Activists Push for Safer Ingredients in Makeup

Beauty is only skin-deep, and the price of beauty extends clear
to the bone. The foundation, eye shadow, lipstick, and mascara that
former model Olivia James slathered on her face every day for 15
years made her feel beautiful, but the harmful phthalates in those
products are probably what caused her son Darren’s birth defect. In
light of the link between these cosmetic products and cancer and
fetal deformities, the European Union has banned phthalates, and
health advocates in the United States asked their government to
comply by May 3.

As Molly Ginty reports, ‘three environmentally-conscious
manufacturers have already volunteered to remove phthalates from
all their products. But New York-based Estee Lauder Companies, Inc.
(which has annual revenues of $4.7 billion) and Cincinnati-based
Proctor and Gamble Company (which has annual revenues of $40.2
billion) are the only large, multinational companies to follow suit
— and they have done so by removing phthalates from [only] one
product, nail polish. Representatives of the $29 billion cosmetics
industry (which is not subject to regulatory approval before
putting its products on the market and which does not have to list
phthalates on ingredient labels) are balking at the proposed ban.’
Industry experts are singing the same, overused tune: results from
tests on animals don’t necessarily apply to humans. But harmful
results run the gamut. Ginty reports: ‘A 2000 study at the
University of Puerto Rico in San Juan linked phthalates (which are
used to soften plastic) to early puberty in girls. [Meanwhile]
studies conducted at Harvard University in Cambridge in 2002 and
2003 linked the chemicals to decreased sperm counts in men.’

Barbara Brenner, executive director of the San-Francisco-based
Breast Cancer Action says that this could be a major stepping stone
for advocacy groups keeping the cosmetics industry honest. ‘This is
a much bigger issue than nail polish or phthalates. It could be the
beginning of a revolution in consumer safety. People need to know
that some cosmetics contain toxic chemicals and they need to demand
that safer ingredients be used.’
Jacob Wheeler

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Push for Safer Ingredients in Makeup

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