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Could Your Shampoo or Body Lotion be Harmful to Your Health?

by Kate McPhersonKTVA
December 11th, 2012

ANCHORAGE - How closely do you read the back of your lotion or sunscreen bottles?

A report from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics says many big retailers are stocking cosmetics and other personal care items without an adequate screening policy.

The report says, “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration does not have the authority to test cosmetics product ingredients before they are marketed, unlike other products it regulates like pharmaceuticals. As a result, products such as baby shampoo, lipstick, lotions, and nail products often contain chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, infertility and other chronic diseases.”

Samantha Englishoe, the environmental health and justice policy coordinator with the Alaska Community Action on Toxics, said not many people are aware that the $50 billion personal care product industry is largely unregulated.

“I think a lot of people aren't aware, because we assume that products have been tested for safety before they end up in stores, which isn't the case,” said Englishoe, whose group helped write the report.

The report looks at stores such as Walmart, Target, Costco and Walgreens and ranks them on how well they screen personal care items before putting them on shelves.

Macy’s received the lowest score while Whole Foods received the highest for its basic chemical safety screening for all personal care products.

Englishoe said consumers have some weight when it comes to changing the way manufacturers make products. But it takes more than just a consumer’s voice.

“You can't shop your way out of the problem entirely, that's why we need to add pressure to the retailers who then add pressure to the manufacturers and eventually we want the FDA to be given authority to test for safety,” said Englishoe.

Some of the pressure is paying off.

“For example Johnson and Johnson had a chemical in their baby shampoo that was a carcinogen and so after working with them, the retailers and consumers, they eventually reformulated that product,” said Englishoe.

Englishoe recommends this guide for consumers to help them shop for safer products: http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/top-tips-for-safer-products/.