Nel's New Day

October 28, 2013

Corporate Pinkwashing

As the weather turns cooler across the United States in preparation for winter, October turns pink from its designation as National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. In its 28th year, the event is prime time for corporations to claim that they are giving part of purchase prices for pink objects to prevent breast cancer. As NFL games feature pink-clad participants and landmark buildings have pink illumination, cosmetic companies invite customers to buy pink products.

Estée Lauder, for example, claims that it has provided more than $48 million for breast cancer research and education. The company, however, keeps secret that their products, including the pink stuff, includes toxic ingredients known to cause cancer and a host of other reproductive, endocrine, and neurological problems.

Of the 15 beauty brands “devoted to defeating breast cancer” in the “We’re Stronger Together” pamphlets, 12—including Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Bumble and Bumble, Clinique, Coach, Darphin, Estée Lauder, Lab Series Skincare for Men, Lamer, Origins, Prescriptives, and Smashbox—sell products containing known carcinogens and other toxic chemicals. Aveda, Bumble and Bumble, and Clinique use the carcinogens formaldehyde—linked to leukemia, lymphoma, and nasopharyngeal cancers—and 1,4-dioxane, which the U.S. National Toxicology Program links to cancers of the gallbladder, kidney, lungs, nasal cavity, skin, and breast. In fact, 22 percent of all cosmetic products may contain 1,4-dioxane, including those designed for children.

Products like Bobbi Brown Blush contain titanium dioxide, also linked to cancer. Darphin’s gels, balms, and moisturizers contain chemicals linked to cancer, endocrine disruption, and neurotoxicity. Estée Lauder uses parabens, preservatives that mimic estrogen in the body and can, over time, disrupt hormone function, cause developmental and reproductive toxicity, and may lead to a substantially higher risk of breast cancer. Estée Lauder asks people to raise breast cancer awareness by spending $29.95 on its limited edition Pink Ribbon lip collection although it might contain BHT or Tocopheryl Acetate, both linked to cancer.

Most cosmetics ingredients easily penetrate the skin, products used on lips and hands can be ingested, and sprays and powders are often inhaled. Yet federal oversight of cosmetic manufactures is  non-existent. The FDA cannot require that companies test products for safety or review the majority of products and ingredients before they’re on sale. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review said in 2008 that it would take another two and a half centuries to effectively review all the products currently on the market. It should be noted that the oversight organization for chemicals in cosmetics is composed of cosmetic corporations.

Even Susan G. Komen for the Cure has sold products that can lead to cancer. Only public protest forced the organization to drop Its “Promise Me” perfume, that included chemicals benzyl salicylate, benzophenone-3 (aka oxybenzone, a common ingredient in sunscreens), and coumarin, which were found, respectively, to cause endocrine disruption, to cause cell damage that could lead to cancer, or to be outright carcinogenic.

Estée Lauder, Avon, and Revlon are three of the largest companies marketing the pink ribbon in the United States. In 2005, while using pink ribbon campaigns to gain attention for their brands, Estée Lauder, Avon, and other cosmetic companies even fought California legislation requiring them to notify the state when their products use chemicals linked to cancer or birth defects.

Breast Cancer Action calls this hypocrisy “pinkwashing.” No one is sure how many of the 80,000 chemicals used in the United States are dangerous because only about 200 of them have been tested for human safety. Earlier this month, however, another study showed an even stronger link between BPA and breast cancer than  previously thought.

Founded over 20 years old, BCAction launched the “Think Before You Pink” project in 2002 with its campaign “Who’s Really Cleaning Up?” targeted at companies that used pink ribbon products to raise their profit margin. Since then, the project has shifted to environmental causes of breast cancer. This year’s campaign,“Toxic Time Is Up,” calls for legislation to ban toxins in products that cause cancer and other health-related issues.

The Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976 (TSCA) not only failed to test the vast majority of chemicals existing before the law went into effect but also allowed chemical manufacturers to keep the ingredients in some chemicals secret. This secrecy applies to almost 20 percent of the 80,000 chemicals commonly used in everyday environment.  The law doesn’t even restrict the use of asbestos. According to TSCA, the government has to prove actual harm in order to control or replace a chemical, therefore assuming chemicals are safe until found that they aren’t.

Some legislators want an updated TSCA, but corporations want their own law called the Chemical Safety Improvement Act. This bill not only weakens existing federal law but weakens state laws that are stronger than federal law.

Meanwhile, people buy pink ribbon products without knowing whether the ingredients are carcinogenic or if the company actually donates money to prevent breast cancer. For example, the NFL donated only about $3 million since 2009, a small amount of the $9.5 billion revenue—in only one year.

ehrenreichOver a decade ago, Barbara Ehrenreich, noted feminist author, gave a talk at Breast Cancer Action in San Francisco (CA) after she published a long article in Harper’s Magazine that was sharply critical of the “breast cancer movement” of pink ribbons. She addressed the issue that corporations and organizations usually talk about the “cure,” and say nothing about the cause of breast cancer.

“This omission makes sense: breast cancer would hardly be the darling of corporate charities if its complexion changed from pink to green. But by ignoring or underemphasizing the issue of environmental causes, the pink-ribbon crowd function as willing dupes of what could be called the Cancer Industrial Complex: by which I mean the multinational corporate enterprise which with the one hand doles out carcinogens and disease and, with the other, offers expensive, semi-toxic, pharmaceutical treatments. Breast Cancer Awareness month, for example, is sponsored by AstraZeneca (the manufacturer of Tamoxifen) which until 1999 was also the fourth largest producer of pesticides in the United States, including at least one known carcinogen….

“We don’t need more ‘awareness’ of breast cancer—we’re VERY aware, thank you very much. We need treatments that work, and above all, we need to know the cause of this killer, so we can stop it before it attacks another generation.

“And we certainly don’t need a breast cancer culture that, by downplaying the possible environmental causes of cancer, serves as an accomplice in global poisoning—normalizing cancer, prettying it up, even presenting it, perversely, as a positive and enviable experience.”

Those who really want to prevent cancer need to push their legislators into passing  a strong law that prevents corporations from using dangerous chemicals in their products—especially in ones that are ingested or used on the body.

You can start by signing a petition from BRAction.


June 5, 2013

U.S. Corporations Poison Children

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 11:28 PM
Tags: , , ,

Conservatives incessantly talk about how children are our most precious resource–right before they deny them funding for food, education, clean environment, etc. If you follow the argument about the precious resource, check out the following on the toxicity of children’s products which bring corporations billions of dollars, toxicity that conservatives refuse to regulate.

Over 5,000 children’s products contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive problems, including the toxic metals, cadmium, mercury and antimony, as well as phthalates and solvents, according to a new report from Washington state. This report identifies products that contain any of 66 chemicals connected to “cancer or to reproductive, developmental or neurological effects” in animals or humans.

Washington now mandates manufacturers with more than $1 billion in gross annual revenue are required to report the chemicals in any of their products   that “could be put into the mouth by children under 3 years old, those intended to be put in the mouth or rubbed on the skin for children under 12 years old,” and products “intended for prolonged contact with the skin, including clothing, jewelry and bedding.” Smaller companies must start reporting about their products by this upcoming August.

Makers of kids’ products use 41 of the 66 chemicals identified by WA Ecology as a concern for children’s health. Corporations including Walmart, Gap, Gymboree, Hallmark, Mattel, Nike, and H & M sell kids’ clothing, footwear, toys, games, jewelry, accessories, baby products, furniture, bedding, arts and crafts supplies, and personal care products—all with toxic chemicals. These are some of the dangerous products:

Hallmark party hats containing cancer-causing arsenic

Graco car seats containing the toxic flame retardant TBBPA (tetrabromobisphenol A)

Claire’s cosmetics containing cancer-causing formaldehyde

Walmart dolls containing hormone-disrupting bisphenol A

The chemical reports are required after the state passed its Children’s Safe Products Act in 2008, a law “stronger than any chemical disclosure law” in the U.S., according to the Environmental Health News (EHN). A searchable database of chemical use reports filed with the Washington State Department of Ecology is available.

The Minnesota Department of Health also published a list of priority chemicals in children’s products with eight of the nine chemicals also on the Washington list. These nine priority chemicals are lead, cadmium, bisphenol A, formaldehyde, two brominated flame retardants, and three phthalates. Unlike Washington, Minnesota does not require manufacturers to report if they use a priority chemical in a children’s product. This spring, Minnesota’s Senate Commerce Committee voted down the Toxic Free Kids Act of 2013, a bill that would have required this reporting.

Cosmetics, popular with young people, contain high level of toxins, for example in lipsticks and glosses used by teenage girls. Because lipstick is applied at least two to three times daily, the wearer can ingest a significant amount—20 percent or more of the daily amount considered safe in drinking water—of aluminum, cadmium, chromium, and manganese. Lead was also detected in 75 percent of the samples studied.

Cadmium found in breast cancer biopsies causes cancer cells to multiply in lab experiments. Lead exposure in children can lead to permanent brain damage and possibly crime while elevated lead levels in adults can lead to a host of health problems from miscarriages to seizures. Traces of lead were found in lipsticks made by Burt’s Bees, now owned by Clorox. Lead has also been found in Burt’s Bees chapstick. Lead was banned from house paint in 1977, and leaded gasoline was banned in the U.S. in 1995.  The FDA bans lead in candy bars at greater than 0.1 part per million whereas some lipsticks have concentrations as high as 3.06 parts per million, 30 times as much.

Lipstick wearers can check out the quantity of lead in 20 different products.


lipstick Even hospitals provide products with known or suspected carcinogens, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. One woman reported that during her first chemo treatment after surgery for breast cancer that volunteers gave her a bag of products from Clinique, Estée Lauder, and Del Laboratories. As part of the Look Good Feel Better program, 16,000 volunteers hand out $10 million worth of personal care products each year to women being treated for cancer. Cosmetics giant Estée Lauder was at the forefront of “pinkwashing,” a practice in which giant corporations appear to be supporting the “cure” for breast cancer by giving away pink ribbons or selling pink products.

The private cosmetics industry is in the driver’s seat as far as investigations go. The Cosmetic Ingredient Review board, funded by cosmetics corporations, is in charge of evaluating the safety of their own product. The FDA has no authority to test the ingredients before they go on the market and no authority to pull an unsafe cosmetic from the market yet the European Union bans nearly 1,400 chemicals from personal care products because they are carcinogenic, mutagenic, or toxic to reproduction.

The CIR, a private organization, does not have to respond to the Freedom of Information Act. It also doesn’t even do its own research: spokesperson Lisa Powers wrote that it “carefully examines all of the currently available scientific data.” On at least one occasion, the CIR has pronounced cosmetics ingredients to be safe without scientific basis. The organization also does not keep a record of reformulated products or those that have been removed from the market after a review.

Perfumes and colognes are other areas that the FDA does not regulate. Tests show that popular colognes and body sprays contain 14 chemicals not listed on the label which are linked to hormone disruption, skin irritation, and allergic reactions. Scented detergents also contain carcinogenic toxins.

Hair products are another part of the safety problem. After pressure from consumer groups, the FDA found high levels of formaldehyde, a known carcinogen, in the hair straighteners from Brazilian Blowout. The product is still on the market. Carcinogens are used as preservatives in everything from suntan oil to makeup.

Children are encouraged to brush their teeth, and they wear gymsocks. Yet pesticides may be in these products because the Environmental Protection Agency fails to provide sufficient oversight. Instead products slip through the loophole called “conditional registration,” meaning they haven’t been fully tested for safety to human health or environment. Therefore pesticides are found in everything from cosmetics to food containers with the intention of resisting stains or keeping food fresh longer.

Since the EPA began registering pesticides in 1972, 90,000 of these have been allowed on the market. Just over 25,000 were approved through conditional registration. Of the 16,000 pesticides on the market in 2010, about 11,000 of them has this conditional registration without necessary safety testing. The lack of oversight was brought to view in 2008 when questions arose about why the toxic nanosilver was permitted in athletic gear and baby blankets. A 2010 internal EPA report on nanosilver notes: “the same property that makes it lethal to bacteria may render it toxic to human cells.” After an EPA panel said that they would require studies on the health effects of nanosilver, the agency allowed the company to continue its use of nanosilver. As of March 2011, 1,317 consumer products contained nanosilver, including 182 clothing products.

Almost a year ago, Johnson & Johnson declared that it will remove “chemicals of concern” from its baby shampoo and baby-care lotions by the end of this year. They have also pledged to provide make everyday products safe for adults. Their brands include Aveena, Neutrogena, Clean & Clear, and Lubriderm. Whether they have done this or not, we don’t know.

Since 1976, more than 80,000 chemicals have been produced and used in the U.S. In these 37 years, the EPA has required testing on just over 200 of the 62,000 chemicals that were “grandfathered” in under the law. Only 5 chemicals have been restricted. Cancer is only one danger from these chemicals; they can also cause diabetes, sterility, and obesity as well as a myriad of other serious problems.

You can protect yourself and your children by consulting this list from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. Other sources are available if you Google “non toxic kids products.”

You need to protect yourself and those you love because the federal government is too busy trying to overturn Obamacare to help people.

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