New Report Highlights Toxic Chemicals in Consumer Products
By Anna Reade
A new report by the Breast Cancer Prevention Partners (BCPP) details findings from product testing they performed on beauty, personal care and cleaning products, with an emphasis on products often marketed to vulnerable populations, such as children and women of color. The report focuses on the identification of chemicals used for fragrance in these products because, currently, chemicals used for fragrance do not have to be disclosed. The simple term "fragrance" on your shampoo or lotion label could represent several (if not many unknown, and potentially harmful, chemicals.
Although BCPP was only able to test a small fraction of the market (32 products), BCPP's main findings raise concern and confirm the need for transparency of ingredients in products used in our homes. Almost 100 of the over 300 fragrance chemicals identified were linked to adverse health effects. Of the products tested by BCPP, the product that contained the most fragrance chemicals linked to health concerns was Just for Me Shampoo, a shampoo aimed at children of color, with popular perfumes following closely behind.
And it's not just fragrance ingredients. BCPP found a total of 24 chemicals of concern, 14 of which were fragrance chemicals, in Just for Me Shampoo—including four carcinogens, 19 hormone disruptors, six developmental toxicants and three chemicals that can trigger, or worsen, respiratory problems, like asthma.
Due to a loophole, fragrance ingredients are not required to be disclosed in personal care products or cleaning products; and until recently, there were no requirements for disclosure of ingredients in cosmetics used in professional setting or in cleaning products in general. This year California became the first state in the U.S. to extend retail cosmetic ingredient disclosure requirements to products used by salon workers. And last year, with the passage of the NRDC co-sponsored Cleaning Products Right to Know Act of 2017 n California, manufacturers of cleaning products will have to disclose the majority of the ingredients in their products on labels and online. The Act's disclosure requirements include fragrance ingredients, the first and only product category with fragrance disclosure requirements.
The BCPP report confirms the importance of California's ground-breaking legislation, and the need for expanded transparency and ingredient disclosure for all consumer product categories. The "right-to-know" what is in the products we use and what is being released into our environment is essential to protecting public health and the environment.
The lack of fragrance ingredient disclosure, in combination with a largely unregulated fragrance industry, leaves consumers, health agencies and advocates in the dark about what chemicals people are being exposed to. The research and testing that has been done suggests that many of the chemicals used in fragrance are associated with health hazards such as reproductive and developmental harm, hormone disruption, cancer, neurotoxicity, and respiratory and skin irritation and sensitization.
BCPP Product Testing Report
To shed some light on the "fragrance" black box, BCPP tested 25 personal care and 7 cleaning products and compared chemicals identified to the International Fragrance Association ingredient transparency list. BCPP then used the Chemical Hazards Data Commons developed by the Healthy Building Network to determine which identified chemicals were linked to adverse effects such as cancer, asthma, reproductive harm, hormone disruption and aquatic toxicity.
BCPP concluded that more than a quarter of the 338 fragrance ingredients they identified were linked to adverse health effects; and of the total chemicals linked to adverse health effects in each product, a high percentage of them were fragrance chemicals. And it's not just fragrance ingredients; cosmetics and cleaning products also contain other chemicals that can be really harmful as well.
Examples of chemicals of concern found in tested products include:
- Toluene – used as a solvent in industry and in consumer products such as paint thinners and nail polish; linked to endocrine disruption, reproductive and developmental harm, neurotoxicity, and skin irritation
- Parabens – antimicrobials used in food, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics; associated with hormone disruption, cancer, and reproductive harm
- Phthalates – used to in fragrances and to soften plastics; associated with neurotoxicity, reproductive harm, hormone disruption and obesity
- Benzophenones – prevent damage from light to scents and colors in fragrances and personal care products; linked to cancer and hormone disruption
While this report does not quantify the concentration of each chemical, the presence of unlabeled chemicals linked to such a broad array of health effects should raise concerns for consumers and the public health community, especially given how often an average person is exposed to personal care and cleaning products in their daily lives. For example, a NGO-led survey found that the average woman uses 12 personal care products a day.
The Most Vulnerable
Some populations are more sensitive and/or vulnerable to the effects of toxic chemicals that are often found in personal care and cleaning products. Children and adolescents are still developing and are especially vulnerable to the effects of hormone disruptors and developmental toxicants. Additionally, research suggests that when pregnant women are exposed to environmental toxicants, even at extremely low levels, fetal development can be disrupted. Advertising that promotes mainstream beauty norms may influence and increase the use by women of color of products such as skin lighteners and hair straighteners, many of which contain chemicals of concern. Finally, workers such as custodians, cleaners and cosmetologist are disproportionally exposed to these products and any toxic ingredients they contain.
While BCPP's testing represents a limited sample, it is worth noting that many of the products BCPP tested are often marketed to and used by vulnerable populations.
This report illustrates the need for full ingredient disclosure in all consumer products, because:
- Consumers need this information to make safer, more informed purchases for themselves and their families;
- Workers need this information take the necessary steps to protect themselves from unsafe chemical exposures in the workplace;
- Regulators need this information to effectively regulate consumer products to better protect public health and the environment; and
- Companies could also benefit from lower reputational risk.
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
In Major Win for Indigenous Rights, Supreme Court Rules Much of Eastern Oklahoma Is Still a Reservation
Much of Eastern Oklahoma, including most of Tulsa, remains an Indian reservation, the Supreme Court ruled on Thursday.
- Federal Judge Orders Trump Admin to Give Native Americans Their ... ›
- Police Were Ready to Shoot Indigenous Pipeline Protesters in ... ›
- Climate Justice, Indigenous Rights Advocates Rally for Wet'suwet'en ... ›
By Tiffany Means
Summer and fall are great seasons to enjoy the outdoors. But if you're already spending extra time outside because of the COVID-19 pandemic, you may be out of ideas on how to make fresh-air activities feel special. Here are a few suggestions to keep both adults and children entertained and educated in the months ahead, many of which can be done from the comfort of one's home or backyard.
The coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next, the World Health Organization acknowledged on Thursday, as The New York Times reported. The announcement came just days after 239 scientists wrote a letter urging the WHO to consider that the novel coronavirus is lingering in indoor spaces and infecting people, as EcoWatch reported.
- Airborne Coronavirus Transmission Must Be Taken Seriously, 239 ... ›
- Trump Halts WHO Funding Amidst Criticism of His Own Coronavirus ... ›
- Here's Why COVID-19 Can Spread So Easily at Gyms and Fitness ... ›
- Is the New Coronavirus Airborne? A Study From China Finds Evidence ›
By Angela Nicoletti
The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.
- Global Frog Pandemic May Become Even Deadlier as Strains ... ›
- New Species of Diamond Frog Discovered in Remote Pocket of ... ›
- Frogs Are on the Verge of Mass Extinction, Scientists Say - EcoWatch ›
A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.
- Trump Admin Denies Endangered Species Protections to Pacific ... ›
- Trump Admin Failed to Protect 241 Species From Extinction ... ›
- New Border Wall Construction Threatens 8 Species With Extinction ... ›
By Julia Vergin
It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
- 8 Ways to Tell if You Are Vitamin D Deficient - EcoWatch ›
- 7 Healthy Foods That Are High in Vitamin D - EcoWatch ›
- 7 Nutrient Deficiencies That Are Incredibly Common ›
Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.
EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.
Climate models are predicting faster warming of the North Atlantic Ocean, which will shift the Gulf Stream. NASA
- Could the Climate Crisis Spell the End for Maine Lobster? - EcoWatch ›
- 5 Reasons Why Biodiversity Matters - EcoWatch ›
- World Leaders, Media Ignore Biodiversity Report Detailing Mass ... ›
- The Top 10 Ocean Biodiversity Hotspots to Protect - EcoWatch ›