BCPP Diaries

How my wife’s cancer led us to create an ingredient safety app for helping others

How my wife’s cancer led us to create an ingredient safety app for helping others

We got the wake-up call 4 years ago: my beloved wife Chen was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were shocked: why would a young and healthy yoga therapist, a vegetarian without a family history of cancer, get cancer? Read More

Guest Post by Amit Rosner

We got the wake-up call 4 years ago: my beloved wife Chen was diagnosed with breast cancer. We were shocked: why would a young and healthy yoga therapist, a vegetarian without a family history of cancer, get cancer? We will never know for sure, but according to a growing body of science, one reason could be exposure to carcinogens and hormone disruptors in our environment. A year later, following a surgery, chemo and radiation therapy, my wife recovered, and we restarted our life with a determined decision to keep toxic chemicals out of our home, and away from our two children.

Chen Rosner Orbach and Amit Rosner (Photo Credit: Michal Benedek)

Easier said than done! I remember stepping into our bathroom that day, picking up a bar of soap and a few creams to look at their ingredient lists, and realizing the magnitude of the challenge: it seemed as if these ingredient lists were intended to be indecipherable by us, the consumers. Where to start? Google doesn’t make it too easy to discern between facts and opinions, and the databases we found online were helpful, but left us with questions. These questions kept me awake at night, so I decided to use my tech experience and academic background in computational biology to develop a solution: an automatic “ingredient safety assistant” based on science and regulatory information.

It took two years of research and software development, before “Clearya” was born: for my family, and for everyone else to use: www.clearya.com

Clearya displays alerts on potentially unsafe ingredients while shopping online

Clearya is an iPhone and Android mobile app, as well as a Chrome browser plug-in for computers. Once installed, it works automatically while you shop online at Sephora, Amazon, Walmart, iHerb etc. Clearya analyzes the ingredient lists of personal care products, make-up and other beauty products, baby care, and household cleaning products, and displays alerts on potentially unsafe chemicals – so people can find products with safer ingredients more easily.

Clearya spots unsafe chemicals by matching the ingredient names (and their synonyms!) to over 15 different official toxic chemical lists, created by the California Environmental Protection Agency, the Government of Canada, the European Union’s Commission, the European Chemicals Agency, the United Nations Environment Programme, and others.

Evidently, the U.S. cosmetics regulation is so permissive, that Clearya often alerts on ingredients contained in products that are sold online despite being classified by California EPA and European regulators as linked to cancer, hormone disruptors, reproduction toxicants which may harm fertility, developmental toxicants which can cause birth defects and other harm to the developing child, not to mention allergens, and other banned or restricted ingredients.

Clearya’s technology powers a collective community effort: every time a Clearya user browses a new safe or unsafe product online, the system gets a little smarter, and these cumulative insights can serve everyone else.

We recently looked back at 8,000 products visited by users, to see how common cancer-related ingredients in personal care and beauty products are. Many of the products passed the test without any alerts. But over a hundred products contained ingredients linked with cancer, and over a thousand products had ingredients linked with estrogenic hormone disruption. The analysis surfaced two more hidden risks: (1) The extensive use of chemicals that are harmless in their pure form but are prone to be contaminated by toxic byproducts of their manufacturing process. (2) The word “fragrance” on the labels of beauty and personal care products is ubiquitous as an “ingredient” due to a federal labeling loophole, because it does not disclose the actual chemicals that make up the fragrance.

This study, in collaboration with Silent Spring Institute, will be presented in the upcoming Annual Conference of the International Society for Environmental Epidemiology. You can read about some of our findings here.

My favorite moment when using Clearya

My takeaways from our family’s journey? Legal doesn’t mean safe. Marketing words like “Natural” don’t warrant safety either. Sadly, regulators haven’t yet closed the gap between what scientists know is harmful, and the ingredients in products that brands are still allowed to sell.

In the meantime, our mission at Clearya is to empower people to make safer choices for their families. Give it a try! Download Clearya to your iPhone, Android phone, or computer. You might be surprised by what you discover.

Now, imagine what would happen if a million people like you and I verified every ingredient and stopped buying unsafe products. How would a wave of well-informed consumers impact the industry’s safety standards? That’s our goal. Will you make a gift to BCPP today and help us expand Clearya to empower more families?

Chen Rosner Orbach and Amit Rosner (Photo Credit: Michal Benedek)


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Climb 2020 Postponed – See you in 2021!

Climb 2020 Postponed – See you in 2021!

What a wild roller coaster ride 2020 has been for the Climb Against the Odds. We started out like gangbusters, filling the team in record time and even expanding from the normal team size to accommodate all that were eager to join us. Everyone jumped into fundraising and training with enthusiasm and the BCPP team worked to organize the logistics for our long weekend in Mt.Read More

Alpenglow on Mt. Shasta. Photo courtesy of Marie DeJournette

By Marie DeJournette, BCPP Outdoor Events Manager

What a wild roller coaster ride 2020 has been for the Climb Against the Odds. We started out like gangbusters, filling the team in record time and even expanding from the normal team size to accommodate all that were eager to join us. Everyone jumped into fundraising and training with enthusiasm and the BCPP team worked to organize the logistics for our long weekend in Mt. Shasta.

By April, the world was changing and we suspected that we would have to modify our plans, and by May we had rescheduled the climb from June to late July in the hopes that the COVID-19 rates would be under control. Our team continued to train.

Group training for Climb Against the Odds. Front: Laura Grishaver. Left to right: Sheila Brown, Linor Vaknin, BCPP CEO Amanda Heier, and Susan Scott. Photo courtesy of Michael Sevy. 

Training hike with Jamie Earl and his son Connor. Photo courtesy of Jamie Earl. 

Unfortunately, things did not pan out as hoped. Last week the BCPP staff met with board members and Shasta Mountain Guides, and there was a consensus that with the recent spikes in COVID cases, it wasn’t prudent to continue with our climb this July.

While we are not technically cancelling the climb, merely postponing it to 2021, it was a hard decision to make but we know it is the right thing to do.

We don’t want to expose the Shasta community to a large group of people coming in from other areas, nor do we want to put our climbers and staff at unnecessary risk. Although the guides have gone to extreme measures to make sure climbers are safe while they are on the mountain, it would be difficult to maintain proper distancing during our community events with our large group of climbers and supporters.

The first Climb Against the Odds took place on Mt. Aconcagua in 1995, followed by expeditions on Mt. Fuji and Denali but since 2003 the Climb has found a home on Mt. Shasta. We are so grateful to the Shasta community, for their ongoing support and for embracing our climbers each year.

Prayer flags at Horse Camp on Mt. Shasta. Photo courtesy of Linda Chitwood. 

We are also extremely grateful for our sponsors continuing support and their understanding during this unfortunate turn of events.

The silver lining is that our current team will now have an extra year to train and fundraise. And we are hoping to recruit a second team to make 2021 bigger and better than ever. Hope to see you then!

 

Interested in climbing Mt. Shasta for breast cancer prevention with us in 2021? Click here to get started on this journey of a lifetime today! 


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Cleaning product ingredient transparency: cracking open the black box

Cleaning product ingredient transparency: cracking open the black box

In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, cleaning products are flying off the shelves and into our homes nationwide. While protection from coronavirus is a primary concern, we also want non-toxic options for cleaning and disinfecting our homes.Read More

By BCPP Senior Policy Strategist Nancy Buermeyer

In the face of the COVID-19 crisis, cleaning products have been flying off the shelves and into our homes worldwide. While protection from coronavirus is a primary concern, consumers also want to know if there are adverse health effects associated with the ingredients in the products we are bringing into our homes to clean and disinfect.

Knowing what’s in our cleaning products is essential for making informed choices about which products we do, and don’t, want to use. Before 2020, there was no legal requirement to label ingredients in household cleaners, including potential carcinogens, or ingredients linked to reproductive harm, potential allergic reactions or other harmful health effects. Fortunately, because of our work, consumers will finally know what’s inside their cleaning products!

CA Cleaning Product Right to Know law requires disclosing ingredients online

As of January 1, 2020, cleaning product manufacturers must post product ingredients on their websites, a result of a groundbreaking California law. BCPP sponsored the CA Cleaning Products Right to Know Act of 2017 (SB 258) along with the Environmental Working Group, Natural Resources Defense Council, and Women’s Voices for the Earth. Together, we led on every aspect of the legislative process, including the extensive and collaborative negotiations between industry and advocates that resulted in broad support and ultimate passage of this internationally historic law.

 

Example of Online Ingredient Listing

As of January 1, 2020, a list of ingredients in cleaning products, including any hazardous fragrance ingredients, can be found on product websites, such as this one for Lysol Disinfectant Spray. RB, the maker of Lysol, was closely involved in the industry/NGO negotiations for the CA bill. The law requires that harmful ingredients that appear on 23  ‘designated lists’ of hazardous chemicals be identified, in this example by the “DL” icon. In the case of this RB product,  a drop-down menu provides additional information. 

The law breaks new ground in several ways. It:

  • Requires ingredient disclosure for cleaning products sold in CA, including disinfectants, for the first time. This is the only requirement of its kind anywhere in the world.
  • Requires disclosure of fragrance ingredients down to a concentration of 100 parts per million and the full disclosure of all hazardous fragrance ingredients. No other product category, including beauty and personal care products, currently discloses fragrance chemicals (but BCPP is working to change that).
  • Prohibits trade secret claims for ingredients linked to harm to human health or the environment.
  • Requires disclosure of toxic contaminants, such as the carcinogen 1,4-dioxane, that aren’t intentionally added to a cleaning product but end up in products for a myriad of reasons (i.e. the manufacturing process, contamination of raw materials, chemicals that combine and create (or release) other chemicals, etc.); the first time contaminants have been disclosed on product websites.

When the Cleaning Product Right to Know law goes into effect

The ingredient disclosure requirements in the CA law will gradually expand as the law is fully implemented. Starting in January 2020, cleaning products sold in California are now required to list ingredients online. The size of the CA market (virtually every product is sold here) means this law will likely benefit most Americans.

And website disclosure is only the first step. As of January 2021, cleaning product labels will list ingredients as well, allowing consumers to review this information in stores. On-label disclosure is especially important for people without access to smart phones, computers, or the internet.

Finally, cleaning product companies must start disclosing California Prop 65 ingredients linked to cancer and reproductive harm in 2023. Major manufacturers negotiated for this extra time to reformulate their products to remove these worst of the worst chemicals. The law is clearly accomplishing one of the primary goals of ingredient disclosure: pressuring companies to remove potentially hazardous chemicals.

 

Business leaders in cleaning product ingredient labeling transparency

While this is the first time ingredient labeling is legally required for cleaning products, some companies have been disclosing ingredients for years. As one example, BCPP’s partner Seventh Generation has been an industry leader in disclosing the ingredients in their cleaning products. Not only do they walk the talk, Seventh Generation was a critical and active partner in passing the Cleaning Products Right to Know Act, which levels the playing field among all companies selling products in California.

Seventh Generation online labeling

In addition to online disclosure like this, full ingredient lists on Seventh Generation’s products such as this laundry detergent have been available on product labels since 2007.

The future of cleaning product ingredient transparency

This new transparency will improve the safety of cleaning products for everyone:

  1. Workers will know what chemicals they are being exposed to on the job, allowing them to advocate for safer alternatives.
  2. Consumers will have the power to make better choices for themselves and their families.
  3. Watchdog groups like BCPP will be able to review ingredients and educate companies and consumers alike on chemicals to avoid.
  4. And if the market doesn’t correct the problem, the information will provide government regulators a tool to prioritize restricting or banning the most hazardous ingredients in cleaning products.

Of course, disclosure of ingredients is only the first step in our mission to remove toxic chemicals linked to breast cancer from cleaning products and other household items, but it is a necessary first step. BCPP will use this information to push legislators and regulators to ban the use of these harmful chemicals to better protect public health.

We hope that you and your family are in good health and that this information will help you create a cleaner and safer home.

Resources

Links to resources to help you navigate this new world, keeping yourself and your family safe from both viruses and toxic chemicals:

Take Action for Ingredient Transparency

Help reduce and eliminate chemicals linked to breast cancer through our action center.


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Changemakers’ Chat 2: Dr. Linda Birnbaum and Dr. Meredith Williams

Changemakers’ Chat 2: Dr. Linda Birnbaum and Dr. Meredith Williams

This month, we talk with two leading science and policy experts who share their history of using science to impact public health and drive change. Dive into a talk on toxic chemicals, COVID-19, environmental justice, and navigating politics during this difficult time. Read More

BCPP’s Changemakers’ Chat webinar interview series is bringing together the BCPP community and our partners during this time of uncertainty.

This month, we talk with two leading science and policy experts who share their history of using science to impact public health and drive change. Dive into a talk on toxic chemicals, COVID-19, environmental justice, and navigating politics during this difficult time.

 

Speaker’s Bios

Linda S. Birnbaum, Ph.D., D.A.B.T., A.T.S., Scientist Emeritus and the Former Director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, as well as the National Toxicology Program (NTP), positions she held from January 18, 2009 until October 3, 2019. Dr. Birnbaum is also a Scholar in Residence, Duke University. In total, Linda has worked as a federal scientist for nearly 40 years. She also serves as an adjunct professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Public Health and as a member of the editorial board of Environment International. Prior to becoming the director of the NIEHS and NTP, Linda worked at the National Toxicology Program as a senior staff fellow, then as a research microbiologist, and then as a group leader for the Chemical Disposition Group. Birnbaum then began a stint at the Environmental Protection Agency, where she directed the largest agency focused on environmental health research for 19 years. She has also served as the past president of the Society of Toxicology. Linda has authored over 600 peer-reviewed publications. Her research focuses on the pharmacokinetic behavior of environmental chemicals and their health effects. She is well known for her research on endocrine disruptors, particularly dioxins, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs).

Meredith Williams is the Director of the California Department of Toxic Substances Control. She was appointed to the position by Governor Gavin Newsom on December 19, 2019. Meredith joined DTSC in 2013 as Deputy Director of the Department’s Safer Consumer Products Program to lead the implementation of California’s groundbreaking effort to reduce toxic chemicals in consumer products. She has expertise in research and development, product management, and operations for Fortune 500 companies in the technology, consumer product, and chemical sectors, including 3M and Applied Materials, a leading semiconductor manufacturer. Following her work in the private sector, Meredith held a number of leadership positions at the nonprofit San Francisco Estuary Institute, a nationally recognized center for science in support of aquatic resource management.Meredith strives for collaborative solutions to complex problems and has a track record of championing interdisciplinary project management approaches. She holds a B.A. degree from Yale University and a doctorate in physics from North Carolina State University.

Amanda Heier, BCPP President and CEO

Coming Up Next

Join us for our next Changemaker’s Chat in August 2020. Registration will be live soon on our events page.

Love the series? Support next month’s episode! 


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Cosmetic Safety: 82 years later, have things changed?

Cosmetic Safety: 82 years later, have things changed?

Most people assume the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates beauty and personal care products in the same way it does food and drugs to protect consumer health and safety. You might be surprised to hear that this could not be farther from the truth: Cosmetics are one of the least regulated consumer products on the market today. Read More

By Janet Nudelman, Director of Program & Policy and Director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics 

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FDCA) into law in 1938.  Back then, you could rent a house for $27/month, a loaf of bread cost 9 cents, a gallon of gas cost 10 cents, and you could buy a new car for $763.  A lot has changed since the FDCA was enacted, but unfortunately for consumers a lot has stayed the same when it comes to cosmetic safety.

Most people assume the Federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates beauty and personal care products in the same way it does food and drugs to protect consumer health and safety.  You might be surprised to hear that this could not be farther from the truth: Cosmetics are one of the least regulated consumer products on the market today.            

Federal cosmetic safety protections have simply not kept pace with the rapid growth of the cosmetics industry from a $1B industry in 1938 to a $100B domestic industry today.  The FDCA has only been amended twice, since 1938, and there are still only 2 pages of federal law devoted to cosmetic safety.

The cosmetics title of the FDCA provides the FDA with virtually no statutory power to perform even the most rudimentary functions to ensure the safety of an estimated $100 billion cosmetic industry.

Under existing law:

  • Companies can use virtually any raw material in a finished cosmetic product – including chemicals linked to long term adverse health effects like cancer, birth defects, hormone disruption, learning disabilities, and more – without pre-market FDA safety testing or review.
  • The ingredients in professional hair and nail salon products and internet sales of cosmetics do not have to be labeled.
  • The secret, often toxic ingredients in fragrance do not have to be disclosed to consumers, manufacturers or even to the FDA.
  • Unlike food and drugs, the FDA cannot require recalls of cosmetic products that are harming consumers or salon workers without going to court to argue the need to remove those products from the market, which seldom if ever happens.
  • And, the FDA cannot require manufacturers to register their cosmetic establishments, their products, or their product ingredients, or report cosmetic-related injuries.  Instead, the FDA relies on voluntary reporting of ingredients, injuries and establishments.

As a result, the FDA Does Not Know:

  • The overall number of ingredients in personal care products.
  • The ingredients in a particular cosmetic product that lists “fragrance” as a mask for dozens – sometimes hundreds – of individual chemicals.
  • The number and location of companies that manufacture and distribute personal care products.
  • The FDA doesn’t even know the extent to which adverse health impacts are occurring from harmful ingredients in cosmetic products because companies are not required by law to tell them (unlike food, toys, drugs and medical devices).

Back then, companies were using toxic chemicals like mercury, arsenic, lead and coal tar to formulate cosmetics –  uses that led to the enactment of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act. Today companies are still using these same deadly chemicals to make and sell cosmetics because, quite simply, they can.

Newspaper headlines are rife with shocking stories of mercury in skin lightening creams, formaldehyde in hair straightening products, lead and other heavy metals in kids face paint and asbestos-contaminated baby powder.  Adding insult to injury, women of color, and black women in particular, are faring the worst when it comes to cosmetic safety because of the toxic chemicals in the toxic products marketed to them.  A recent NIEHS study showed that black women who regularly dye their hair have a 60% increased risk of breast cancer. Shopping in the beauty aisle shouldn’t put black women’s health at risk. Especially given black women already face a 31% breast cancer mortality rate – the highest of any U.S. racial or ethnic group.

But the sad truth is that the FDA will not, and cannot, do anything to change what has become a buyer beware, Wild West of cosmetic safety until congress gives them the power to do so.

The good news is 3 bills being considered by lawmakers in congress and in California are poised to change the ‘safe cosmetics’ conversation, finally, for the better.

H.R.4296 — The Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2019, introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-CA) is the most consumer-facing and considered the gold standard of bills introduced in congress to modernize federal cosmetic safety regulation by women’s health, environmental health, and environmental justice organizations.  It is the only federal bill that holds cosmetic companies accountable for the safety of the ingredients in their products; requires supply chain transparency and industry sharing of safety data to help level the playing field for small, clean cosmetic companies; closes the federal labeling loophole that allows secret—often toxic fragrance chemicals—to hide in cosmetic products; bans most animal testing; and tackles the over-exposure to toxic chemicals experienced by communities of color and professional salon workers.

The California Toxic Free Cosmetic Act (AB2762-Muratsuchi), would ban 12 of the most toxic chemicals on the planet from cosmetics sold in California, including mercury, 4 types of formaldehyde, 2 long chain parabens, 2 of the worst of the worst phthalates, 2 common phenylenediamines found in hair dye and the PFAS ‘forever’ chemicals used to line non-stick cookware.  Ten of these chemicals are linked to breast cancer, 9 are liked to increased risk of susceptibility to COVID-19, and all of these chemicals are already banned from cosmetics by the European Union.

The California Cosmetic Fragrance and Flavor Ingredient Right to Know Act of 2019 (SB 312-Leyva), would force the disclosure of fragrance or flavor ingredients linked to harm to human health or the environment in beauty or personal care products sold in California. This bill is the first of its kind in the nation to give consumers and professional salon workers access to information previously hidden from the public because of a federal labeling loophole which requires all of the ingredients in a cosmetic product to appear on a product label with the exception of fragrance and flavor ingredients.  This bill is important because it takes a whack at antiquated trade secret protections that allow harmful ingredients to hide under that one word ‘fragrance’ or ‘flavor’ without a consumer or salon workers’ knowledge or consent.

Demand toxic-free beauty now, by visiting BCPP’s Action Center where you can contact your elected officials and let them know that 82 years is too long to wait for common-sense, much-needed cosmetic safety public health protections!

Support these safe cosmetics bills!

It’s been long enough, all people deserve safe personal care products. Help us pass these bills!


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Changemakers’ Chat: EO Co-Founder and Co-CEO Susan Griffin-Black

Changemakers’ Chat: EO Co-Founder and Co-CEO Susan Griffin-Black

In this video replay of our monthly live discussion series, BCPP talks with pioneering Founder and Co-CEO, Susan Griffin-Black about clean beauty, sustainability, pivoting during a pandemic, and why advocacy matters.Read More

BCPP’s Changemakers’ Chat webinar interview series is bringing together the BCPP community and our partners during this time of uncertainty.

This month, join BCPP and pioneering Founder and Co-CEO, Susan Griffin-Black, for a discussion on clean beauty, sustainability, pivoting during a pandemic, and why advocacy matters.

 

 

Join us for our next Changemaker’s Chat on June 29, 2020! Our special guest will be Dr. Linda Birnbaum, the former director of the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences and National Toxicology Program. Registration will be live soon on our events page.


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BCPP Logo Breast Cancer Prevention Partners

What are fragrances made of? 

What are fragrances made of? 

Scents are important. Probably more important than you (or most) think. Especially when it comes to memory, sensations, and even the bonding experience between baby and mother.Read More

By BCPP Tech & Communications Manager Emily Reuman

Scents are important. Probably more important than you (or most people) think. Especially when it comes to memory, sensations, and even the bonding experience between baby and mother. We are triggered by the past and introduced to the new, but what exactly is at the heart of these olfactory (smell) experiences?

Often, it’s toxic chemicals!

Fragrance ingredients

There are over 3,000 individual fragrance ingredients used in our favorite perfumes, body lotions, hair products, make-up, and baby products to name a few. While some of these chemicals are safe for our health and the environment, others have never been tested for safety. According to scientists, some of these chemicals are even known to cause cancer, hormone disruption, and reproductive harm!

The fact that it’s even legal for companies to use fragrances with known human carcinogens in personal care, beauty, and cleaning products is mind-blowing.

We use body wash, shampoo, moisturizer, sunscreen, and deodorant every day or even multiple times a day. Over the long-term, your exposure to all these chemicals adds up and can put your health at risk.

In this blog, we will lay out what you should know about fragrance chemicals, how you can choose safer products, and what you can do to help strengthen our health and safety laws in the US. Together, we can ensure that the products we use on our bodies and in our homes are safer for all of us.

What you should know

Fragrances

Fragrances are made up of dozens—sometimes hundreds—of chemicals that are omitted from personal care and cleaning product labels. Many of these chemicals are linked to chronic health issues, like cancer, hormone disruption and reproductive harm, or acute health issues like asthma.

BCPP testing on beauty, personal care, and cleaning products revealed that 1 out of every 4 fragrance ingredients detected in our tests were linked to cancer, birth defects, respiratory harm, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, or aquatic toxicity. And, shockingly, some of the products tested had an even higher percentage of toxic fragrance chemicals, compared to the listed ingredients. In fact, 3 out of 4 of the chemicals linked to chronic health effects in the products we tested were fragrance ingredients.

Here are just a few of the harmful fragrance chemicals we found:

  • Beta-myrcene, a carcinogen and fragrance ingredient found in 3/7 cleaning products and 19/25 personal care products
  • Diethyl phthalate (DEP), an endocrine disrupting compound (EDC) found in cleaning and personal care products
  • DEHP (Bis(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate), a phthalate banned by the European Union in 2004, found in a personal care product, Summer’s Eve Freshening Spray
  • Benzophenone, a carcinogen, and its derivative oxybenzone, found in personal care products
  • Propylene glycol, an EDC and reproductive toxicant found in personal care products
  • Benzyl salicylate an EDC and fragrance allergen found in personal care products
  • Benzaldehyde, an EDC found in personal care products
  • Butylated Hydroxytoluene (BHT), an EDC found in personal care products

Essential oils

Essentials oils and “natural fragrances” can also have troubling health effects. Essential oils are naturally occurring, complex mixtures. Their chemical composition varies widely based on their geographic origin, season of harvest, extraction method, and many other conditions.

Some of the naturally occurring constituents of essential oils may have hormone-disrupting properties or other negative health effects. For instance, recent studies on young boys link the use of lavender and tea tree oil to breast development.

On the other hand, some essential oils have positive health effects, including antioxidant, antimicrobial and antitumor activities. Many essential oils have not been tested thoroughly for safety, though most have been used safely for centuries by communities around the world.

 

4 Tips for buying fragrance-free or safer scented products

1. Check the back of your products for ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum.’

That one little word can hide dozens, if not hundreds, of secret fragrance chemicals.

2. Choose products that are fragrance-free.

Even with products that claim to be fragrance-free, you should still check the ingredient label for sneaky ‘fragrance’ or ‘parfum.’ The ‘fragrance-free’ label can be misleading, as it doesn’t necessarily mean that a product is actually free of fragrance chemicals. Some companies use masking chemicals to cover up bad smells, in the way that air fresheners cover up bad odors through a concoction of fragrance chemicals.

3. Support brands and retailers that are fully transparent about fragrance.

Look for brands that list all their ingredients, not just ‘fragrance,’ and have a fragrance transparency policy online. For example, our business partner Seventh Generation has been disclosing all fragrance ingredients on their cleaning product labels since 2007. And as of November 2019, our partner Credo Beauty tells you the source of the fragrance ingredients in all products it sells, and over half of the brands they carry are now fully disclosing fragrance.

4. For essential oils, don’t use undiluted oils directly on your skin, and support companies that are fully transparent about the composition of the oils in their products.

If you buy from brands and retailers that are fully transparent, you can check for potential allergic reactions. Also, we do not recommend the use of lavender or tea tree oil for young boys.

 

What you can do

While talking to your favorite brands and retailers about fragrance ingredient transparency will help to move the market, we can’t shop our way out of this problem. We need to protect the health of everyone, and here’s how.

The law currently does not require companies to list the ingredients in the fragrances they use. The fragrance and cosmetics industries have lobbied hard against revealing their ingredients, arguing that fragrance mixtures should be protected as trade secrets or confidential business information.

 

We don’t think cancer causing chemicals should be confidential. Today, there are plenty of toxic chemicals that are legally used in personal care and beauty products on store shelves. In fact, over 10,000 chemicals are used to formulate cosmetics, yet only 11 are banned or restricted by the US Food & Drug Administration.

Rep. Jan Schakowsky’s Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2019 (H.R. 4296) is the only bill calling for full fragrance ingredient disclosure to consumers, manufacturers and to the FDA. The bill also requires supply chain transparency and industry data sharing to address the lack of safety data available for fragrance ingredients.

By passing this bill, the FDA can swiftly reduce our exposure to toxic chemicals. Our product testing shows that the vast majority of chemicals with health concerns are ingredients used in fragrance.

That’s why we are calling on members of congress to adopt legislation that requires full fragrance disclosure and establishes stricter regulation of the $70 billion fragrance industry. Take action to help pass this bill right now.

Send a letter to help end secret toxic scents!

Tell your member of Congress to support the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2019 (H.R. 4296) through our action center right now.

Better Beauty Businesses

If you’re a personal care, beauty, or cleaning product company, we encourage you to:

  • Formally endorse the Safe Cosmetics and Personal Care Products Act of 2019
  • Work with your suppliers of raw materials, fragrance blends and finished products to get safety data, full ingredient lists and the right to fully disclose all ingredients – including fragrance chemicals — on product labels.
  • Develop a restricted substances list, and work with fragrance suppliers to phase out the chemicals on that list. We’ve developed a Red List of Chemicals of Concern in cleaning products, personal care products and fragrance to help with this process.

More resources

  • Made Safe is America’s first nontoxic seal for products we use every day, from baby to personal care to household and beyond.
  • Green Chemistry & Commerce Council (GC3) helps develop safer alternatives through green chemistry principles
  • GreenScreen is a third-party certification tool to identify chemical constituents of high concern and provide information on safer alternatives.

Recap: what you can do right now

  • Shop fragrance-free
  • Support clean cosmetic companies that disclose their fragrance ingredients
  • Take Action for a safer beauty industry

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Cleaning Safer and Toxic-Free with BCPP

Cleaning Safer and Toxic-Free with BCPP

We’ve gathered up the most asked questions from our social media community around COVID-19 cleaning, and I’m here to answer those directly for you. Read More

Video by BCPP Director of Science Sharima Rasanayagam, Ph.D.

In this time of uncertainty, and as BCPP’s Director of Science, I wanted to find a way for us to virtually connect. What better way than a video from my bedroom talking safer cleaning products! At BCPP, we’re always asking questions and using science to answer them. We’ve gathered up the most asked questions from our social media community around COVID-19 cleaning, and I’m here to answer those directly for you.

I hope you take a few minutes to learn something new, share with a friend, and help support BCPP’s work to prevent breast cancer. Thank you and stay well!

Check out my video Clean Safer & Toxic Free with BCPP video: 

Video Transcript

Cleaning Safer and Toxic Free during COVID-19 with BCPP’s Director of Science Sharima Rasanayagam 

[00:00:01] My name is Sharima Rasanayagam. I’m the Director of Science at Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and we thought we’d get online today to talk with you a little bit about safe cleaning products. So first of all, I want to say that we hope that you and your family are all safe and well during this worrying time. We at BCPP are all working from home and observing social isolation. We’re juggling, looking after our families, homeschooling our kids and keeping in touch with loved ones virtually while still trying to make time for our mental as well as physical health.

[00:00:34] And I know all of you are doing the same.

[00:00:36] So while we’re all working from home, we at BCPP are still working to protect all of us from exposures linked to breast cancer and other health outcomes. And so, one of the things we’ve been asked a lot about is safer cleaning during this time. So we thought we’d do this quick video and answer some questions. And then if we don’t cover things that you have questions about, please quote, put them in the comments below and we’ll try and answer them.

[00:01:05] So first question, what can we do to protect our health today?

[00:01:11] So in this time of COVID-19, it’s really important to follow the CDC and your local health departments advice on staying safe. So, we all need to be washing our hands as often as we can. And well, with soap and water, we all need to observe the social distancing rules that our community has when we’re outside our home. And we also need especially to protect vulnerable people, including the elderly and especially those with compromised immune systems.

[00:01:42] And that includes people going through treatment for cancer and after their treatment.

[00:01:50] Another important question we get asked a lot is, is anti-bacterial soap better than normal? So for regular hand-washing? Well, actually washing hands with regular soap and water has been found to be at least as effective, if not more so than using some of the antibacterial soaps. And there are fewer antibacterial hand soaps on the market these days. But those that are there sometimes contain triclosan and triclocarbon. And these are chemicals with hormone disrupting effects. So it’s best just to use regular soap and sing your favorite 20 seconds on while you clean your hands.

[00:02:29] So one of the reasons there are fewer antibacterial hand soaps on the market is the work that BCPP and our partners have done to hold companies and the government to account for allowing cancer causing and hormone disrupting chemicals in our products. And so, it’s been a really great success that we’ve been able to get rid of some of these chemicals from our environment and our products. So please consider donating at BPP to org if you’re able to, to help us continue our work to protect everyone. So, another question we get is what cleaning products should I use right now?

[00:03:06] So, similar to handwashing, simple cleaning products can be used around the home. A good hard scrub with soap or an all-purpose cleaner can remove many germs and keep the use of disinfectants to where they are really needed. So try to use cleaners that lists all of their ingredients on the label, including fragrance ingredients.

[00:03:28] So you can check the chemicals with health concerns and to find out what those chemicals are. You can check our red list of chemicals to avoid, which is on our web site BCPP.org. Or you can use smartphone apps like Think Dirty and Healthy Living to scan product bar codes. Or you can look for the EPA safe choice label on products which identifies products have been found to be safer, the human health and the environment.

[00:03:56] What about disinfecting? So there are some areas in your house that should be disinfected, especially when you or your loved ones are vulnerable to the disease so frequently touch surfaces should be disinfected. If somebody in the house is ill or suspected of being ill and then surfaces touched by unwashed hands after returning from elsewhere, so doorknobs, things like that that you might touch before you wash your hands. And for this disinfecting, you should try and use safer disinfectant.

[00:04:29] So active ingredients which are listed below in the comments such as citric acid, hydrogen peroxide, l-lactic acid and ethanol or alcohol, all have been found by the EPA to be safer for health and the environment. And you should try and use products that have those active ingredients. You should use microfiber cloths to clean. But if that’s not possible, you can use just normal towels and sponges. But make sure you clean those between each surface with your disinfecting.

Now, I know some people only have access to bleach-based disinfectants right now and bleach is a pretty toxic chemical. But if you only have that available, make sure you use gloves. Make sure you have eye protection and that you ventilate the area well as you clean and full of dilution guidelines on the product. And also especially with bleach, but with any disinfectant. Try not to mix it or don’t mix different chemicals with different active ingredients because sometimes they can be reactions between these chemicals that cause health effects.

And so thank you for your time. I hope this has been helpful. Please feel free to post any questions in the comments below. And if you’re able consider a donation to BCPP at our website BCPP.org or through the link below to help us keep going. Protecting our health and environment from exposures linked to breast cancer. So again, thank you and stay well and take care of yourselves.

 

Find out:

  • What can I do every day to protect my health?
  • What can I do to stay safe during COVID?
  • How can we protect the vulnerable?
  • Is antibacterial soap better than regular soap?
  • What cleaning products should I use?
  • What about disinfectants?

Science is the backbone of all our work at BCPP

We review new evidence linking chemical and other exposures to breast cancer, test ingredients in consumer products, publish reports, create exclusive science expert videos, and share all of our knowledge with you! Help us continue this vital work.

See the CDC’s website for updates on COVID-19


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Sharima-Rasanayagam-PhD_BCPP-Director-of-Science_headshot

COVID-19: Trump’s EPA fails our health, protects oil and gas industries instead

COVID-19: Trump’s EPA fails our health, protects oil and gas industries instead

In a shocking statement, the EPA announced they would not be penalizing companies for violating air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting and monitoring requirements,  a get-out-of-jail- free card for industry abuse. This policy, which came at the request of the oil and gas/petrochemical industry, will remain in effect for an unspecified time period. Relaxing controls on air and water pollution could not come at a worse time.Read More

“The Denka Performance Elastomer factory in LaPlace, La. [part of St. John the Baptist parish], emits the chemical chloroprene. In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency classified the chemical as a likely human carcinogen.” Source: NPR 

By BCPP Senior Policy Strategist Nancy Buermeyer 

As we face this unprecedented global health crisis, you would think that our country’s leaders would do everything in their power to reduce the conditions and exposures that make people more susceptible to the coronavirus. But in fact, exactly the opposite is taking shape. Under cover of the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just gave industry a free pass to discharge even more air and water pollution.

In a shocking statement, the EPA announced they would not be penalizing companies for violating air, water and hazardous-waste-reporting and monitoring requirements, a get-out-of-jail- free card for industry abuse. This policy, which came at the request of the oil and gas/petrochemical industry, will remain in effect for an unspecified time period.

Relaxing controls on air and water pollution could not come at a worse time.

Recent research by Harvard University has shown increased vulnerability and mortality from the virus associated with long-term exposure to higher levels of air pollution. This data confirms the on-the-ground reality of communities of color, who are much more likely to live next to polluting industries, known as fenceline communities, where air pollution is much higher.

Black communities are hardest hit by this pandemic, and emerging data is also suggesting a higher impact on Latinx communities. For example, residents of the St. John the Baptist parish in Louisiana, who are over 50% Black, are exposed to some of the highest levels of air pollution in the country. Already part of “cancer alley,” this community is now experiencing extremely high rates of mortality from the coronavirus. Statewide in Louisiana, Black residents account for 32.7% of the population, but 70% of deaths from the virus. This horrifying inequity is reflected in communities and cities across the country.

Long-term exposure to air pollution also increases our risk for breast cancer. In BCPP’s soon to be released California Breast Cancer Primary Prevention Plan, we gathered the evidence connecting breast cancer risk to place-based chemical exposures, including air pollution. Multiple scientific studies showed that metropolitan areas with higher ambient air pollution were associated with a higher breast cancer incidence.

Additional studies show a link between breast cancer and numerous air pollutants, including polyaromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), nitrogen dioxide, propylene oxide, vinyl chloride, mercury, cadmium and lead. Two additional chemicals found in air pollution, benzene and ethylene oxide, have strong links to increased breast cancer risk.

To ignore environmental protections in the current crisis shows a blatant disregard for our health at the very moment when the federal government should be doing all they can to reduce the impact of the pandemic. If anything, the EPA should tighten enforcement of our environmental laws to ensure maximum protection from the air pollution that leads to the underlying health conditions, such as asthma and heart disease, that make fenceline communities so vulnerable to COVID-19.

April 7— U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams: “I and many other black Americans are at higher risk for covid” Source: Washington Post (Original Source: Reuters)

We can and must push back against this free pass to pollute! Write to President Trump and EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler demanding they stop catering to the petrochemical industry and get back to their mission of protecting the lives of Americans. It’s quick and easy to write a letter online here

As we all adjust to this new reality facing the country, BCPP continues our work to reduce breast cancer risk and act as a watchdog exposing and challenging efforts to undermine public health protections now and into the future. Now more than ever we need your help to stop breast cancer before it starts. Please Donate

Please Support our Work

Only with your help can we safeguard the protections that we’ve fought so hard for, and help pioneer a new path to prioritizing public health! Please give today.


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Doing What I Can During COVID-19

Doing What I Can During COVID-19

If we ever needed proof that small, individual acts make a difference, the current pandemic is teaching us this. Read More

Guest Post by BCPP Board Member Mary Pomerantz 

If we ever needed proof that small, individual acts make a difference, the current pandemic is teaching us this. I’m grateful to support the important work of individuals and organizations who are making the world a better, safer place.

With these uncertain times, I’m giving as much as I can to the causes I care about—even a small gift each month—with the knowledge that it does truly make an impact.

My heart is in BCPP’s mission now more than ever to ensure our staff and volunteers can continue to work diligently to keep our bodies safe, healthy, and free from toxic chemicals linked to breast cancer.

I invite you to join me by becoming a monthly donor so that this critical work continuesno amount is too small! $5, $10, $20 or more, you are a hero for any amount that you can give. 

Did you know? In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, last week the EPA shockingly announced a policy of “temporarily waiving enforcement” of environmental protection policies, giving industries a green light to ignore the laws that protect us from chemical exposures, including exposures linked to breast cancer!

Your gift will help support the BCPP team take action.

Like the Butterfly Effect—the idea that small changes create larger effects—no effort is too small. In fact, we depend on a vast number of individual acts to make a true impact.

I hope you will join me. Your support now creates ripples for a lifetime.

Warm regards,

Mary

P.S. Important update: the recently passed federal coronavirus relief bill makes a new deduction available! Beginning this year, taxpayers can now earn a charitable deduction for annual gifts up to $300, above and beyond the standard deduction. Thank you!


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