Friday, July 13, 2007

Do You Know What's in Your Shampoo?

I feel like I've hit gold. The website, Skin Deep, just (re)started two months ago(less than) and it rates a gazillion household products based on the safety of the ingredients in them. From toothpaste to babywipes, from deodorant to sunscreen, they seem to have covered most everything. Someone has needed to do this kind of product testing for a long time. Finally here it is and, sadly but not surprisingly, coming not from our regulatory commissioners but from a nonprofit organization, The Enivironmental Working Group. The government is, afterall, clearly more than a little bit influenced by corporate lobbyists. I have pasted below the entire press release for Skin Deep.

*********Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics:*********
Skin Deep 3.0 Reveals Ingredients in 25,000 Products Site Gives Consumers Brand-by-Brand Safety Ratings for Quarter of all Personal Care Products on market

Washington, DC — Most people think that the ingredients in personal care and cosmetic products are safety tested before they are sold. But there is no such requirement in federal law.

To help consumers make informed decisions about their products, Environmental Working Group (EWG) is re-launching its popular Skin Deep website, the only online source for assessing and comparing the safety of personal care products. Skin Deep, first launched 3 years ago by the EWG, generates more than 1 million unique page visits a month. Skin Deep 3.0 is a dramatic upgrade of the database, both in the number of products assessed and the sophistication of EWG's safety reviews. This newest version evaluates the safety of nearly one-fourth of all personal care products on the market.

Skin Deep fills the information gaps left by an industry that markets thousands of products with ingredients that have not been assessed for safety by either industry or government health experts. By law, the government cannot mandate safety studies of cosmetics products or their ingredients, and only 13 percent of the 10,500 ingredients in personal care products have been reviewed for safety by the cosmetic industry's own review panel. For virtually every product on the market, safety decisions are made behind closed doors, guided by an industry-funded panel, without the benefit of peer-review or independent pre-market safety testing.

"Under federal law, companies can put virtually anything they wish into personal care products, and many of them do. Mercury, lead, and placenta extract — all of these and many other hazardous materials are in products that millions of Americans, including children, use every day," said Jane Houlihan, Vice President of Research at EWG. "Mothers shouldn't have to worry about what is in the baby lotion they use, and now they don't have to. The new Skin Deep database provides information on nearly 25,000 personal care products so people can find out for themselves which products are the best choices for them and their families."

EWG's scientists and programmers built Skin Deep to be a one-of-a-kind resource, coupling our in-house collection of cosmetics and personal care product ingredient listings with more than 50 integrated toxicity and regulatory databases — the largest public, product-safety database in existence.

Consumers can also use Skin Deep to create customized shopping lists — products free of fragrances or carcinogens, for instance — while manufacturers can construct one-of-a-kind safety assessments, rating all their product ingredients at once to aid in reformulation plans to make their products safer.


EWG is a nonprofit research organization based in Washington, D.C., that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment. The new database can be found at and is also located from EWG's home page at


two crows said...

hey, A C--
well, I'm sure I trust this site's method of testing [not to mention the results] much more than I would gov't testing facilities, anyway.

what do you want to bet they don't use a flame-thower on a dog in order to test an anti-itch cream? or repeatedly pour shampoo into a cat's eyes to see if it burns.

DirkStar said...

Nice post.

I have added you to my radical thinkers bookmark and a enjoying the visits here the more I stop by.

So, if you are an alien citizen, does that mean you are a Mexican with a green card? He-he...

Alien Citizen said...

Two Crows, I hadn't thought to look at how they were doing their testing. It's sad that they feel using animal testing is unavoidable at this point. While I hope, being more conscientious folk, they are not using flamethrowers on dogs or doing any similarly inhumane things...who knows when there is so little government regulation?

Alien Citizen said...

What does EWG think about animal testing?

[Ideally, a consumer could find a safer product that wasn't tested on animals. Unfortunately, research shows that many products use ingredients that are linked to cancer, birth defects, and other disorders and health hazards... not just for people and our pets, but in wildlife and the environment as well. Our research also reveals that over 99 percent of products contain ingredients that have not been assessed for safety the the government, the industry's safety panel, or any other publicly accountable institution. It is an important question — how do we protect human, environmental, and animal health, while reducing unnecessary testing?

EWG supports uses of non-animal testing methods where available and effective. We also support initiatives that call for funding toward animal testing alternatives research. Unfortunately, for now there are safety studies crucial to measuring the toxicity of chemicals impacting environmental, wildlife, and public health, for which there no known alternative study methods. Until scientists develop alternatives, EWG supports reduction of the overall numbers and impact of unnecessary or duplicate animal testing across the industry, by advocating for making public the science already conducted by private sources. With more efficient testing protocols, reduction in unnecessary or duplicate testing, broadening of publicly available studies on chemicals safety, and ongoing research of alternatives, an overall goal of reducing animal testing while protecting health and safety could be achieved.

Consumers concerned about animal welfare should be able to access information on how public health safety data and animal testing positions overlay in the cosmetics industry. We incorporated companies' animal testing pledge information from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and we update our database according to PETA's lists annually. We have also incorporated PETA's data on animal-derived ingredients into Skin Deep. You may search for products and brands based on these criteria using Skin Deep's "Advanced Search feature." ]

Alien Citizen said...

Yo, Dirk! Thanks for the link. Keep the incite-ful comments coming. No soy de Mexico, pero puedo hablar espanol. Y tu? The reason for the name Alien Citizen shall remain unwritten. However, there are many people in this country who (due to prevailing sentiments of bigotry, etc.) feel like aliens, like they don't belong, in what is by right their own country.

two crows said...

hey, AC--
yes, there are ways and ways to employ testing-- with some companies, it seems, the more sadistic the better. at least, so I've read.

I agree, some testing is necessary and I'm not one to throw out the baby with the bathwater. still, I try to assure myself of methodology.
one fairly simple way has been to get a book called, 'Shopping for a better world' that gives scorecards to different companies on a number of issues [animal testing, human rights, various forms of pollution, etc.] it comes in handy.

Alien Citizen said...

Shopping for a better world! I used to read that all the time. Don't know how we fell out of the habit. But we used it frequently and were careful, for example, not to buy products from companies investing in apartheid South Africa. The economic consequences of individuals boycotting such companies with a lack of conscience had a lot to do with the eventual push for change in the international community. Unless it impacts their bottom line, we've seen many times over (in Bosnia for a spell, Rwandaa, Darfur, and with workers around the world in sweat shops and slave labor jobs) that human rights will not a priority for corporations. Have you seen the documentary, The Corporation? It's very good.

Carol said...

I found you through your comment on Otowi's site. Thank you for this link regarding product info. Ever since I realized that nurses in hospice can give meds via skin lotions, I started being very wary of anything I put on my body. If I wouldn't eat it by mouth, I don't want to eat it through my skin.

Alien Citizen said...

Thanks for the comment, Carol! I am glad you found the EWG site as useful as I did. Medicated lotion is a great example of how important it is to take into consideration everything you put on your skin or, for that matter, breathe into your body. There are so many ways of ingesting the good and bad other than swallowing it.

I tried to go back to your blog just now by clicking on your name but I guess your profile isn't public. Anyway, thanks for stopping by!

Carol said...

Hey! Thanks for letting me know about my profile. Too long a story to 'splain it, but now I'm public.

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