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Toxins In, Toxins Out – The Campaign for Scaring the pants off us

August 24, 2010

OK, so I am about to have a coronary because I just saw the most cringeworthy ‘we only did it to SAVE you’ video clip from the champions of “SAFE AND LOVELY” the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. I almost don’t want to share it with you but that would just be selfish – come and take a dip in the toxic ocean by watching it here.

The Story Of Stuff is not all false but it is not even 1/3rd true either and that’s what bugs me. You have CHEMICALS in the BAD corner, poor helpless parent in the CONFUSED AND EXPLOITED corner and the campaign for safe cosmetics in the SUPER HERO corner – it is a triangle of doom based on moral panic and outrage.

If you can’t be bothered to watch the short cartoon (cartoons are great aren’t they, family viewing, innocent etc) then I will explain it in a nutshell here. The cosmetics industry (personified by (hope they sue) Proctor and Gamble) are filling up our bottles of baby shampoo and our lipstick twisties with toxic chemicals that will mutify our sperm (if we have any), give us breast cancer and make us feel sad.   This is an American film and so it goes on to say that the FDA is doing Sweet FA to save us and is basically allowing the industry to pollute and kill us while it counts the dollars.  After all, the industry is self-regulated and it can therefore choose the laws and then choose to ignore them. Nice!  Lastly the film tells us that thanks to the Campaign for Safe cosmetics we will all be safe as long as we log onto their website and ignore everyone else. COOL!

So why do I want to tip a giant vat of Pantene over these people’s heads and see them swim in it? Here we go….

  • The Environmental Working Group (nice name) and their friends the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (like we need them) act like a tabloid paper. They jump on the big headlines and don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story. YES some of the ingredients used in cosmetics are irritating and dangerous for health if used in high enough volumes but that isn’t what happens in your average product.   Firstly it is about DOSE.
  • These guys LOVE to talk about LEAD in our lipsticks. Haven’t they been keeping up????  There is lead all over this 100% green and natural planet. Lead is probably in that lovely cauliflower that you are about to eat. The reason that there is a legal limit set for how much lead is in lipsticks is because we can now detect minute amounts, way below anything that would cause health problems. Lead is an environmental reality and this is just silly.  Secondly it is about being REALISTIC.
  • Then we have to think about where our cosmetics end up.  Our skin is very good at keeping things out, to give us cancer something has to be able not only to penetrate into the body but to remain in their. Yes we are full of chemicals, yes some get through and NO nobody wants that but much of what is found in our bodies comes from things such as paints, building materials, foods, air pollution from factories and cars and other industrial products.  That is not to say that we should think that everything is rosy with cosmetics as they could be cleaner but blaming cancer on cosmetics when we live in a chemical world is a little far-fetched. THIRD is about BIOACCUMULATION.
  • Next we have the bashing of the big boys. It is always fashionable to blame big companies about the state of the world and in many cases they have played their part in creating problems. While that is as true in cosmetics as it is for any industry – blaze the trail, note the consequenses and clean up – it doesn’t mean that the big boys are just sitting back and counting the money. More often that not the planet needs large companies to fund research into safer alternatives, fund testing and fund advertising to tell people about it. I don’t know a single company that isn’t taking safety seriously both large and small. It is easy for smaller, newer companies to take the moral high ground and bask in their greener status and bash the big players when it was the big guys that made most of it possible  FORTH is about RESPONSIBILITY.
  • Finally we have the environmental issue. It is also true that the cosmetics industry has promoted the use of more and more products by a more segmented consumer base over the years. This rampant consumerism is not helping with environmental issues and our sense of beauty and self. I am all for pushing sustainability but that big issue is glossed over in this cartoon in favour of the much sexier FEAR and CANCER angle. FIFTH is about SUSTAINABILITY.

In a nutshell.

Anyone that knows me will know that I am a campaigner for better cosmetics, for more traceability in the supply chain, for more sustainable products, for product that support real beauty and for products that don’t bio-accumulate.


I am also an advocate for scientific information reported in a fair, balanced and scientific way. YES some cosmetic ingredients should be addressed and replaced in favour of safer alternatives but NO your shampoo is probably not going to give you cancer.

I am also not a fan of this interpretation of the precautionary principle as should I apply it to my life I would lead a boring, un-caffinated, un-alcoholed, un-sexed (very dangerous that) and un-excited life.  

Fear is NOT a good way to sell ANYTHING. EVER. THANK YOU.

What do you think?

11 Comments leave one →
  1. RealizeBeautyEd permalink
    August 24, 2010 1:39 pm

    I forgot to mention about the self-regulated thing. YES the industry is self-regulated but it also has to comply to OH&S laws governing use of chemicals and has a moral obligation to make products that are fit for their purpose. This is policed by different groups in different countries but it does happen. To imply that people put any old toxic rubbish into a bottle and sell it to you is a huge slur on the characters of the millions of people involved in this industry. Some of which are ‘greenies’, ride bikes, have kids and save the whales.

  2. August 25, 2010 8:35 pm

    Thank you for the information. Great job you have done and keep it up.

  3. August 25, 2010 10:02 pm

    These are the interesting things to know.

  4. August 27, 2010 1:21 am

    Thank you for your posting and rebuttal to EWG. I couldn’t agree with you more. Sadly it’s fear that grabs attention and bad news (especially the unsupported kind) seems to travel quickly. It’s so nice to see the other side of the coin.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      August 27, 2010 8:08 am

      Hi Traci,
      Thanks for the kind comment. Isn’t it funny how that happens! We have a choice about how to respond to things, I often wonder why we default back to fear? We must be a really cynical lot!

  5. September 17, 2010 7:42 pm

    Getting annoyed at that video is like getting annoyed at an anti-tobacco ad. The message is not to promote fear, but to educate and inform.

    Checking the Cosmetics Database is a good place to start. But the fact remains is that, generally speaking, most people have no idea how toxic many cosmetics are.

    Knowledge is power.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      September 18, 2010 6:19 pm

      Tobacco and Cosmetics are absolutely NOT the same thing and I can get anoyed with whatever I like thanks. The video does EVERYTHING to promote fear as it is not at all balanced rather it is a great piece of propaganda. I agree that knowledge and we are all entitled to our opinions which is why I published yours.

      • October 4, 2010 10:37 am

        Sorry, but according to the Cancer Prevention Coalition press release on the 17th of June 2002: “Cancer and health risk experts just concluded reviews that indicate mainstream cosmetics and personal hygiene products pose the highest cancer risk exposures to the general public, higher than smoking.”

        There’s a difference between “propaganda” and stone cold evidence. All one has to do is visit the Cosmetics Database to see for themselves that many household products do indeed contain harmful ingredients, including but not limited to parabens and carcinogens.

        It is of my “opinion” that people have the right to know what they’re being exposed to.

        Lastly, do you know that a simple Google search alone provides information that only recently (March 2010) Procter and Gamble “reduced” carcinogenic contaminant 1,4-dioxane in their Herbal Essences shampoo?

      • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
        October 4, 2010 12:02 pm

        No need to be sorry, I am sure that the stress caused by worrying about all of this ‘google’ information is a big killer too. It is perfectly reasonable for companies to work towards making things safer, cleaner, greener and purer (ref to Procter and Gamble) but that doesn’t mean that the ‘old’ version was a potent killer. The Cosmetic Database that you refer to created most of these news stories and issues, it also contributed to this toxins in, toxins out. Interesting but I’m not scared.

  6. October 29, 2010 7:37 am

    The Cosmetics Database isn’t the only source out there; there’s an abundance of information available, including scholarly (e.g., the book “Slow Death By Rubber Duck” which is backed with scientific evidence). I for one trust and applaud the works of the the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization that’s out to make changes and inform.

    You shouldn’t applaud Procter and Gamble, though, as far as I am concerned they are no righteous company. I base this “opinion” for one, on their animal testing methods, which is viewable on the internet.

    If you’d rather turn a blind eye to the fact that life, and beauty, has an ugly side… then more power to you. Honestly, I’d rather know the truth of what I’m being exposed to regarding the product I’m spending my money on, and be able to make my own decisions as a result of such information. I think people have that right.

    • RealizeBeautyEd permalink
      October 29, 2010 4:11 pm

      I don’t turn a blind eye to anything, that is your interpritation of my piece. I believe in assessing everything we use on our bodies and in our formulations, I just don’t hold the same views on risk as some people. I also agree that we should work towards cleaner and greener as I am not in any way saying that the status quo is good enough. Thanks for taking the time to have a read.

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