Same Product. Two Countries.
The proof is in the picture. Two labels. Two countries. One Product. Mind-blowing.
The shampoo on the right? Sold in Europe and lists two known allergens on the label.
The shampoo on the left? Same product. Sold in the USA, but substitutes the allergens with the catchall phrase ‘fragrance’.
In Europe, 26 fragrance allergens are required to be disclosed on cosmetic product labels. In the ‘land of the free’? US law does not require disclosure. We don’t have the right to know which ingredients create this word 'fragrance'. It could be hundreds of ingredients, including hormone disrupters and known allergens.
I am often moved at my presentations by guests who share feelings of helplessness over their children’s skin conditions. Moms with babies who have face, scalp or body rashes. Children with unbearable itching, long lasting redness, or skin peeling. A teen who spent months with red, itchy, scaly eyes, going to doctors, allergists and trying creams. (In the end, the culprit turned out to be a morning application of a floral body spray.) The powerlessness of fellow moms aches in my heart. How many of these stories could be erased with the ability to know our products? (Or not have allergens in there in the first place?)
Through my Facebook following, I have learned of another brave population. Shelley shared with me about living with Multiple Chemical Sensitivities. Fragrance in every day products severely reacts with her body, even when products are used by others and hours before.
“I can think of no other illness as isolating as MCS. Every daily event involving anyone other than yourself in any space other than your own, including outdoors, is likely going to expose you. MCS is not an allergy; it is a neurological, physiological reaction to toxins.
After working in people's homes that have the plug in polluters (air fresheners), are doing laundry with dryer sheets, or wear scent, my husband has to undress at the back door when he gets home. His clothes have to air out several days before I can even bring them in to launder them.”
Shelley's story is a constant reminder that my choices affect so many others than just the inhabitants of my home.
Now, I look around and see the growing acknowledgement of the issue. There are fragrance free hospitals. Convention centers. Yoga retreats. Some government offices are fragrance free (... the irony...) and many employers have fragrance-free policies. Many of these policies started by women just like you.
What can we do?
Replace products with fragrance-free options. Start in the laundry room. Move to the kitchen. Slowly fragrance safari over the next few months. Don’t be afraid. Many of your familiar brands offer a fragrance-free choice and will not cost more. (Hallelujah!)
Get to know your companies. If they don’t forwardly share what they stand for, zip off an email or call their customer service number. In addition, when you do find good-for-us companies, thank them for what they are doing. (I will be sharing one of the ‘good’ ones with you next week.)
Ready for a tricky one? You know, just to make this even more fun? The term ‘unscented’ can and usually means a fragrance is used to mask natural smells of the ingredients. To create the smell of….nothingness. Now save that one for Trivia Night at the dinner table.
Be part of the change. Women’s Voices for the Earth is driving this change with a ready-aim-fire game plan.
First goal: Full ingredients disclosure.
Then, identifying toxic chemicals.
Ultimately? The removal of those chemicals.
I have seen what they are capable of and know that this is possible. But not without our help. After reading please go to WVE and click a letter to the fragrance industry and download the full report on How Hidden Fragrance Allergens Harm Public Health.
Enjoy the Journey,
We are blessed to have Cassidy Randall, Director of Outreach and Engagement at Women's Voice for the Earth, as a guest speaker at the April Home Eco-Momics Retreat. You are personally invited to sit down with us to have an intimate discussion with her, to fully understand what I can’t even start to put into this 800-word blog. Please consider joining us - registration will be open just for a couple more weeks.
Then, share. Share. Share. Talk. Chat. Text. Post. Tweet. And teach the children what you are doing. Here is a 'share' I love from fellow CW Pioneer Girl Chandra:
My trigger was the day my (then 11 year old, now 21) son went in to the bathroom to do his cleaning chores, armed with a bottle of super-duty Kill ALL The Germs bleach+fragrance+alkyl dimethyl ethylbenzyl ammonium chloride spray and a rag. After 20 minutes, I went in to see what the delay was and found him sitting on the commode holding his head and crying because his head hurt so badly. (Side note - is "alkyl" pronounced "All-Kill?" Just curious.)
It dawned on me - finally - that every time I sent him to clean the bathroom he complained of a headache. I thought he was just being lazy. Then I realized that every time I cleaned the kitchen or my bathroom, I got a headache.
Starting point: Buying "green" alternative cleaning products.
Progression: Now I clean mostly with steam, vinegar, microfiber rags, and baking soda. But the alternative products were a wonderful gateway drug into the land of the less-toxic.
Share your stories with me. Co-Worker who slather on the strawberry fields lotion every two hours giving you a headache? Do you duck under your husband’s cloud o’ hairspray and open the window as he leaves?
I would love to hear more about your world.
Not a doctor. Not pretending to be one. Don’t have a medical degree. Many skin conditions need to be treated by a doctor. Both doctors and I believe that you are the number one self-advocate for your own body. You understand this is a disclosure statement because that’s the kind of world we live in.