According to a national environmental group's recent study, one in every 120 assessed cosmetics contains known or probable cancer-causing ingredients identified by the government. Federal law does not prohibit their use in cosmetics and although the FDA can take legal action to remove the products, the cost is so high and the burden of proof so difficult, it typically does not happen. In particular, a disturbing group of chemicals called phthalates, which have been found to emasculate rats in lab studies, are widely used in the cosmetic industry. If a person wears Eternity by Calvin Klien, Red Door by Estee Lauder, Wind Song, Calgon Turquoise Seas Lotion, Jergens Original scent lotion, Suave Hairspray, Rave Hairspray, LA Look Styling Gel, Opi nail polish, Dove Solid or Degree Anti Perspirant and Deodorant, they are being dosed with phthalates.
Dr. Shanna Swan from the University of Rochester just completed a study using 85 mothers and male babies linking phthalate exposure to birth defects in the reproductive organs of male babies. Ninety percent of the babies exposed to high doses of phthalate exhibited more physical female traits and 10 of those mothers with the highest doses of phthalate had babies with abnormal reproductive organs, such as incompletely descended testes. Swan and her colleagues believe it suppresses male sexual development, but feel they would need to follow the children into adulthood to determine the long-term effects on reproductive health.
But Swan stands firm on her research. "We need to eradicate these chemicals," she told online newspaper This is London. "But it is rather like taking lead out of petrol - a slow process."
According to the Centers for Disease Control, women of child-bearing age appear to receive the highest exposure to phthalate. Other government reports indicate women are exposed to individual phthalates at levels above federal safety standards.
Europe has already passed more stringent and protective laws for the cosmetics industry. In January 2003, the European Union amended the Cosmetics Directive (76/768/EEC) to ban the use of chemicals that are known to or strongly suspected of causing cancer, mutation or birth defects. This amendment went into force in September 2004.
In the United States, major loopholes in federal law allow the $35 billion cosmetics industry to put unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal care products with no required testing, no monitoring of health effects and inadequate labeling requirements.
That means dibutyl phthalate (DBP), butylbenzyl phthalate (BBzP) and diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) don't have to be listed. Clairol's Herbal Essences Non-Aerosol Hairspray lists the general term "isophthalates" on its label.
Companies can say these harmful chemicals are part of their trade secret. So if a woman's daily morning regimen involves putting on Secret Sheer Dry Regular, White Diamonds and some Pantene Pro V Spray Gel, phthalate may not be listed yet all these products contain it. To find out exactly what's in the cosmetics they use, the average person would have to spend $175 per product to have it tested for the substance.
This past May, Avon, whose Radiant Long Last Nail Gloss contains phthalates, voted down reformulating their products to exclude the chemicals that the EU cosmetics directive banned.
Some companies like Estee Lauder and L'Oreal have agreed to start coming up with new formulations. And there are over 100 companies that have safe products, like The Body Shop at Keystone at the Crossing, Burt's Bees, Aveda and Origins. Some of these and other natural products can be found at most health food stores like Georgetown Market, Wild Oats and The Good Earth.
"More than 20 years ago, vegetarians like me could purchase natural and organic foods but personal care products that were healthy, effective and good for the environment were nonexistent, thus, Kiss My Face was born. From the very beginning, it has been Kiss My Face's commitment to give all consumers an opportunity to experience the benefits of natural and organic beauty products," said Bob MacLeod, co-owner and founder of Kiss My Face Corporation.
California and Massachusetts are trying to pass legislation that would make the cosmetic companies label their products when they contain harmful chemicals like phthalates. To get it started here contact Mitch Daniels by phone, 317-232-4657, or mail: Office of the Governor, Statehouse, Indianapolis, IN 46204, or go to www.in.gov/gov/ and let him know we want to be protected too.
For more information see www.safecosmetics.org, www.ewg.org and www.shswan.com.