to come clean on beauty care in Vail
VAIL, Colorado There is an interesting paradox playing out at grocery stores around the country, especially for those of us who are trying to make sound environmental choices. Its a bit of a hippy-ocracy, and it goes something like this:Shuffling quickly past the conventionally grown apples, as pesticides are not an option, we park our cart in front of the small bushel of organic apples, inspecting each ones sticker of origin for a state closest to us. Washington will have to do.Heading to the over-priced cheese case, we are stopped by images of swaying palm trees and miles of white sand. Hooray, Coppertones on sale. And so it goes. Coppertone SPF 30 is tossed into the canvas bag along with organic apples. Here in lies the paradox.Although the apple may be free and clear of toxic gunk, the Coppertone is loaded with chemicals linked to cancer, allergies and the disruption of hormone function. When risky and unstudied chemicals are used in cosmetics, the stakes can be high unlike trace contaminants in food or tap water, chemicals in cosmetics are base ingredients.For as mindful as we are about what we put into our bodies as fuel, we are like a teenager on graduation night when it comes to our skin. Skin is the bodys largest organ, and whatever we slather on it is quickly absorbed into the bloodstream. In theory, whatever we press onto our face or rub into our legs should be edible. The complete lack of regulation around the beauty product industry is criminal, including animal testing and the use of toxic chemicals to create the flood of products we really dont need. Many consumers believe all of the personal care products on our supermarket shelves have gone through rigorous government tests to ensure its safety. This is not the case.According to the Environmental Working Group, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require pre-market safety testing of personal care product ingredients, and therefore, cannot prevent the introduction of dangerous products onto the market. In response to the watchdogs petition to cease unlawful sale of misbranded and adulterated cosmetics, the FDA wrote:The [Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act] contains no provision that requires demonstration to FDA of the safety of ingredients of cosmetic products … prior to marketing the product.Beauty care manufacturers also slip through the net of the Environmental Protection Agencys (EPA) Toxic Substances Control Act. This 1976 law which is in extreme need of reform puts the burden of proof on the EPA to demonstrate that a chemical poses a risk to human health or the environment before the EPA can regulate the chemicals production. And we all know how well-funded and over-staffed our government is, right? So chemical manufacturers can go willy-nilly in laboratories inventing all sorts of nasty stuff to make Windex more blue without the slightest concern of how its affecting our world.But it doesnt even matter if the Toxic Substances Control Act is doing its job or not because beauty products are an exception to the law anyway. So now that youre fired up, ready to beat down the door of your elected officials, I want to throw one more log on the fire. A report released this month by the Government Accountability Office reaffirms that the EPA lacks even the basic information to say whether chemicals pose substantial health risks to the public. The EPA lacks adequate scientific information on the toxicity of many chemicals that may be found in the environment as well as on tens of thousands of chemicals used commercially in the United States, the GAO report said. EPAs inadequate progress in assessing toxic chemicals significantly limits the agencys ability to fulfill its mission of protecting human health and the environment.As consumers and residents of planet earth and knowing we cant rely on the government we must educate ourselves about the chemicals in our beauty products. More importantly, we must vow not to be victims of curlier, longer, younger or even natural marketing. Even brands like Kiss Your Face and Jasons that tout themselves as organic choices, contain harmful chemicals that are linked to cancer and reproductive toxicity.Lucky for us, there are handful of nonprofit organizations who have done the research on chemicals found in personal care products and openly share the results on the Internet. Most notable is the Environmental Working Group, who has developed a database, called Skin Deep, that you can search for a product, ingredient or company to find out exactly whats in your personal care products.Our chemical-laden society is a bit overwhelming. Its another thing to worry about, another label to read, more information to dissect. Life isnt supposed to be this complicated. I encourage you to write congress and demand the loopholes in federal law are closed to protect the public from toxins, but until then, vote with your dollar. Seek out responsible skin care companies and purchase only from them. The Suaves of the world will surely listen up when they experience a hit to the bottom line.Freelance writer Cassie Pence is married to the superhero of green cleaning Captain Vacuum, AKA Tim Szurgot. Together they own Organic Housekeepers, a cleaning company that uses strictly organic, natural and nontoxic cleaning products. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Visit Environmental Working Groups http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com to search a database of more than 41,000 products and find out exactly whats in your beauty care. Other good sources include:Organic Consumers Association http://www.organicconsumers.orgEcology Center http://www.ecologycenter.org Care2 http://www.care2.com
Environmental Working Groups top 20 brands of concern:1. Superior Preference by LOral 2. Colorsilk by Revlon 3. Dark & Lovely by LOral 4. Biotherm by LOral 5. Clarins by Clarins of Paris 6. Ultima II by Revlon Consumer Products Corporation 7. Clairol by Procter & Gamble 8. Redken by LOral 9. Garnier by LOral 10. St. Ives by Alberto-Culver 11. Banana Boat by Playtex Products12 . Ion Color Brilliance by Ion Professional Products, Inc. 13. Just For Men by Combe Inc. 14. Sebastian by Procter & Gamble 15. No-Ad by Solar Cosmetic Labs, Inc. 16. Exuviance by NeoStrata 17. Coppertone by Schering-Plough 18. Herbatint by Bioforce Of America, Ltd.19. Blistex by Blistex, Inc. 20. Matrix by LOral