What is the Not Too Pretty campaign pertaining to the use of cosmetics?
The non-profit Environmental Working Group launched the Not Too
Pretty campaign in 2002 to raise awareness about the dangers of
phthalates, industrial chemicals that are used as solvents in many
cosmetics. Most of the mainstream hair sprays, deodorants, nail
polishes and perfumes that millions of people use every day contain
these harmful chemicals. Phthalates are also employed as plastic
softeners in many different consumer products, including childrens toys
and medical devices.
Shown to damage the liver, kidneys, lungs and reproductive systems
in animal studies, phthalates can be absorbed through the skin or
inhaled. Scientists at government agencies in both the U.S. and Canada
agree that exposure to the chemicals could cause a wide range of health
and reproductive problems in people.
Manufacturers use phthalates because they cling to the skin and
nails to give perfumes, hair gels and nail polishes more staying power.
But a recent study by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention CDC found that five percent of women between age 20 and 40
had up to 45 times more phthalates in their bodies than researchers
initially hypothesized. CDC found phthalates in virtually person
tested, but the largest concentrations 20 times higher than the rest
of the population were found in women of child-bearing age.
Meanwhile, another study, led by Dr. Shanna Swan of the University of
Missouri, identified developmental abnormalities in male infants
correlating to high phthalate levels in their mothers bodies.
Meanwhile, the industry-backed Phthalate Information Center asserts,
There is no reliable evidence that any phthalate has ever caused a
health problem for a human from its intended use. The group accuses
organizations of cherry picking results showing impacts on test animals
to create unwarranted concern about these products. But EWG
spokesperson Lauren E. Sucher urges people--especially women who are
pregnant, nursing or planning on becoming pregnant--to avoid
phthalates. EWG offers free online acccess to its Skin Deep database,
which lists lotions, creams and polishes that contain phthalates.
Health experts encourage women to consult the database before shopping
for beauty products.
A 2003 European Union directive bans phthalates in cosmetics sold in
Europe, but U.S. and Canadian regulators have not been so proactive,
despite mounting evidence of potential harm. Health advocates were
temporarily relieved when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration
announced that it would begin enforcing a 1975 law requiring labels on
products with ingredients that haven't been safety tested. But such
labels remain to be seen, even though 99 percent of cosmetics contain
one or more untested ingredients.
Those interested in adding their voices to the chorus of
environmental and health advocates opposed to the inclusion of
phthalates in cosmetics can submit a customizable pre-written letter to
the FDA expressing their concern via EWG's NotTooPretty.org Web site.
The Web site also provides pages and pages of information and research
on the issue for those looking to learn more.