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Aug 152012

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

Johnson & Johnson will remove toxic and potentially dangerous chemicals from all of its baby and adult body products by 2015, the company reported today.

Johnson & Johnson's -- long considered safe for babies.

The first chemicals to be phased out will include 1,4 dioxane and the formaldehyde-releasing preservative, quaternium-15, found in some baby products, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics which led a coalition of health and environmental groups in pushing Johnson & Johnson to use safer formulations for all its goods.

A 2009 report by the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, “The Toxic Tub,” uncovered small amounts of 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde in Johnson & Johnson’s iconic baby shampoo. Later on, researchers discovered that Johnson & Johnson had reformulated its products without those toxic ingredients, selling them in countries where the issue had made headlines, but continuing to use the problematic formulas in the United States.

“This is a major victory for public health,” said Lisa Archer, director of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at the Breast Cancer Fund and a co-founder of the campaign, a coalition of more than 175 nonprofits including coalition leaders, the Breast Cancer Fund, Clean Water Action, Commonweal, Environmental Working Group, Friends of the Earth and Women’s Voices for the Earth.

Johnson & Johnson told the campaign this week that it will reformulate Johnson’s No More Tears baby shampoo by 2013 and an array of adult products by 2015. It had already promised in November 2011 to reformulate its baby products to remove the carcinogenic 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde.

The 2009 revelation that the shampoo contained trace amounts of  formaldehyde, a carcinogen, made headlines around the world and caused some retailers in China to pull the shampoo from the shelves.

Johnson & Johnson will reformulate hundreds of cosmetics and personal care products in all the markets it serves in 57 countries around the world.

The company has pledged to:

  • Reduce 1,4 dioxane to a maximum of 10 parts per million in adult products;
  • Phase out formaldehyde-releasers in adult products;
  • Limit parabens in adult products to methyl-, ethyl- and propyl-;
  • Complete phase-out of triclosan from all products;
  • Phase out Diethyl Phthalate (DEP) from all products (no other phthalates are currently used);
  • Phase out polycyclic musks, animal derived ingredients, tagates, rose crystal and diacetyl from fragrances.

Both formaldehyde and 1,4-dioxane cause cancer in animals, and formaldehyde was recently classified as a known human carcinogen by the U.S. National Toxicology Program, according to the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

Johnson & Johnson's new website offers transparency into product ingredients and formulations.

Several of the other ingredients set to be excised, such as phthalates, parabens, triclosan and polycyclic musks “are all considered to be likely hormone disruptors and have been linked to a variety of health problems ranging from birth defects to diabetes, obesity and breast cancer,” the coalition reported in a statement on Wednesday.

The campaign now plans to turn its focus to other major cosmetics companies, launching a national campaign this week challenging L’Oreal (Maybelline, Garnier, Kiehl’s, The Body Shop, Softsheen-Carson), Procter & Gamble (CoverGirl, Pantene, Secret, Old Spice), Estee Lauder (Clinique, MAC, Prescriptives), Avon, and Unilever (Dove, Ponds, St. Ives, Axe) to follow Johnson & Johnson in cleaning up their products.

Johnson & Johnson, meanwhile, has launched a website call Safety Care and Commitment    to help consumers get information about its ingredients and the changes it’s planning.

Copyright © 2012 Green Right Now | Distributed by GRN Network

Mar 282012

(This winter, Molly Barker and Caitlyn Boyle embarked on an experiment in going au naturel. Their Naked Face Project challenged other women to join them and explore life without having to put on a special face — or shave their legs or tint their hair — to win the world’s approval.  In this blog Barker, the founder of Girls on the Run, considers her personal reactions and the implications for women of stepping back from societal expectations. We see this endeavor as having a green bonus, freedom from the toxic chemicals found in many cosmetics.)

The Naked Face Project: The Final Stretch, March 25, 2012

Molly Barker, The Naked Face Project

Alright…so this may turn a little dog and pony show.  Caitlin and I swore we wouldn’t go into GREAT detail about the physical changes we were undergoing as a result of going totally natural for sixty days…but I have to admit…in this last week I’m beginning to actually enter a stage of sorrow at the project coming to a close.

It’s just been so physically LIBERATING (I’ve spent the majority of posts discussing the emotional and mental liberation that has come with this) to have an excuse to go without my daily beauty habits…physically liberating in a number of ways:

1.)  The amount of worry in making sure I’ve got “everything I need” when I travel has literally reduced the amount of getting-ready-to-travel-time by many minutes.  This also has applied to just getting ready in the mornings both at home and at the gym.  Throw my clothes (which have been generally the same as well, jeans or slacks, nice shirt, flats) and I’m off.

2.)  My skin has never looked healthier.  People have even remarked at how healthy my skin looks.  There is a natural color on my face that is, as far as I’m concerned, just as good as the cosmetically blushed one.

But humorously there are a few things I HAVE found that I am really, really ready to be done with…

1.)  I’m ready to remove the body hair!  (Okay dog and pony show always gets a rumbling anytime Caitlin and I talk body hair!)  The truth is…I actually prefer the way my legs look when they do not have hair.  Whether this has been socialized into my view of what is attractive or not…I don’t know.  I just know I prefer being “sans hair.”

What’s funny though as I write…is this kind of weird sorrow I have at removing it. (Oh geez…am I actually writing about this?)   It’s like a natural part of me is gone.  I didn’t know what purpose body hair served until I had it.  It’s like a sensual stimulating system.  I could literally feel any wind or movement of air nearby UNDER my skin, thanks to the hair follicles being stimulated.  There was something about that…that had (and has) me feeling very connected to nature.  Nature girl…:)  (Speaking of “nature girl.”  Granola is here to stay…even my eating habits have undergone a change since I started all of this.  Nourishing my body has become critically important as opposed to “fueling it.”  Nourishing has a more nurturing quality.  More to come at another time.)

2.) And as far as underarm hair…it will be gone.  Prefer it absent as well.  I’m past the being self-conscious of it…got over that about three weeks ago.

3.)  I’ve highlighted my hair since I was sixteen or seventeen years old.  I was very much a natural blonde when I was young and by high school it was a light blonde/brown.  I started using lemon juice in the summers and by my sophomore year in college I was chemically treating it.  I did go a brief period without chemically treating my hair when I was pregnant with my kids…and back then, when the dinosaurs roamed as my daughter likes to mention, I didn’t have any gray.

Well…there is a lot of it now…and I’m totally psyched and excited to see what color my hair REALLY is.  The liklihood of returning to highlighting or chemically treating it is very slim.  Of course, I may change my mind in another few years, but right now, I’m loving the natural color and loving just showing up with what I got…a kind of very light brown with quite a bit of gray ”salted” throughout.

The greatest result of all of this…and it has been life changing for me…is this just inherent love and respect I have for my body, my skin, my hair…my eyes, my mouth, how I show up in the world, just as I am.  I am truly appreciative and grateful to my body and the work it does for me as I navigate this journey we call being human.  My body provides for me a bridge, if you will, between the journey inward and the physical world around me.   The sense I’m having is very hard to describe…but it feels as if I’m ALL in…all of me is here…present…available to the world…to serve, enjoy, have some fun and do whatever it is I’m supposed to do, while I’m human.

I have a sense (although everyday my view on things changes) that when this is over, every morning when I’m getting ready for work, play, workout, time with my kids, a date, a speaking appearance WHATEVER the day brings, I will, with intention, choose how ALL of me wants to show up.  Whether that includes make up or not, will depend on a whole host of variables, but I know that I will evaluate each situation and determine what will allow me to BEST BE PRESENT…all of me, real, authentic and available to bring the BIGGEST ME, the most AWESOMEST (I know that isn’t a real word, but I like it anyway) ME, the SOUL OF ME to the situation.

I won’t use any products to ”fix” my face, “delay aging,”  “make me look younger, or ”produce flawless skin” and/or enhance what I already have or am…because (and here is the liberating and coming home to myself part) none of it needs fixing…nothing is broken…nothing is ugly.  The illusion that my body isn’t good enough, young enough or “right” enough is just that…an illusion and something I no longer buy into nor will I give any energy to.  I simply won’t do it because it’s all a lie.  A big fat lie.  All of it.

This also means, I  won’t use my appearance to manipulate, steer or try to “win” someone over. I will own who I am, accept me as I am and in doing so create a space for others to own who they are, be as they are and know that they are safe in doing so.

Who I am doesn’t change, with my appearance.  How I choose to present myself is up to me.  I’m not tied, anymore, into illusions so often presented by the advertising tactics of the cosmetic and fashion industry or our culture in general,  that who I am and the WORTH of who I am IS in anyway tied to my appearance, my age and/or my body.  How I choose to appear…show up…present myself CAN be an expression of who I am, but my worth as a human being has absolutely nothing to do with it.

There is great irony in all of this.  Appearance in the human world cannot be avoided.  We see, we look, we show up physically.  But whether I choose to see my appearance as a measure of my worth OR as one of MANY fabulous avenues to joyfully express who I am…are two very different approaches.

This TED talk was recently shared with me by a friend and I don’t know how I missed it.  Aimee captures, very eloquently, how  empowering “owning” our bodies (and this includes of course, our skin, our faces, our hair etc.) can be.


Jan 202012

From Green Right Now Reports

Phthalates, chemicals commonly found in synthetic fragrances, body lotions and pliable plastic products, have been viewed with suspicion in recent years because they’ve been shown to act as endocrine disruptors.

Researchers at the Children’s Environmental Health Center at The Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York who decided to look more closely at the effects of phthalates have found an association with obesity in young children.

The researchers reported this week that children in their study who were obese exhibited the highest phthalate levels. This study did not show that phthalate exposure caused weight gain — but the correlation suggested that phthalate exposure could place a contributing role in obesity, according to a statement from the medical center.

The study, published in Environmental Research, relied on urine samples from 387 black and Hispanic children in New York City. The samples showed that 97 percent of the study participants had been exposed to phthalates, and those who showed the highest exposure also were the most overweight.

Girls whose samples showed the highest levels of monoethyl phthalate or MEP had a Body Mass Index (BMI) about 10 percent higher than those with the lowest levels of MEP.

Phthalates can be found in literally hundreds of consumer products, but are thought to enter the body mainly through goods that have skin contact or are ingested, such as body products, cosmetics and food packaging residues. Phthalates are also found in plastic flooring, medical devices and food processing materials. They are believed to interfere with human biology by mimicking hormones.

Public health experts are especially worried about childhood exposure to phthalates  because these endocrine disruptors can affect neurological development, said the study’s lead author, Susan Teitelbaum, an association professor of Preventative Medicine at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

“But this is the first evidence demonstrating that they may contribute to childhood obesity,” she said.

An estimated 40 percent of US children ages 6-11 were considered obese in 2008, according to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The percentage falls to 15 percent of American children ages 6-19.

The project was funded by the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences, the National Cancer Institute, and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

They are commonly used in plastic flooring and wall coverings, food processing materials, medical devices, and personal-care products. While poor nutrition and physical inactivity are known to contribute to obesity, a growing body of research suggests that environmental chemicals – including phthalates – could play a role in rising childhood obesity rates.


Mar 072011

From Green Right Now Reports

A growing number of consumers are putting their food dollars into Fair Trade products that support an equitable wage for global producers.

Honest Tea, Fair Trade and less sweet.

Fair Trade USA, the leading certifier of Fair Trade products in the U.S., reports that sales increased 24 percent, rising to $170 million during 2010.

The increase was strong at the traditional natural grocers (a 16 percent year over year increase) and specialty stores (22 percent) where consumers have typically found Fair Trade products. But it was strongest at mainstream stores (26 percent),  according to a survey by the SPINS consulting service on behalf of Fair Trade USA.

Coffee and tea, particularly the “ready-to-drink” varieties, saw the strongest rise in consumer support, followed by sweeteners, dessert  and personal products.

  • Ready-to-Drink teas and coffees — bolstered by new commitments to Fair Trade sourcing from Honest Tea and and Adina Coffee, were up 39 percent.
  • Coffee, the largest Fair Trade product sold by volume, grew 33 percent; an increase Fair Trade USA attributes to more retail supermarkets offered an increased variety of Fair Trade coffees.
  • Fair Trade sweeteners grew by 17 percent.
  • Fair Trade chocolate sales were up 19 percent.
  • Fair Trade Body Care products increased because of more sales in the “Aromatherapy & Body Oils” category (up 19 percent) and the “Skin Care” category, which was up by 32 percent.

Fair Trade USA audits and certifies transactions between U.S. companies and international suppliers to assure that the farmers and workers producing Fair Trade Certified goods are paid fair prices and wages, work in safe conditions, protect the environment, and receive community development funds to improve their communities.

(The data used by SPINS included all drug, mass merchandise and natural food stores, except Sam’s Club, Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods Markets, Walmart, cafes and retaurants and private labels.)

May 012009

By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now

We hear every day about dangerous chemicals in household products that are linked to cancer, infertility, autism and other diseases – yet many Americans may not realize just how many of these harmful substances they’ve actually ingested in the course of everyday living.

The answer? About 48. That’s according a study by the Environmental Working  Group and Rachel’s Network, in which five leading minority women environmentalists from different parts of the country volunteered to have their blood tested for toxic substances. The results, say EWG experts, show that regulation of chemicals in the U.S. is weak and “antiquated” and needs a major overhaul.

The tests, performed by four independent labs in the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands, looked for traces of 75 common chemical contaminants that might turn up in people because they are used in household goods, plastics, beauty products and food and water.

It found, in the aggregate, traces of 48 chemicals in the women, notably flame retardants (used to treat some furniture and clothing), synthetic fragrances (from body care products and perfumes), the plastics ingredient Bisphenol A (found in bottles, canned food liners and other products) and the rocket fuel perchlorate (which has been found in some drinking water).

“We are fighting the things we know that are there, the things (pollutants) outside,” said Suzie Canales, founder of Citizens for Environmental Justice in Corpus Christi, which has pushed for a cleaner environment in a city with a concentration of oil refineries. “But it’s a double injustice to find out that the products put on the market are also killing us.”

Canales report showed that her blood contained traces of chemicals from BPA, musks, rocket fuel, lead and mercury. The profiles of the other women tested also turned up several chemicals, at levels above average, that have been linked to harmful health effects; though the toxic mix varied by individual.

The findings made concrete the suspicion that all Americans are being exposed to a daily brew of chemicals that advocates now call our chemical “body burden”.

“I was frustrated to learn about the industrial chemical contamination through this study. I am a mother and I have a 7 year old daughter. I try to live a sustainable life style,” said Jennifer Hill-Kelley, a member of the Oneida Nation who’s worked to clean up environmental pollution outside of Green Bay, Wisc.  “… I don’t have the information about the personal care products or the plastics I use…and I feel that as a consumer I deserve that information to be shared with me.”

Beverly Wright, a New Orleans sociology professor working to fight pollution in the heavily industrialized Lower Mississippi River Valley area, said she was “disturbed” to discover that her tests showed a high level of musks, which are potentially hazardous compounds in synthetic fragrances.