Just when you thought humanity was safe, another shocker has surfaced from the bowels of the chemical industry. Women’s Voices from the Earth has published a review on an industry panel that creates a monumental loophole for the chemical industry you can drive a Mack truck through. This panel makes decisions regarding our health without the oversight of a governmental body. They are called the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) and they operate under a volunteer industry-funded trade association called the Personal Care Product Council (PCPC). These individuals I’m deeming “the Illuminati of the cosmetic industry” because they really do not deserve the power they have and they are putting us in danger. You’ve trusted Mamavation to bring you insights into the safety of products you purchase for your families like toothpaste and canned food. Now let’s explore how far the rabbit hole of conflict of interest goes in the cosmetic industry.
Who Are the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) and Why Are They So Powerful?
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) is basically a group of men appointed by the cosmetic industry to oversee the safety of ingredients used. (Okay fine, there is ONE woman allowed to vote) They are not elected by you or me and they are not appointed by government officials. So you and I don’t really have a say on who is qualified to represent our public health when it comes to cosmetics and who is not. And they suck at their job because they allow dangerous contaminants inside products that can make us sick, cause hormone disruption, or give us cancer. And although their decisions are not legally binding or enforceable, they are considered the gold standard by the industry. In fact, what they decide to support can be used as evidence in court cases against plaintiffs seeking damages. Case in point: Asbestos inside talc powder wasn’t really a problem to them. Yes, you heard me right. A bunch of men deemed asbestos okay to put on your vagina which can result in cancer. *cue eye roll*
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel is a Conflict of Interest
The Illuminati of the cosmetic industry is a prime example of what conflict of interest looks like. Contrary to popular belief, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does NOT regulate the cosmetic industry or approve the ingredients that can be sold in grocery stores.
Here’s the wording straight from the FDA website: “Companies and individuals who manufacture or market cosmetics have a legal responsibility to ensure the safety of their products. Neither the law nor FDA regulations require specific tests to demonstrate the safety of individual products or ingredients. The law also does not require cosmetic companies to share their safety information with FDA.”
These guys basically regulate themselves. Essentially what happens is this panel of men reviews science sent to them by the industry declaring the ingredients safe, then they look at the studies and say ‘looks good to me.” So the vast majority of the time, ingredients are found to be safe. Why? Well, the companies that pay for the studies are submitting results that look favorable to them. The scientific team at the CIR “curates” studies they want to consider and omit studies they do not. So it seems to be a never-ending industry circle jerk.
Seriously. What possibly could go wrong when you have a conflict of interest?
Well, lots. This conflict of interest can put us all in danger. Just like we don’t put toddlers in charge of snack time at preschool, we shouldn’t put a profiting industry in charge of policing safety. Things can go very awry when they ignore inconvenient truths. They may decide to ignore the findings altogether or decide to rule in opposition to independent science because there is a business benefit to allowing the dangerous actions to continue. It’s all about a cost-benefit analysis and weighing what the needs the industry has. This ridiculous way of playing with human health can best be explained in the video below from Fight Club.
If you put toddlers in charge of snack time, you would get a mess. And this is exactly what has happened in the cosmetic industry. It’s a mess just like the health of our country is a mess. Curing disease isn’t really profitable so you’ll see 50,000 pills that basically do the same thing instead of making strides in curing disease.
Why cure disease when managing symptoms are far more profitable?
And better yet, don’t cure disease because that’s not a sustainable business practice. Don’t believe me? That’s what Goldman Sachs actually said the other day. So when it comes to the world of cosmetics and health, take into consideration the differences between the European Union and the United States. The European Union has banned or restricted 1,328 chemicals in the personal care industry, while the United States has only banned or restricted 11. Hmmm, something is going awry here. I’m wondering if it has ANYTHING to do with a conflict of interest?
The Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel is Putting Us in Danger
Would you put asbestos on your vagina? I know it sounds like a very ironic question, but that is exactly what Johnson & Johnson encouraged people to do for years selling talc powder contaminated with asbestos. Starting in the 1970’s talc powder was starting to look problematic to public health, but that didn’t stop Johnson & Johnson. And it wasn’t until 2012 that the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Panel decided to evaluate the toxicity of talc powder. (Granted some companies can test for asbestos today to ensure safety but this wasn’t happening back then.) But after a couple of minutes, they determined all talc to be safe. All this while Johnson & Johnson, one of the largest cosmetic companies in the country, were engaged in numerous lawsuits charging that their talc-containing baby powder was causing ovarian cancer and pulmonary disease. Had the CIR found talc to be potentially dangerous, it would have meant a big problem for them in court.
Don’t worry. Johnson and Johnson did, in fact, lose a bunch of those lawsuits recently. An Alabama woman was awarded $72 MILLION in damages. And thousands of more lawsuits are pending like this one here where Johnson & Johnson lost another case for $417 million after a receptionist contracted ovarian cancer from using their product on her vagina daily.
But officially the CIR concluded “talc is safe in the present practices of use and concentration.” No mention of potential asbestos contamination as a problem. Nothing. Isn’t that lovely?
Things You Can Find in Cosmetic Ingredient Review Approved Products
If you pick up a copy of my book Green Enough: Eat Better, Live Cleaner, Be Happier (All Without Driving Your Family Crazy!) you’ll find a list of the top most problematic ingredients in the cosmetic industry. And all these dangerous chemicals are perfectly okay according to the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR). This list of problematic contaminants and ingredients includes things like:
- Ingredients that react and create 1,4 dioxane (found in soaps and shampoos) known or suspected to cause cancer or birth defects;
- Coal tar (found in dandruff shampoos) that are toxic and carcinogenic;
- Perfluorinated chemicals (found in anti-aging products) that are endocrine disrupting, toxic to the reproductive systems and carcinogenic;
- P-Phenylenediamine (found in hair dyes) that are associated with allergic reactions that may affect skin, eyes, and lungs and can be severe enough to put someone in the hospital;
- Antibacterials and antimicrobials (found in toothpaste) that are known endocrine disruptors and environmental toxins also linked to cancer;
- Formaldehyde (found in soaps, body wash & shampoo) that can cause skin irritation and are linked to cancer;
- Ethanolamines (found in soaps, shampoos, conditioners, hair dyes, lotions, etc) that are toxic and carcinogenic;
- Hydroquinone (found in facial whitening products) linked to organ system toxicity, respiratory tract irritation, and cancer;
- Parabens (found in shampoos, conditioners, lotions, facial cleansers, toothpaste, deodorant, and makeup) which are endocrine disruptors, linked to cancer and developmental and reproductive toxicity;
- Phthalates (found in synthetic fragrances, hairspray, nail polish, makeup, shampoo, conditioner, etc) which disrupt the endocrine system, harm the male reproductive system and can cause birth defects;
- Nanoparticle titanium dioxide (found in sunscreens) which may cause cancer if inhaled;
- Toluenes (found in nail polish & hair dye) which are neurotoxic, potentially carcinogenic and exposure during pregnancy can harm a developing fetus;
The list is actually a lot longer than this, but here are some of the more problematic chemicals they approve of in commerce of personal care. Do you feel like throwing something at them? I do too.
What Can You Do To Protect Your Family From Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Approved Ingredients?
I know it can be scary when you realize that the world is not operating the way you previously thought. I’ve come to grips with this a while ago, but I have some good news. Good things are happening.
As savvier consumers, like yourself, are getting wind of how dangerous personal care ingredients can be, they are choosing better products. And the companies that are losing market share are starting to take notice. And they are starting to change. Fragrance disclosure is an example of that. Several personal care corporations like Unilever are vowing to start labeling all the ingredients in their fragrance. This will allow consumers to see if products contain phthalates and synthetic musks. My gut tells me they are actually working on reformulating the product BEFORE they disclose so they don’t have a black eye, but that’s okay by me. We get what we want–safer products.
But if you want more information right now on products to purchase that are safer, pick up a copy of Green Enough for thousands of product investigations on food, personal care, cleaning products, kitchen appliances, bakeware, furniture, & cookware and a down-to-earth voice helping guide you through safety in the home.
You can also check out some of the product investigations we have here on Mamavation:
- Shampoo & conditioner
- Or check out all our additional product investigations here
Another recommendation I would have is to check out brands who have been certified by MADE SAFE as nontoxic. Made Safe is a nonprofit organization cleaning up the product industry by certifying and lab testing products to ensure safety for consumers. MADE SAFE screens ingredients against an Ingredient Database of known harmful chemicals, which is made up of thousands of chemicals found on scientifically authoritative lists from organizations and agencies around the world.
And the final thing you can do is get involved. Beautycounter is a clean personal care brand that is lobbying Washington to get safer laws on the books. I admire what they are doing. You can get involved locally with them very easily by contacting one of your local sales associates. Their products are also very safe so feel free to purchase products from them as well.
Does this industry concern you? What do you think needs to happen here? Would you feel more comfortable with more oversight of cosmetics OR do you feel that is not necessary? Tell us in the comments below.