EDF Health

The science behind toxic inequities in beauty and personal care products

Jennifer McPartland, Ph.D., is a Senior Scientist with the Health Program.

Prominent incidences of environmental injustice in the public eye are typically place-based — from lead-contaminated tap water in Flint, Michigan to smokestacks lining Cancer Alley in Louisiana. For decades, communities of color and low income communities have confronted long-standing discriminatory practices and policies around land use, housing, and related issues that result in greater exposures to pollution and toxic chemicals.

While geography is a predictor of an individual’s health and well-being, environmental injustice and environmental racism extend beyond geography to include inequities in toxic exposures like in personal care product formulations. Beauty and personal care products marketed to women of color often contain more toxic ingredients than products marketed to white women. As a result, women of color are disproportionately exposed to toxic chemicals through these products. Read More »

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Beauty has a toxic equity problem. It’s time companies champion clean beauty justice.

By Boma Brown-West. This blog was originally posted on EDF+Business.

The U.S. beauty industry is under scrutiny for its use of toxic chemicals. Consumers, particularly Gen Z, are concerned about the ingredients in their beauty and personal care products and the impact they are having on their health, and are pushing the industry to clean up its act.

Companies are responding by trumpeting clean beauty commitments. From major retailers to boutique brands, the number of companies marketing “cleaner” alternatives is exploding. Today, the clean beauty industry is estimated to reach $11 billion by 2027.

While it’s encouraging to see companies work to fill the current regulatory void on safe beauty products, the majority of clean efforts are focused only on products marketed to white women. As a result, women of color don’t have the same access to safer beauty options, and are therefore facing alarming and disproportionate exposure to toxic chemicals.

Retailers and product manufacturers need to champion clean beauty justice, which will put racial equity front-and-center in their efforts to provide consumers of color with safer products. Read More »

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Chemicals in hair products, making rent as a grad student, and more: A conversation with Dr. Tamarra James-Todd

Dr. Tamarra James-Todd’s interest in human health dates back to her childhood, when she would go into work with her mom, who was a microbiologist, on the odd weekend at the Kansas City VA Hospital. Now an epidemiologist at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health, Dr. James-Todd has focused her career on understanding the impacts of toxic chemicals on women’s reproductive and long-term health in order to improve overall health.

Dr. Tamarra James-Todd

Through her research, she has found that 50% of hair care products marketed to Black women contain hormone disrupting chemicals, compared to only 7% advertised to white women based on product label information. Further, the use of these products, such as hair oils and chemical straighteners, can put girls and women at higher risk of health impacts including earlier age at puberty—a risk factor for breast cancer. In addition to assessing racial and ethnic differences in chemical exposure, Dr. James-Todd’s research also includes identifying how pregnancy and complications that occur during this period can impact a woman’s risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

I recently chatted with Dr. James-Todd about her work, how she got into the women’s environmental reproductive health field, and how COVID-19 has impacted her many research initiatives.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.

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Also posted in Health Policy, Health Science, Public Health / Comments are closed

What does “clean beauty” mean? New framework gives a path forward

This post originally appeared on EDF+Business. 

Alissa Sasso, Project Manager, EDF+Business.

Anyone who’s recently purchased a personal care item knows how overwhelming the experience can be. From price and aesthetics to brands, there are many factors to consider. Now add the safety and impact of the ingredients, whether or not it’s  “clean”, and the decision becomes more difficult.

The clean beauty industry has seen enormous growth, with projections estimating it will reach $11 billion by 2027. But the cosmetics industry has been underregulated for so long, there is no standard definition of “clean”. Brands and retailers entering this market therefore have flexibility to use the term “clean” to their own discretion.

Following a new roadmap, brands that are either creating a clean beauty program, or strengthening already-existing “clean” shops and labels, can use their influence to build a growing consensus around the use of the term to represent best-in-class. The roadmap provides guidance for companies on how to develop strong criteria for evaluating the health and environmental impacts of their products, prioritize ingredient safety and champion meaningful transparency in their clean beauty program.

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Air pollution: E-commerce’s sustainability problem that isn’t the cardboard box

Aileen NowlanSenior Manager, EDF+Business

This post originally appeared on EDF+Business.

With the click of a button, our groceries, clothes, personal care products, household items – just about anything – could arrive on our doorsteps in a neatly packaged cardboard box. It’s convenience, delivered. But at what cost?

What happens behind-the-scenes to get a package delivered to your door is taking a toll on our planet and our health. Freight is the fastest growing source of greenhouse gases and a major source of local air pollution. The rise in e-commerce is a growing part of increased pollution and poor air quality.

The truth is, “free shipping” isn’t really free. We’re just paying for it in other ways.

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Walmart joins ranks of retailers pulling toxic paint strippers from shelves – when will EPA follow suit?

Sarah Vogel, Ph.D.is Vice-President for Health.

Today, Walmart announced that it will stop selling paint strippers containing methylene chloride or N-methylpyrrolidone (NMP) in stores by February 2019 – making it the first general merchandise retailer to take such action.  Walmart’s announcement follows the strong leadership demonstrated by Lowes, Home Depot, and Sherwin Williams, all of which have committed not to sell methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint stripping products by the end of the year.  Importantly, Walmart’s action goes beyond its U.S. stores, including those in Mexico, Canada, and Central America, as well as their online store.

The announcement signals an important step by Walmart to better protect consumers from dangerous paint strippers. Methylene chloride is highly neurotoxic and acutely lethal. The chemical is responsible for over 50 reported deaths from acute exposure over the last 35 years – though many more likely have gone unreported. NMP is linked to fetal development problems, including low birth weight and birth defects.

EDF has advocated for several years for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban both methylene chloride- and NMP-based paint strippers, using its enhanced authority under the reformed Toxic Substance Control Act.  In January 2017, EPA proposed to ban methylene chloride and restrict NMP in paint strippers, but action has stalled under the Trump Administration.  For over a year, the agency made no effort to finalize these actions – even taking steps to delay any progress.

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Also posted in EPA, Health Policy, Public Health, Regulation, TSCA Reform / Tagged , , , , , | Read 1 Response