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Do you want this guy writing the rules for cosmetics safety?

March 30th, 2012 at 10:43 am by Stacy Malkan

Peter Barton Hutt of Covington and Burling, LLP, representing the biggest beauty corporations, testified before Congress this week that his clients’ products are perfectly safe and there’s no need to worry about silly little things like carcinogens in baby shampoo (we’re paraphrasing here). It’s all part of the Personal Care Products Council’s multi-million-dollar lobbying effort to write its own laws that could actually make things worse. For more about industry’s plan to write the rules so FDA can give them “maximum credibility” for toxic products, see Roll Call.

Update: The cosmetics industry PR operation is a gift that keeps on giving. Check out this attack blog just posted by notorious industry front group ACSH. Do they really think it’s smart to trot out Dr. Gilbert Ross, a former convict who spent time in jail for a Medicaid fraud scheme, to question the motives of health groups?

Dangerous Moment: Industry plots to keep products toxic

March 30th, 2012 at 10:03 am by Stacy Malkan

By Lisa Archer, director of Campaign for Safe Cosmetics at Breast Cancer Fund

“I have loved every minute of my career as a stylist until Brazilian Blowout completely changed my life. Our laws are obviously broken. We are pleading for you to help protect our health and our livelihood.” – Jennifer Arce, written testimony to Energy and Commerce Committee’s March 27 hearing on cosmetics safety.

Jennifer, like far too many of her colleagues and customers, has suffered a growing list of health problems after repeated exposure to cancer-causing formaldehyde from supposedly “formaldehyde-free” Brazilian Blowout.

Tuesday, in response to public outcry over formaldehyde in hair products, mercury in face cream and lead in lipstick, the House Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee held the first Congressional hearing in 30 years on cosmetics safety. Industry representatives dominated the hearing, while people who have been hurt by toxic products — like Jennifer — were shut out of the process.

The committee plans to attach cosmetics legislation to a must-pass medical device and prescription drug user fee authorization bill. Currently, committee leadership is favoring an industry bill that would rubber stamp the status quo, leave out key provisions needed to protect our health and actually make things worse.

Cosmetics industry lobbyists are working non-stop to push this proposal that would make things worse, essentially enshrining into law decisions about ingredient safety made by the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel — something that, according to FDA, would be “unprecedented” and possibly unconstitutional.

Industry is also pushing for federal preemption of state laws in order to override the 2005 California Safe Cosmetics Act, a law that enabled the California Attorney General to sue Brazilian Blowout and force warning labels on the products. In December, the Personal Care Products Council urged the state to de-fund and dismantle the state’s safe cosmetics program.

Essential public health protections could be set back another 70 years if industry gets away with writing its own laws that put industry profits over public health and handcuff states from taking action to protect people.

Despite the bad news, there were some truly hopeful moments at the hearing (thanks Reps. Jan Schakowsky and Ed Markey!) and we believe it’s still possible to gain meaningful, health-protective reform of our broken cosmetics laws.

This week, Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Dingell (D-MI) introduced the Cosmetics Safety Enhancement Act. These leaders may now be the last line of defense for the industry bill, and our best hope for strong meaningful public health protections. While the Dingell/Pallone bill includes many important provisions, it doesn’t go far enough to ensure cosmetics are safe.

Unlike the Safe Cosmetics Act introduced last year by Schakowsky (D-IL), Markey (D-MA) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), the Dingell/Pallone bill does not yet provide protections against carcinogens and reproductive toxins in cosmetics, require full disclosure of cosmetic ingredients, or contain a strong safety standard. We will be pushing for inclusion of these important provisions in the weeks ahead.

This is a truly critical moment — please join us to help protect the progress we have made together over these last 10 years. Sign up today for the Safe Cosmetics listserve for updates to receive important updates about what’s happening and how you can get involved.

Please also spread the word about the industry lobby on social media. Here are some helpful links: Industry dominates historic hearing on cosmetics safety and the Roll Call story that reveals how industry is desperately seeking “maximum credibility” from FDA.

With your help, this is a fight we can not and will not lose. For Jennifer and all of us, we demand meaningful cosmetics laws that remove the most dangerous chemicals from cosmetics, including chemicals linked to breast cancer, and include a strong safety standard to protect the most vulnerable people such as babies, pregnant moms and workers.

Hairsylist speaks out: It’s time to ban toxic Brazilian Blowout

March 5th, 2012 at 7:19 pm by Stacy Malkan

Guest blog by Jennifer Arce

I was glad to see Good Morning America’s hidden camera investigation about Brazilian Blowout. It’s shocking that so many salons are ignoring the many government warnings about these products. As a hairstylist seriously affected by this toxic treatment, I and so many of my colleagues know firsthand just how dangerous these products really are.

Going undercover is the perfect way to expose what’s really going on in salons across this country and revealing how clients are continually being lied to. I commend GMA for bringing this story to light, but sadly, they have only begun to scratch the surface here. Unfortunately, a three-minute story can’t capture all the escalating illnesses and severe health problems that this product and others like it have created for so many people working in salons, along with the turmoil and infighting that is going on behind closed doors.

Grown adults are being bullied for speaking up about being sick or for not wanting their clients to be exposed to the toxic fumes of formaldehyde. Many stylists are choosing to listen to a company that has done nothing but lie to them, instead of numerous government health agencies that are trying to protect and warn them about these dangers. If sore throats, bloody noses, rashes, respiratory problems, and even CANCER doesn’t scare them, maybe OSHA fining 26 salons for up to $17,000 each will get their attention!

Brazilian Blowout continues to blame the stylists for these ill health effects instead of the high levels of toxic formaldehyde. Now that the California Attorney General’s lawsuit has forced Brazilian Blowout to stop lying about being “safe” and “formaldehyde free” they may have come up with their craziest spin yet:

“Brazilian Blowout, like a number of products that we use each day, offer great benefits when used as directed. Aspirin, for example, can ease mild pain such as headaches. However, taking 12 aspirins at one time would result in adverse effects. Yet, no one has a fear of aspirin.”

Since when is cancer a great benefit? As ridiculous as it is to compare Brazilian Blowout to aspirin, unlike Brazilian Blowout, those aspirins would only harm the individual foolish enough to take 12 of them, and not innocent bystanders. That’s the story here: unsuspecting clients are being exposed to dangerous formaldehyde without their knowledge or consent.

The woman getting a hair smoothing treatment may be okay with exposing herself to the sensory irritation and carcinogenicity of formaldehyde, but what about everyone else in the room? Salons are filled with clients who have cancer and are going through chemotherapy, clients who are pregnant, clients with asthma, and mothers bringing their kids. People are getting sick when using this product “as directed” by the manufacturer and I have yet to see any of these companies set limits on how many of these toxic treatments a salon can do in one day. When we were performing this service in our salon, there were four Brazilian Blowouts done consecutively in one day alone.

The exposure doesn’t end when the client is finished with this service and walks out the door; these products reactivate every time you apply heat to them. Our salon owner had to put up a sign for our clients saying we can no longer provide any heat services on their hair if they’ve had ANY Keratin Smoothing Treatment in the last four months, because many of us were getting sick.

The GMA investigation exposes exactly why these products need to be recalled and taken off the market. The government warnings obviously are not getting to the stylists and these products are too dangerous to be used in salons. Innocent people are being exposed and people are getting sick. Visiting a salon should be a pleasurable experience, not a potential health hazard.

Five countries have already banned Brazilian Blowout, let’s make ours the sixth!

If you have been affected by Brazilian Blowout, the FDA needs to hear from you! Please go to the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance website and click on “tell the FDA your story.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: Brazilian Blowout has agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit for $4.5 million. As the New York Times reported today, Michael Brady, CEO of the company, said the settlement would be paid by his insurance company. He said the fact that the product does not need to be reformulated is “the acquittal we’ve been waiting for.” As I wrote in my earlier blog, Brazilian Blowout is the perfect case study for our broken system of consumer protection. A huge thank you to Jennifer Arce (that’s her above) and all the brave hair stylists who are speaking out about this injustice. – Stacy Malkan


March 2nd, 2012 at 12:07 pm by Stacy Malkan

Don’t miss this! Pink Skies, an inspirational documentary about the empowerment of women and the prevention of breast cancer, will premiere Saturday, March 3 on the Documentary Channel.

The film is about overcoming obstacles as athletes and as human beings. It covers an extraordinary event ‘Jump for the Cause’ that brought together 181 women from 31 countries to create a World Record All-Women’s Skydiving Formation — and raised almost $1 million for breast cancer research. Along with phenomenal sky diving footage, the film also features breast cancer survivors, cutting edge researchers, doctors, healers and activists — including Campaign for Safe Cosmetics co-founder Stacy Malkan, talking about cancer-causing chemicals in cosmetics.

This must-see film reveals breakthroughs that have not been widely publicized, explores whats working and what needs to be changed and the seismic shift towards prevention. Check out the Documentary Channel website for more info.

The full list of airdates for March is:
3/3 (Sat) = 8pm EST
3/3 (Sat) = 11pm EST
3/16 (Fri) = 8:30pm EST
3/16 (Fri) = 11:30pm EST

The film will also be available on the Documentary Channel website for streaming throughout the month of March.


March 2nd, 2012 at 11:21 am by Stacy Malkan

My friend MonaLisa Wallace has somehow talked me into it again — getting on stage at a rock concert to talk about toxic cosmetics. Anything for a good cause! This is a very good one: Join us March 8 to celebrate International Women’s Day at this fun event to benefit awesome organizations and peace on Earth.

Yoshi’s March Benefit for Earth Day SF and Peace Day SF, sponsored by the National Organization for Women.

Featuring Big Brother & the Holding Company, Pamela Parker, Nonstop Bhangra, Mondo Loko, plus more bands in the Lounge

  • 8pm: $35 adv, $40 door

  • VIP tickets: $99 - Your VIP ticket helps make Earth Day and Peace Day a free public event for 20,000+. To thank you for supporting the 99%, you’ll get a special VIP seating in the balcony, a poster and a gift bag.

  • Open Dance Floor!

Buy tickets here; do it today!


Send a love letter to the beauty industry: Kiss lead goodbye

February 14th, 2012 at 10:08 am by Stacy Malkan

Lead-free kisses to you and yours this February! In honor of safe love, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics has launched the Kiss Lead Goodbye Video/Photo Contest — inviting all you warriors for toxic-free products to tell the beauty industry: It’s time to get the lead out of lipstick.

Why? Because lead is extremely toxic in even the tiniest doses. Yet, according to a recent FDA study, hundreds of lipsticks contain lead (see today’s Reuter’s story). And some of the most popular brands have the highest levels of all (hello L’Oreal, Maybelline, Cover Girl).

We want to hear what you have to say to these companies that are still selling leaded lipstick — and still saying “it’s safe because it’s legal” even though there are no safety standards and no regulations limiting lead in lipstick. For more on this story, see the Campaign’s letter to FDA.

While we’re waiting on FDA (and waiting and waiting), it’s time to turn up the volume. Submit your photos and videos to the Kiss Lead Goodbye Contest here from Feb. 14-29 for a chance to win fabulous prizes and national recognition.

Check out the Campaign’s Video Valentine to the beauty industry and early entries on the Kiss Lead Goodbye Facebook page for some creative inspiration.

Love and lead-free kisses!

PS: Check out this great story about lead in lipstick from NBC in Tampa Bay

Brazilian Blowout: Perfect Case Study for our Broken System

January 30th, 2012 at 9:53 pm by Stacy Malkan

Kudos to California Attorney General Kamala Harris for doing what no other government agency in the U.S. has been able to do: get Mike Brady and the folks over at Brazilian Blowout to stop lying about the dangers of their products.

Until now, Brady and gang have been aggressively marketing their formaldehyde hair relaxers as safe for salons. Case in point: this letter Brady sent to a California hair stylist in January claiming that “misleading and conflicting information” caused “unfounded and unecccessary apprehension and concern” about their products.

Um, right. Never mind the multiple government warnings that Brazilian Blowout products emit high levels of formaldehyde — a known human carcinogen that can also cause breathing difficulties, bloody noses, nausea and other awful symptoms — and FDA’s recent threat to seize the products. Or that several countries banned these dangerous products in 2010. And even the industry-funded Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel has called the products unsafe.

One gets the feeling that if God Himself came down and declared the danger of Brazilian Blowout treatments, Mike Brady would show up to deny the facts.

Well, no longer, thanks to the good folks at the California Attorney General’s office. Unfortunately, due to the limits of state law, the best the AG’s lawsuit could achieve was warning labels and accurate Material Safety Data Sheets — a righteous and all-too-obvious step forward, but sadly, the products will still be on the market, and salon workers will still be breathing in unsafe toxic exposures.

So why can’t the U.S. get these products off the shelves, as Canada and Europe have done? Lame federal laws from 1938 that give the FDA almost no authority to regulate cosmetics, and what little authority they do have, they don’t seem to be willing to use. It’s time to give cosmetics regulations a makeover — as we’ve been saying! — and a good place to start is the Safe Cosmetics Act, introduced into the US House last summer by the good Congresspeople Jan Schakowsky, Ed Markey and Tammy Baldwin. Stay tuned for news about this soon, and it may not be good.

Meantime, the National Healthy Nail and Beauty Salon Alliance is inviting hair stylists to write about their experiences with Brazilian Blowout at this link.

Here’s more recent news about toxic cosmetics:
Washington Post:
Soaps, makeup contain deadly ingredients, say consumer advocates
Lotions, washes with fewer ingredients and synthetic chemicals may be better

For Safe products without harmful ingredients

Story of Safe Cosmetics Published in Mandarin, Korean

November 28th, 2011 at 3:11 pm by Stacy Malkan

Some months it just rains and pours good stuff. Thank you, November! For one thing, I just found out that my book, “Not Just a Pretty Face: The Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry,” is now available in the world’s most widely spoken language, Mandarin. The book has been published in Taiwan by the publishing house Shy Mau, ISBN # 978-986-2590-08-9.

“Not Just a Pretty Face” tells the inside story of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of nonprofit health groups that are giving the $50 billion beauty industry a safety makeover. The book chronicles the quest that led a group of breast cancer activists to the doors of the world’s largest cosmetics companies to ask some tough questions:

  • Why do they market themselves as pink ribbon leaders in the fight against breast cancer, yet continue to use chemicals that may contribute to that very disease?

  • Why do they target their products to men and women of childbearing age, yet use chemicals linked to birth defects and infertility?

As doors slammed in our faces, the industry’s toxic secrets began to emerge. The good news is that although the big companies are still using hazardous chemicals, scientists are developing green chemistry technologies, and entrepreneurs are building businesses based on the values of health and justice.

“Not Just a Pretty Face” is also available in Korean, and it has won numerous awards and accolades. The English version is available here.

More good stuff

Thanks to Experience Life Magazine for recognizing me as one of “five visionaries who are leading the charge to better health, and a healthier world.” It’s an honor to be included among such esteemed company as Annie Leonard, Dr. Mark Hyman, Frank Forencich and Jamie Oliver.

In case you missed it, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics recently scored a huge victory when Johnson & Johnson agreed to reformulate hundreds of baby products worldwide to remove chemicals linked to cancer. Yay for babies!

Coming soon: More great news about hundreds of companies that are showing it’s possible to make great products without using hazardous chemicals and without hiding ingredients from consumers. Stay tuned…

Corporations: Invest in Safer Products, Not Spin Doctors!

November 17th, 2011 at 7:44 am by Stacy Malkan

What do climate-science deniers and “spin doctors” who attack environmental health protections have in common? They’re like moths to the flame of an activist victory for safer products. Ever since my organization succeeded in pressuring Johnson & Johnson to get carcinogens out of its baby products, the “boys who know best” are coming round to tell us not to worry our pretty little heads about cancer-causing chemicals in baby shampoo.

David Ropeik wins the prize for paternalistic, condescending framing in his Scientific American blog: “Warning! Health Hazards May be Hazardous to Your Health.”

Ropeik warns that “frightened, worried, scared, concerned” moms are at greater risk of stress-related illnesses (irritable bowel syndrome, clinical depression) than babies are at risk from getting cancer from formaldehyde in the bathtub; as if the only choice here is between soaking kids in toxic substances or making mothers sick with worry.

How about if America’s “most-trusted brand” just gets the carcinogens out of baby shampoo? And hey, guess what, Johnson & Johnson has already done that in other countries, where they have better laws, just not here! That’s the kind of thing that really makes moms sick to their stomachs.

Ropeik is described in the article as an instructor at Harvard Extension School, but there’s no mention of his role as a “risk communications” expert; one of those people who gets hired to help corporations spin themselves out of trouble – and spin he has, for clients that include Dow Chemical, DuPont and others working against environmental health protections.

Ropeik may want to pay more attention to the science than the talking points if he’s going to write for Scientific American. The concern about quaternium-15 isn’t just that it emits formaldehyde (a known human carcinogen); dermatologists have been warning for years that the chemical is contributing to higher rates of contact dermatitis.

This sort of detail doesn’t fit with the “how dare you worry moms about chemicals” narrative of folks like Joe Schwarcz, director of McGill University’s Office for Science and Society, who used the space so generously provided him by the Montreal Gazette to make the “Case to Keep Chemical Soup in Baby’s Soap.”

Schwarcz was keynote speaker for this year’s meeting of the Personal Care Products Council (which counts Johnson & Johnson among its members), and is also a consultant for industry who, as described in his bio, “interprets science” for the public.

Joe, I urge you to try out your 2 cubic meter theory on the nearest mom, and ask her if she wouldn’t just rather that her baby’s shampoo contained no formaldehyde at all.

At least Schwarcz admits it’s time to get formaldehyde out of Brazilian Blowout hair straighteners. A recent attack report by the better known and notorious industry front group Competitive Enterprises Institute — leading opponents of the overwhelming science on climate change — starts off on a dubious foot by claiming that the Brazilian Blowout problem was “quickly resolved” (except that it’s still not resolved). And that’s not the only detail in the report that’s opposite of true.

Ah well, consider the source: a group with funding ties to Exxon, Texaco and the Koch family foundation…

As Nicole Abene points out in “Industry-Funded Watchdog Group Says Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics Are Good for You,” the authors of the report attacking the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics are the same folks who produced a TV commercial advocating for increased carbon-dioxide emissions because it’s “what plants breathe in.”

Following the logic of the chemical industry talking points, a little bit of carcinogen on the head might be just what the baby really needs.

And for moms who disagree, well, we can console ourselves with the knowledge that: We’re winning! Companies are responding to our demands and cleaning up their products, and it isn’t even all that hard for them to do.

As Abene writes, “It was only under significant public pressure that Johnson & Johnson agreed to no longer introduce new products with formaldehyde-releasing ingredients. No one was asking Johnson & Johnson to pull a hat trick—a safer alternative was already available and in production, so why the double standard?”

Here’s hoping the Corporations of America get it that it’s time to invest in a toxic-free future and give the spin doctors a rest.


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