Companies Keep Cosmetics Chemicals Secret

  • Researchers have found undisclosed chemicals in a variety of products, from perfume to floor polish. (Photo courtesy of Escape(d) CC-2.0)

When you use cosmetics or cleaning products, you might assume that the government has checked out the ingredients and has deemed them safe. But Julie Grant reports – that’s not the case. Companies don’t even have disclose everything that’s in their products.

Transcript

When you use cosmetics or cleaning products, you might assume that the government has checked out the ingredients and has deemed them safe. But Julie Grant reports – that’s not the case. Companies don’t even have disclose everything that’s in their products.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics wants the labels on cosmetics to reflect all the ingredients in a product. But spokesperson Stacy Malkan says that’s not what’s happening. The Campaign recently sent 17 brands of perfumes and body sprays to an independent lab.

“We found in these products an average of 14 hidden chemicals that were not on the labels that the lab was able to detect.”

Malkan says some of those hidden chemicals have been associated with asthma and headaches, while others are hormone-disruptors, linked to sperm damage, thyroid problems, and even cancer. Malkan says there’s a reason companies don’t put those chemicals on the labels: they don’t have to.

“It is required that companies list the chemicals in their products, except that if they are part of the fragrance. So there’s a huge loophole in the federal law that allows companies to keep secret the chemicals in fragrances.”

And this loophole exists for more than just for perfumes.
Malkan says they have things like children’s bubble bath can create toxic contaminants. And researchers have found un-disclosed chemicals in nearly all brands of cleaning products – things such as dishwashing soap, floor polish, and air fresheners.

“If a chemical is found in a product, it doesn’t mean that the product is toxic or hazardous.”

Gretchen Shaefer is spokesperson for the Consumer Specialty Products Association, which represents the makers of cleaning products. She says companies are required to list anything that’s hazardous on the label.

As more consumers ask for additional information, she says manufacturers are providing more about their chemical formulas. But Schaefer says most are not willing to disclose the trade secrets of their fragrances:

“It is the fragrance that makes those products unique. And that’s why protecting those fragrance formulas are absolutely critical to the manufacturers of the overall product.”

That’s also true when it comes to companies that make cosmetics and perfumes. The trade group representing the cosmetics industry says that new study, the one that found 14 un-disclosed chemicals in the top perfumes and colognes, is misusing the information. The Personal Care Products Association says the chemicals in question are only a concern at very high levels. But the study doesn’t report the levels of these chemicals.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says most of the chemicals it found in fragrances have not even been assessed for safety.

Ann Steinemann is an environmental engineering professor at the University of Washington, and has studied hundreds of cleaning products. She says nearly all brands on the market, even those labeled green products, contain undisclosed carcinogens – which are considered hazardous by the Environmental Protection Agency:

“According to the EPA, things that are classified as carcinogens have no safe exposure level. There is no safe exposure level. Even one molecule cannot be considered safe.”

Bills have been introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate to change labeling laws on things like cleaning products. And the EPA has recently classified some of the chemicals found in fragrances as chemicals of concern. Advocates for improved labeling and safer ingredients advise consumers to use fewer products with fragrances.

For The Environment Report, I’m Julie Grant.

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Pollution Causes Portion of Animal Cancer Cases

  • Beluga Whales along the Canadian Atlantic coast developed tumors after they came in contact with chemicals from aluminum smelters. (Photo courtesy of NOAA)

A new report in the journal Nature Reviews
Cancer looks at cancer in wildlife. Mark
Brush reports, the disease in animals is
sometimes caused by pollution:

Transcript

A new report in the journal Nature Reviews
Cancer looks at cancer in wildlife. Mark
Brush reports, the disease in animals is
sometimes caused by pollution:

The authors of this paper looked at a lot of research on cancer in wild animals. Some of these studies linked the cancer cases to pollution.

Beluga Whales along the Canadian Atlantic coast developed tumors after they came in contact with chemicals from aluminum smelters. And some fish and clam species have developed cancers after being exposed to pollution.

Denise McAloose is a veterinarian with the Wildlife Conservation Society. She’s the lead author of the paper.

“People should care about cancer in wildlife because, especially in those cancers that are driven by environmental factors, those environmental factors affect not only the animals, but people as well.”

For example, the people who worked in those aluminum smelters also had higher rates of cancer.

She says more research into the link between pollution and cancer in animals needs to be done. Because looking at how the disease affects wildlife might help us treat or prevent cancer in people.

For The Environment Report, I’m Mark Brush.

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State Tops List in Carcinogenic Air Emissions

New numbers released by the government show one state pollutes more than any other in the region when it comes to toxic chemicals released into the air. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush reports:

Transcript

New numbers released by the government show one state pollutes more than any
other in the region when it comes to toxic chemicals released into the air.
The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Mark Brush reports:


In the eight states surrounding the Great Lakes, Indiana tops the list for
cancer-causing chemicals released into the air. The EPA’s Toxic Release
Inventory shows that 34 million pounds of these chemicals were released in 2002.
Indiana is responsible for 8.7 million pounds of that. That’s more than one
quarter of the entire region’s release of that kind of pollution.


Karen Teliha is with the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.
She says these chemicals are mostly released in the northern counties of the
state:


“Our number one carcinogenic chemical that’s released is Styrene. And it’s one
that we’ve been working on with the fiber reinforced plastics industry, and in
Indiana that’s mainly RV and boat manufacturers.”


Teliha concedes that the amount is high, but she says it’s been declining over
the last five years. Environmentalists say the state isn’t doing enough to curb
the release of these cancer-causing chemicals.


For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, I’m Mark Brush.

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