BCPP Diaries

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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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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Q&A with Cynthia Churchwell, 5X New England Peaks for Prevention hiker

Q&A with Cynthia Churchwell, 5X New England Peaks for Prevention hiker

We interviewed Cynthia Curchwell, 5 times New England Peaks for Prevention Hiker who has collectively raised over $15,000 for breast cancer prevention about her motivations for hiking and fundraising to eliminate the causes of breast cancer. Read More

Q&A with Cynthia Churchwell, New England Peaks for Prevention Hiker 

New England Peaks for Prevention is an annual fundraising climb up Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. The idea for this mountain climb originated with Deb Cole, a breast cancer survivor, who previously climbed Mt. Shasta in California as part of BCPP’s annual Climb Against the Odds expedition. Deb wanted to create a New England version of her experience and sought out the perfect mountain. She found that in Mt. Washington, the highest peak in the eastern United States. Deb worked with the Appalachian Mountain Club to organize a hut to hut hike to the summit, and in 2014 New England Peaks for Prevention (NEPP) was born. Over the past six years climbers have raised over $477,000 for breast cancer prevention. 

Cynthia is a 5-time New England Peaks for Prevention Hiker who has collectively raised $15,000 for breast cancer prevention. We’re thankful that she shared with us the story of how she connected with Breast Cancer Prevention Partners and her motivations for hiking and fundraising to eliminate the causes of breast cancer.

Who are you?

I enjoy my job as a university librarian and have fun doing crafty things like knitting and baking. I love life with my husband and cat. I am a runner, and, of course, a hiker!

What years have you hiked New England Peaks for Prevention (NEPP)?

I had the privilege of participating in the very first NEPP in 2014, and hiked the next 3 consecutive years. The 5th year I supported hikers and then came back the 6th year, 2019, to hike again because I missed that part of the experience.

Why did you decide to hike?

I learned of BCPP because it was the non-profit partner of Luna Chix, sports groups in cities across the U.S. sponsored by Clif Bar encouraging women to get outside and be active. I raised money for BCPP as a member of Luna Chix Boston Run and personally when I ran my first marathon. I knew of the BCPP Mt. Shasta fundraising hike (Climb Against the Odds), but that was more ambitious than I wanted. As soon as the NEPP hike appeared as a BCPP event, I knew it was something I should sign up for.

I thought it would be a fun way of adding a more meaningful experience to fundraising. I was struck by the fact that someone who peaked Mt. Shasta personally created a more accessible opportunity for others to have a similar experience. Deb is a powerhouse of joy and positivity! I could tell she was a special person, but meeting Deb in person solidified I would have a great time no matter what; and I did.

I met many other wonderful people that first year too. By creating NEPP, Deb sparked friendships and created a community.  I now have Jen Avery, Nancy Buermeyer, and Roni Widmer as friends and am glad to have NEPP as a way to reconnect with them every year. See Roni, Nancy, Jen, and me the year we met.

How has breast cancer impacted your life?

My college roommate died way too young, and a long-time friend is a survivor of a double mastectomy.

Why is breast cancer prevention important to you?

The efforts of BCPP make simple sense to me. Cures are important, but eliminating the *causes* of breast cancer has an even greater impact.  BCPP’s results reach beyond breast cancer to other cancers and other ailments. Nancy Buermeyer and Janet Gray are personable knowledgeable spokespersons, and getting to know them and their work has given me greater insight about the importance of BCPP.

What is your favorite memory from NEPP?

My fondness of NEPP stems from how Deb brought together such a wonderful group of people and that we enjoy each other so much we keep coming back. Several people have returned for all the hikes and I enjoy reconnecting with Jen, Roni, and Nancy, and helping new people have as memorable an experience as I do. I first signed up for the hike not knowing anyone else ahead of time and was fortunate Jen, Roni, and Nancy adopted me as an additional hiking buddy into their group. Something just clicked, and I’ve stayed connected to them and look forward to seeing them at the hike every year. Thank you Jen, Roni, and Nancy for befriending me, and thank you Deb for creating the opportunity! I’ve been fortunate enough to have great supporters over the years, and I thank each of them too!

What is your top tip for training?

If you think you’ve trained enough, train some more! 🙂 It’s difficult to be in too good a shape, for anything, and I usually wish I had spent more time prepping.

Why should others (survivors, moms, etc) care about hiking in the name of prevention?

Breast cancer prevention benefits everyone in some way. It is avoiding a diagnosis or losing a loved one. It is also using products, eating food, and breathing air that’s not contaminated. BCPP has breast cancer as the target, but the impact of the work is so broad-reaching. BCPP deserves our support, financial and otherwise, because prevention is a beginning to healthier, happier lives. It’s a win-win. Hike it!

Anything else we should know?

New England Peaks for Prevention can be enjoyed by novices and experts. I encourage you to try it; I bet you’ll like it.


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How we can remove toxic chemicals, and stress, from parents’ lives

How we can remove toxic chemicals, and stress, from parents’ lives

On January 8, I joined 24 women in Sacramento to ask members of the California Assembly to support the California Toxic Free Cosmetic’s Act (AB 495). This bill would ban 13 of the most toxic chemicals currently being used in cosmetics in America; all of these chemicals are banned in the EU.Read More

By BCPP Digital Advocacy Coordinator Kathryn Bache 

On January 8, I joined 24 women in Sacramento to ask members of the California Assembly to support the California Toxic Free Cosmetic’s Act (AB 495). This bill would ban 13 of the most toxic chemicals currently being used in cosmetics in America; all of these chemicals are banned in the EU.

These were breast cancer survivors, advocates, and clean beauty company representatives; some woman were all three. We all came to the capital interested in sharing our stories about why the Toxic Free Cosmetics Act was so important to us:

Breast cancer survivors want to limit their exposure to carcinogens because they are especially at risk of a reoccurrence.

Advocates like us at BCPP, along with our fellow co-sponsors of AB 495, EWG and CalPIRG, have heard from our supporters that removing toxic chemicals from personal care products is a top concern.

Clean beauty companies know that there is a better way to formulate personal care and beauty products that is non-toxic, and you can make money doing it.

I also have a more personal reason to advocate for the California Toxic Free Cosmetics Act. I am a mother to two small children. I work full time. I don’t feel like I should have to spend extra energy reading the back of a label to see if there are chemicals in my cosmetics products that scientists know cause cancer or disrupt our hormone systems.

Why is it up to me to look for formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasers on the back of a baby shampoo bottle when it can go by as many of 15 different names?[1] Why was most mercury use banned in 1974 but still allowed in my eye cream (a necessary luxury for a mom with a lot of interrupted sleep)?[2] How can it be that we have a national conversation about PFAS contamination in our water supply and cosmetics companies are still intentionally adding PFAS to their mascara and eye liner?

I came to work for BCPP when I was pregnant with my second child. I learned to read labels and avoid parabens and phthalates. I had to throw away some wonderful gifts from friends and family because they included ingredients that would harm my new baby girl or myself. The more I train myself to shop better, the angrier I become that so much of my mental space is taken up by this information.

If the science is clear, as it is with all 13 chemicals banned by the Toxic Free Cosmetics Act, these chemicals should be banned from cosmetics. Banning cancer causing chemicals and hormone disruptors from cosmetics would free me to buy the product on the shelf with a giraffe on it (my son’s favorite animal) or choose maybe the cheaper of the two toothpastes without having to check what lurks on the back label.

I told all this to the staffers and legislators in Sacramento who met us on our lobby day. Each woman told her story in January about why the Toxic Free Cosmetics Act is necessary to make the lives of everyone in California safer. Even though this bill didn’t make it out of Assembly Health Committee at the end of January, we will continue to advocate for banning these chemicals in cosmetics. We look forward to reintroducing the bill next month.

Everyone needs to hear the story that these chemicals are allowed in cosmetics, they are harmful to our health, and we can take them out if we pass the California Toxic Free Cosmetics Act.

[1] https://www.cancer.org/cancer/cancer-causes/formaldehyde.html

[2] https://childrenshealthdefense.org/known-culprits/mercury/mercury-facts/mercury-in-cosmetics/


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How climate change can increase your breast cancer risk

How climate change can increase your breast cancer risk

Learn the top 4 ways climate change can increase your breast cancer risk. What comes with a hotter world? Greater toxicity.Read More

By Emily Reuman, BCPP Technology & Communications Manager

Top 4 ways climate change may increase your risk of breast cancer: 

  1. Hotter temps make it harder for our bodies to cleanse by breaking down and getting rid of toxic chemicals.
  2. Hotter temps make cancer chemicals like pesticides more harmful to our bodies.
  3. Severe weather events can pollute the water we drink.
  4. Hotter temps mean more volatile toxic chemical pollution in the air we breathe.

“System change- not climate change!”

What comes with a hotter world? Greater toxicity. It’s a big deal because 90% of breast cancer cases are likely linked to factors including environmental exposures to toxic chemicals and radiation. Only around 10% of breast cancer cases can be attributed to genetics.

While you’re letting that sink in, let’s get to the bottom of what ‘greater toxicity’ means. It comes in multiple forms. First off, some chemicals of concern for breast cancer, like pesticides, are literally more harmful to our health at higher temperatures.[i]

Breast cancer risks rise with greater toxicity from harmful chemicals.

And you’ve probably heard about severe weather events like storms, hurricanes, and floods. Well, increased storm, flooding, and water runoff, from a rise in the number and severity of weather events, are projected to lead to chemical contamination of water sources.[ii] Think, cancer-causing pesticides from lawns, gardens, and crops, washing into your streams, watersheds, and water reservoirs.

In those flooding events, hazardous chemicals are released such as formaldehyde, a carcinogen, from manufactured wood products and plasticizing chemicals from flooring and other furniture[iii].

Granted, climate change is projected to shift regional precipitation patterns. Some areas are more likely to see more precipitation, like rain and storms, while others will see less. Unfortunately, less precipitation carries other toxic risks.

Areas that see less rainfall may experience a higher level of airborne (volatile) persistent organic pollutants (POPs), like some pesticides linked to breast cancer, in the atmosphere.[iv] POPs are chemicals that do not break down in the environment over time. Instead, they stick around and can cause illness.

“There is no planet B.”

Less precipitation is also expected to increase air pollution in urban areas, which means greater exposure to harmful chemicals linked to breast cancer.

And while hotter temperatures intensify the toxicity of chemicals like air pollutants and pesticides, they also weaken our bodies’ ability to cope.[v] Hotter temperatures make it harder for our bodies to break down and get rid of toxic chemicals (i.e. detoxify) by weakening our natural metabolism and excretion processes.

According to a study on global climate change published in the journal of Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry[vi]:

Environmental variables altered by global climate chance (GCC), like temperature, precipitation, salinity, and pH, can influence the toxicokinetics of chemical absorption, distribution, metabolism, and excretion as well as toxicodynamic interactions between chemicals and target molecules. In addition, GCC challenges processes critical for coping with the external environment (water balance, thermoregulation, nutrition, and the immune, endocrine, and neurological systems), leaving organisms sensitive to even slight perturbations by chemicals when pushed to the limits of their physiological tolerance range.

In other words, rising temperatures make us more sensitive to chemical stressors like toxic chemicals. Our bodies’ natural systems for keeping us healthy are less able to cope, which makes us more susceptible to breast cancer and other diseases.

All in all, climate change means an increased risk of breast cancer for all of us, especially people in places that are hard hit by extreme weather events facing chemical contamination and air pollution. It’s easy to hold climate change at arm’s reach, as a distant environmental problem, causing flooding in places far from home and the extinction of rare species. But it’s more than that—it’s a global health problem that’s about to get worse.

Already breast cancer affects 1 in 8 women. Those are our sisters, mothers, daughters, friends, families, and communities. It’s time that the U.S. stepped up and addressed climate change to prevent breast cancer before it starts.


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Emily-Reuman_Anza-Borrego

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, and last May “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 a browser add-on. Once installed, it works automatically while you shop online at Sephora, Amazon, Walmart, iHerb etc. Clearya scans the ingredient lists of personal care products, make-up and other beauty products, baby care, and household 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 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 (may harm fertility), developmental toxicants (may cause birth defects and other harm to the developing child), not to mention allergens, and other banned or restricted ingredients.

Clearya is essentially a collective 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. This month we looked back at 8,000 products visited by users recently, 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. You can read more about the findings here.

My favorite moment when using Clearya

My takeaways from our family’s journey? Legal doesn’t mean safe. “Natural” doesn’t mean safe either. 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, we consumers are responsible for learning to read the labels, so we could make safer choices for our families. I also learned that completely avoiding every possible toxicant is impractical, but reducing one’s exposure is not difficult when you make it your goal.


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