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GREEN TIP: Take a look at the labels on your personal care products. If “fragrance” is an ingredient you may want to look into safer alternatives.
There are so many choices out there for shampoo, conditioners, make-up, deodorants, baby care products… the list is endless and, unfortunately, the majority of them are made from chemicals that are toxic to our bodies. And even more bothersome, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) currently has no authority to require companies to assess ingredients or products for safety. FDA does not review or approve the vast majority of cosmetic products or ingredients before they go on the market. The agency conducts pre-market reviews only for certain color additives and active ingredients in cosmetics classified as over-the-counter drugs.
Let’s talk specifically about “fragrance.” Fragrance is considered a trade secret, so companies don’t have to tell us what’s in it which is often dozens or even hundreds of synthetic chemical compounds.
Our friends at the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics have identified some hidden hazards that may be lurking in products that contain synthetic fragrance:
Allergens and sensitizers: One in every 50 people may suffer immune system damage from fragrance and become sensitized, according to the EU’s Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-food Products. Once sensitized to an ingredient, a person can remain so for a lifetime, enduring allergic reactions with every subsequent exposure. Fragrances are considered to be among the top five known allergens and are known to both cause and trigger asthma attacks. Product tests conducted by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in 2010 revealed an average of 10 sensitizers in each fragrance tested.
Phthalates: This class of chemicals has been linked to hormone disruption, which can affect development and fertility. Although some phthalates are being phased out of cosmetics under consumer pressure, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is still used in many products, including fragrance. In 2010, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics found DEP in 12 of 17 fragrance products tested for our report, “Not So Sexy.” Product tests conducted by Consumer Reports ShopSmart magazine in January 2007 found the phthalates DEP and DEHP (which is banned in Europe) in each of eight popular perfumes tested. DEP is a ubiquitous pollutant of the human body, found in 97 percent of Americans tested by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Recent epidemiological studies have associated DEP with a range of health problems, including sperm damage in men. Most fragrances don’t list phthalates on the label, but hide them under the term, “fragrance.”
Neurotoxins: As far back as 1986, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences identified fragrance ingredients as one of six categories of neurotoxins (chemicals that are toxic to the brain) that should be thoroughly investigated for impacts on human health. However, this research has not been demanded or funded. The FDA has taken no action on a petition submitted to the agency in 1999 requesting fragrance components to be listed on labels.
Synthetic musks: A 2009 study of Austrian college students found that those who used the most perfume and scented lotion also had the highest levels of synthetic musks, including Galaxolide and Tonalide, in their blood. Research by the Environmental Working Group has even found synthetic musks in the umbilical cord blood of newborn U.S. infants. Preliminary research suggests that musks may disrupt hormones. Both Galaxolide and Tonalide can bind to and stimulate human estrogen receptors and have been shown to affect androgen and progesterone receptors. Tonalide has also been reported to increase the proliferation of estrogen-responsive human breast cancer cells. These musks have an environmental impact – they have been found to be toxic to aquatic life in numerous studies and can accumulate in the food chain.
Source: Campaign for Safe Cosmetics
If you haven’t already, watching Annie Leonard’s, The Story of Cosmetics is a must see. She has an excellent way of getting to the heart of an issue in a really disarming manner. To view, visit http://www.storyofstuff.org/movies-all/story-of-cosmetics/.
Three Things You Can Start Doing Now:
- Read ingredient labels and choose products with no added fragrance: Use the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep advanced search to find products that do not include fragrance. Even products advertised as “fragrance-free” may contain a masking fragrance so turn that bottle over and check the small print.
- Less is better: If you are very attached to your fragrance, try to eliminate other fragranced products from your routine and use fragrance less often.
- Support companies that fully disclose ingredients in their products.
My Green Side’s web pick of the week:
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics is a coalition effort launched in 2004 to protect the health of consumers and workers by securing the corporate, regulatory and legislative reforms necessary to eliminate dangerous chemicals from cosmetics and personal care products.
This site is full of eye-opening information and tips on how to find safer personal care products for you and your family.