Letter writer: Be aware of toxic ingredients in personal care products

Graphic by Lori Deaton

I was happy to see that the [Jan. 27] Mountain Xpress focused on the relationship between environmental and physical health. This is such an important issue. Studies have linked many diseases — including cancer, endocrine and reproductive illnesses and learning disabilities — to environmental toxins.

In fact, about 90 percent of women who are diagnosed with breast cancer do not have the BRACA gene (cancer susceptibility gene), [according to the] www.cancer.gov fact sheet. Unfortunately, more than 85,000 chemicals are registered for use in commerce, and about 10,500 are used in the personal care industry (ewg.org).

I applaud you for highlighting the problem of toxic ingredients in products used in hair and nail salons [“Hair Trigger: Organic Salons Reject Toxic Beauty Products”]. These products are some of the worst offenders, but the problem is much more far-reaching. The personal care industry as a whole is virtually unregulated. As your article mentioned, there hasn’t been a law passed regulating this industry since 1938.

But this doesn’t just include products used in salons. It includes all the products that we are putting on our bodies every day — shampoo, face cream, body lotion, body and hand wash, makeup, etc. The average woman uses about 12 personal-care products containing 168 ingredients every day. That adds up to a lot of chemicals! This is particularly concerning because about 60 percent of what we put on our skin is absorbed directly into the bloodstream.

A lot of people assume that these products are regulated by the FDA. Actually, the FDA lacks the power to regulate the ingredients. Manufacturers are legally allowed to use ingredients that are known carcinogens and hormone disruptors. Even when people use personal-care products that are labeled “natural” or “organic,” they may be unwittingly using products containing toxic ingredients. There is a big problem with “greenwashing” in this industry. In other words, makers of personal care products are not required to follow a stringent process as is required with food before these products can be labeled “organic” or “natural.”

Basically, if a product contains one organic or natural ingredient, a company can call the product natural or organic. Do you want to take the chance that what you’re using on your body that is labeled “natural” contains toxic ingredients that are being absorbed into your bloodstream? I don’t. And, we as consumers deserve to know that the products we’re putting on our bodies are safe!

A new company called Beautycounter is doing something about it. Beautycounter’s mission is to educate people about the toxic chemicals in personal care products, and provide them with nontoxic, high-performing alternatives.  …

To lend further credence to Beautycounter’s commitment to health and safety, the company is a certified B Corp., which means it has been certified to meet rigorous standards of social and environmental performance, accountability and transparency.  In addition, Beautycounter is lobbying for regulation in the personal care industry. The company’s founder, Gregg Renfrew, was on Capitol Hill in December lobbying members of Congress in this regard.

One of Beautycounter’s trusted nonprofit partners is The Environmental Working Group, an environmental research organization dedicated to protecting human health and the environment. The EWG has compiled an extensive database, which rates personal care products on a 1-10 scale for toxicity level. Anything rated 2 or lower is considered safe. If you want to check the safety ratings on the products you’re currently using, you can go to www.ewg.org/skindeep.

I was so concerned about the issue of toxic chemicals in personal care products and the lack of industry regulation and so impressed with Beautycounter’s mission and quality products that I have recently become a consultant. If you’re interested in learning more about the issue or Beautycounter, you can go to www.beautycounter.com/juliedavis.

I firmly believe that knowledge is power, and I am doing what I can to arm consumers in Asheville with the knowledge they need to make healthy, informed choices in personal care products.

— Julie Davis



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7 thoughts on “Letter writer: Be aware of toxic ingredients in personal care products

  1. The Real World

    Wow, Mtn X……really? This public service announcement-style letter is actually a blatant pitch for a multi-level marketing company. Did you not notice that? You’ve opened Pandora’s box.

    Yes, there are lots of chemicals in beauty, health and home care products and it is a concern. But allowing a ‘consultant’ free space to pitch your readers so she can line her pockets? Well, it’s your paper, you can do as you like but you might suffer a noticeable credibility dip.

    I wonder which body part this fragrant water will lift: http://www.beautycounter.com/skin-care/cleansers-exfoliators/rosewater-uplifting-spray.html Can’t wait to blow $35 for 1.6 fluid ounces of that magic potion as I feel a little bit lifted just anticipating it!

    I’m aware of EWG and haven’t yet formed an opinion about their legitimacy and accuracy. There are articles online with both supporters and detractors.

    Mtn X – pls reply here with a Yay or Nay whether I can cook up an angle for promoting my business in the Letters section. Thanks.

  2. bsummers

    Yeah, XPress – this is gross. You shouldn’t be running obvious infomercials in your “Opinion” section.

  3. Tracy Rose

    Thanks for everyone’s comments. I debated on how much to include from the original letter, which was even further abridged for print. On the one hand, the letter writer was on topic, since the article referenced focuses on WNC salon owners and their efforts to minimize the use of toxic chemicals in the products they use. And the letter does contain some information and links that readers might find useful. But the pitch at the end may have crossed the line from opinion into advertising.

    • boatrocker

      “But the pitch at the end may have crossed the line from opinion into advertising” -yea, duh.

      Then why was this piece even published?

      • Tracy Rose

        I should have written, “But on further reflection, the pitch at the end may have crossed the line from opinion into advertising.”

  4. The Real World

    There definitely is an issue with these chemicals/toxins (in fact, it’s possible my own father died 20 years younger than anyone else in his family and of cancer, which none of the others had) because of ingesting water and breathing air laced with the PFOA that DuPont was using to make Teflon. They were suppressing important info about the harms of that chemical (yes, a conspiracy, people). There was a class action lawsuit about it (plantiffs won) and are now over 2000 individual lawsuits pending from people who’ve suffered serious health conditions from PFOA.

    And today, see this story from Reuters: https://www.yahoo.com/finance/news/j-j-must-pay-72-million-cancer-death-165321401–finance.html

    From article – Johnson & Johnson faces claims that it, in an effort to boost sales, failed for decades to warn consumers that its talc-based products could cause cancer.

    Jurors found Johnson & Johnson liable for fraud, negligence and conspiracy.

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