A SYTYCB entry
Last week, the New York Times reported that Johnson & Johnson is going to reformulate all of their products to be free of formaldehyde, 1,4 dioxane, parabens, and phthalates – known carcinogens commonly found in personal care items and cosmetics. This is a major victory for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and other activists who have been working for safer products. In 2005, Stacy Malkan, co-founder of the campaign published “Not Just A Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry” which exposed the harm that cosmetics most people use every day could potentially cause.
This issue is especially important to women because on average women use more personal care products than men, and for women who decide to become pregnant, many of the harmful ingredients Johnson & Johnson are removing present an even greater risk to fetuses. But these ingredients are found in items like shampoo, shaving creams and moisturizers, things people of all genders might use frequently. The Skin Deep Database is a project run by the Environmental Working Group where anyone can find out more information about thousands of products and ingredients. Combined with Malkin’s book, these resources provide a good primer on how to decipher the complicated ingredients list on most cosmetics.
I am particularly impressed with Johnson & Johnson because this is not something that they have to do. They are responding to consumer demands, yes. However the average person still does not know what a paraben or a phthalate is. Government regulation of cosmetics is notoriously loose in the United States, as opposed to in the European Union, where many carcinogens have been banned. According to Not Just A Pretty Face, the irony is that some companies which have reformulated their products to sell overseas still sell the ones with toxic ingredients in the USA.
If you want to take action on this issue, in addition to learning which products are safer and buying from companies that leave out carcinogenic ingredients, you can contact your Senators and Congressional Representatives and ask them to support the Safe Chemicals Act, which would give the EPA more authority to test and regulate substances in consumer products. You can read New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand’s press release about it here.