February 4th, 2010

"Fragrance" or Foe?

The cosmetics industry is a lightly-regulated, moneymaking machine. It encourages women to buy products to look better, thinner, tanner, softer, and generally more ‚attractive”. Unfortunately, these products are filled-to-the-brim with chemicals. We know some of these chemicals are harmful. That‚ bad enough, but even more frightening is that many chemicals or formulations do not have to be disclosed because they are considered ‚trade secrets.” Such is the case with the ingredient listed as ‚fragrance.”

Fragrance is rarely made up of just one chemical. It‚ a veritable toxic soup of many. In an attempt to demonstrate transparency, the European Union‚ International Fragrance Association (IFRA) just released 3,163 chemicals that were used in fragrance formulations in 2008.

Guess what we found on that list? You got it, triclosan. Registered for use as a pesticide, triclosan is also a preservative in plastics and textiles, and an anti-bacterial in personal care products. To my knowledge, neither EPA nor FDA has actually approved its use in products as a component of ‚fragrance.”

This is precisely the challenge facing savvy consumers looking for healthier, ‚greener” cosmetics and personal care products. Even when we check the label, it‚ hard to know were buying the best products.

This problem doesnt just affect women. A recent New York Times article reported on the boom in sales for male body products like body washes, exfoliators, body hydrators, body sprays, deodorant, shaving cream, and hair products. Of course the irony is that all of these products that promise to make men more masculine may have the opposite effect. Many fragrance formulations contain phthalates and parabens, chemicals linked to sperm damage and act like estrogen in the body.

So now that it seems the cosmetics industry has roped in men & women alike, should we throw in the towel?

Of course not!

Here‚ what you can do:

  • Read the label before you buy.
  • Look for ‚fragrance” free products.
  • Sign our anti-triclosan pledge.
  • Check Environmental Working Group‚ Skin Deep database.
  • Join the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at www.safecosmetics.org

,Kathy Dolan

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