[Pharmwaste] Toxins still allowed in cosmetics
dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
Thu May 24 11:03:21 EDT 2007
Toxins still allowed in cosmetics
By Kristin Morency, The Suburban
May 24, 2007
BCAM's Madeleine Bird (left), speaking with a passerby: We should never
underestimate the power we have as consumers.
Breast Cancer Action Montreal (BCAM) took to the streets of downtown
last Wednesday to let people know that Canada has not banned
carcinogenic ingredients from cosmetics.
The awareness campaign at lunchtime on the corner of Peel and Ste.
Catherine street came six months after BCAM's first Safe Cosmetics
Action Day Nov. 16.
It was on that date when it became mandatory for Canadian companies to
list ingredients on cosmetics packaging.
But BCAM advocates say Canada is light years behind Europe, where
carcinogens, hormonal disrupters, and reproductive toxins have been
removed from cosmetics altogether.
(The term cosmetics includes make-up, toothpaste, shampoos, moisturizers
and soaps, among other personal care products.)
BCAM and other health groups have been fighting to get the federal
government to pass a law requiring companies to state on cosmetics
packaging which ingredients are harmful, or even better, to remove those
Madeleine Bird, BCAM coordinator for health and environmental awareness,
said when she speaks to people about the issue, they express feelings of
"Some people feel overwhelmed, like 'What do I do?'" Bird said at
When she was a guest speaker at a gender and health class at McGill
University, Bird said students "expressed dismay.
"They felt betrayed by the cosmetics companies... They said they felt so
small in the face of the companies. But I assigned the students to
contact companies... We must take these actions," Bird explained.
"We should never underestimate the power we have as consumers. If
there's enough concern, companies will reformulate their products," she
said, adding that although the government is "definitely making efforts"
it's the corporations, concerned about their "bottom dollar who will be
able to respond so much faster."
Bird compared the situation with the issue of trans fats in foods -- no
law was passed requiring food companies to remove trans fats from their
products, but tremendous public pressure put on large food corporations
to remove the harmful fat proved to be successful.
"Now labels will say 'No trans fat,'" because the companies know it's
what the public wants, Bird explained.
And Bird said although men may be less concerned about the toxic
ingredients in cosmetics "because they think it doesn't affect them" the
truth proves otherwise.
"There was a study in the States about how women who had high levels of
phthalates [a common toxic ingredient in nailpolish] in their bodies
could be linked with birth defects in baby boys, who had feminized
genitals and genital deformities," she said.
Bird said that at Wednesday's campaign "both guys and girls seem really
The group of women from BCAM stood in the cold, damp weather from 12 to
2 p.m., handing out information pamphlets to passers-by.
Chui Choy, 18, visiting Montreal from Manitoba, said the issue was a
concern to her.
"I do use my fair share of cosmetics, but I don't check the labels,"
"Carcinogens concern me, but they don't tell you on the label [what's
dangerous]," she said, adding, "We can stop it... We can make a
For a safety assessment of ingredients in personal care products, go to:
(http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/index.php). For more info about BCAM:
Deborah L. DeBiasi
Email: dldebiasi at deq.virginia.gov
WEB site address: www.deq.virginia.gov
Virginia Department of Environmental Quality
Office of Water Permit Programs
Industrial Pretreatment/Toxics Management Program
Mail: P.O. Box 1105, Richmond, VA 23218 (NEW!)
Location: 629 E. Main Street, Richmond, VA 23219
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