Note the researchers:  Environmental Defence (an NGO).  Mark Stevenson (an
individual).  NOT Health Canada.

Research and policy in the public interest is no longer the domain of the
Government of Canada.  Our publicly-funded research is funnelled out through
The Health Research Foundations and prioritized by "the potential for
commercialization".  NGO's are left to find the money to perform the
research that needs to be done, to try and force legislative and regulatory

When you add WHAT IS KNOWN from other jurisdictions to this most recent
research, what we have is Paralysis by analysis.  I've appended some of the
past emails that deal with this topic of body burden of chemicals.

Thanks to Jim, Hart and Al for the story.
Our local paper carried it on page B8, "a small item on the back pages",
Saskatoon Star Phoenix.

(1)  CBC NEWS, WINNIPEG, Nov. 9/05, Tests show harmful chemicals in
Winnipegger's body
(2)  GLOBE & MAIL, Nov. 9/05,  Canadians a toxic lot, study finds
(3)  Jul 17 2005 -  BODY BURDEN - THE POLLUTION IN NEWBORNS, A benchmark
investigation of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides in
umbilical cord blood, Environmental Working Group, July 14, 2005
(4)  BODY BURDEN OF CHEMICALS, MOUNT SINAI STUDY  "found an average of 91
compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals in the blood and urine of nine
volunteers, with a total of 167 chemicals found in the group. Like most of
us, the people tested do not work with chemicals on the job and do not live
near an industrial facility."
(5)  GLOBE AND MAIL, March 5, 2005, "I am polluted"
"You are exposed to hundreds of chemicals every day, so it's not surprising
that they get inside you. MARK STEVENSON has himself tested in the name of
the emerging and unsettling science of body burden"  (well researched with
good info)
25 2005
certainly related)
BIRD GUANO (deleted)
(10)  CHEMICALS IN COSMETICS, Think before you pink


(1)  CBC NEWS, WINNIPEG, Nov. 9/05,
Tests show harmful chemicals in Winnipegger's body
Last Updated Nov 9 2005 04:03 PM CST
CBC News

A Winnipeg woman who took part in a national report on chemical buildup in
the human body was surprised to learn she showed a much higher concentration
of a pesticide-related toxin than any other participant.
Environmental Defence tested the blood and urine samples of 11 men and women
volunteers, including wildlife artist Robert Bateman. Participants were
tested for a total of 88 chemicals - including polychlorinated biphenyls
(PCBs), flame retardants and insecticides.
Lab tests showed a total of 60 chemicals, with an average of 44 found in
each volunteer, some in trace amounts.
The contaminants include suspected carcinogens and chemicals that may cause
reproductive disorders, harm the development of children, disrupt hormone
systems or are associated with respiratory illnesses.
39 chemicals: Winnipeg lawyer
Merrell-Ann Phare, a Winnipeg lawyer, said tests showed she had at least
four times the amount of a chemical called dimehtyl thiophosphate (DMTP) in
her system, compared with participants in other parts of the country.
DMTP is a breakdown product of pesticides, including malathion, which is
used to control mosquitoes in Winnipeg. Experts say the chemical can
interfere with the reproductive system and cause cancer.
"As you can imagine, I was really surprised by that. I was shocked," said
Phare, who said she tries to avoid exposure to chemicals and eats a
vegetarian, mostly organic diet.
"I immediately thought of what it meant for my health and the health of
other people in Winnipeg, particularly children."
The testing indicated Phare's blood and urine contained 39 of the 88 harmful
chemicals examined.
"I can look at one individually and say, 'Oh, that one's not too bad or that
one's not so high.' But when I look at the whole list of all the things that
are in my body, I wonder how they relate to one another," she said.
"What does it mean when I have high levels of malathion, plus PCBs, plus
heavy metals? I think that's one of the concerns is: how do you know how
things interact, and when levels are being set for what's safe in Canada, do
they take all those issues into account?"
Not statistically significant
A spokesperson for Health Canada said the department will look into claims
made in the study, noting a sample of 11 people is too small to produce
statistically significant results.
Such body-burden studies have been conducted in Europe and the United
States, but little is known about pollution levels in Canadians. The tests
included in Environmental Defence's study cost $1,545 per volunteer, the
report said.
Volunteers were selected to be representative of the Canadian population.
They were asked about their diet and lifestyle as part of the report.
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE: Toxic Nation (pdf file)
Contaminants included polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), persistent
chemicals used as fire retardants that are suspected hormone disruptors, and
perfluorinated chemicals (PFOs) used in stain repellents, non-stick cookware
and food packaging.
The group suggests Canadians can reduce their exposure by making small
changes in their lifestyle and purchasing habits, such as not using
pesticides and avoiding cosmetics and toiletries with synthetic fragrances.
In response to the study, Rick Smith, executive director of Environmental
Defence, called on the federal government to:
Eliminate the use of toxic chemicals.
Make industry accountable for chemicals it produces.
Regulate chemicals in consumer products through the Canadian Environmental
Protection Act.
Focus on reducing pollution in the Great Lakes basin.

(2)  GLOBE & MAIL, Nov. 9/05,   Canadians a toxic lot, study finds

 'We all carry inside of us hundreds of different pollutants and these
things are accumulating inside our bodies every day '


Wednesday, November 9, 2005 Page A17
PUBLIC HEALTH REPORTER: With reports from Elizabeth St. Philip and Avis
Favaro, CTV News.

World-renowned wildlife artist Robert Bateman has used his fame and fortune
to promote environmental protection. But now he has gone one step further,
giving literally of his blood -- blood that was tested for a host of
contaminants as part of a study.
The results, to be released in a report today, show that despite his
clean-living ways, Mr. Bateman's body is a repository for 48 different toxic
substances. These include heavy metals; PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls used
in electrical transformers and now banned); PBDEs (polybrominated diphenyl
ethers used as fire retardants); PFOs (perfluorinated chemicals used in
stain repellants, non-stick cookware and food packaging), pesticides and
While this may seem startling for someone who lives on B.C.'s idyllic
Saltspring Island and eats organic food, Mr. Bateman's so-called "body
burden" is that of an average Canadian.
"The bottom line being that we are all polluted," said Dr. Rick Smith,
executive director of Environmental Defence Canada, a Toronto-based
environmental health group. "The message to Canadians is -- it doesn't
matter where you live, how old you are, it doesn't matter how clean living
you are or if you eat organic food, or if you get a lot of exercise. We all
carry inside of us hundreds of different pollutants and these things are
accumulating inside our bodies every day."
The new report, titled "Toxic Nation: A Report on Pollution in Canadians,"
is the first to try and determine how many manmade chemicals are ending up
in average citizens.
Tests were done on 11 volunteers, including Mr. Bateman, for 88 chemicals
believed to be carcinogenic, to disrupt reproduction and hormonal function
and interfere with fetal development. Researchers found that, on average,
participants had a cocktail of 44 in their bodies.
While the health effects of these chemicals are not clear, Dr. Smith said
what is clear is that Canadians would be better off without the exposure.
"The fact is that you and I have hundreds of chemicals in the body," he
said. "We are part of a huge uncontrolled experiment, the outcome of which
is entirely unpredictable."
Health Canada spokesperson Paul Glover said: "It's only 11 people. It's not
statistically significant . . . but it is an indication and we will take a
look at it."
Researchers argue that the volunteers represent a cross-section of the
Canadian population, and there is every reason to believe contaminant levels
would be similar in the general population. (A number of other countries
have done body-burden studies, which are very expensive, but Health Canada
has not, so the non-profit group decided to proceed on its own. Testing cost
$1,500 per person.)
Mr. Glover said "obviously Canadians will be somewhat concerned. They didn't
choose to put chemicals in their bodies. So how did they get there? But for
Health Canada the question is: What is the level of risk?"
Dr. Kapil Khatter, head of Canadian Physicians for the Environment, also
volunteered to be tested, and 45 of the 88 compounds were detected in his
blood. The expert said he was "shocked by the levels of pesticides and heavy
metals in my body."
Dr. Khatter said what angers him is how little control individuals have over
their exposure: "We don't have the choice to avoid things coming of
smokestacks and getting into our food and water and things in consumer
products we don't know about."
Dr. Khatter said Canadians are generally too complacent about pollutants and
he hopes the new study will help draw attention to how they are being
affected personally.
The most polluted individual in the study turned out to be David Masty,
chief of the Whapmagoostui First Nation, a Cree community in northern
Quebec. A total of 51 chemicals was found in his blood, as well as some of
the highest levels of heavy metals, lending more credence to the belief that
toxic pollutants are accumulating in Canada's North.
According to the report, Canada is a laggard when it comes to regulating
against pollution, and Environmental Defence calls on government to
legislate the phase-out of brominated flame retardants (PBDEs),
perfluorinated chemicals and their precursors (PFOS), and phthalates
(chemicals that make plastics soft).
The report noted that younger test subjects had much lower levels of PCBs,
chemicals banned in 1977, and said that shows regulation works.
Environmental Defence also calls on individual Canadians to reduce their
personal exposure to chemicals by, for example, buying organic foods and
using non-toxic cleaning products -- though such an approach didn't seem to
help Mr. Bateman.
"I had no idea when they were taking those samples out of my arm that there
was a possibility that all [those chemicals] could be in there," said the
75-year-old artist.
Chemical concentrations
The blood of 11 volunteers was tested for 88 toxic chemicals which can have
one or more health effects.
Hormone disruption271813-2419
Respiratory toxicant 211512-1816
Reproductive toxicant 211512-1816
Reproductive/Developmental toxicant 533828-4642



(3)  Jul 17 2005 -  BODY BURDEN - THE POLLUTION IN NEWBORNS, A benchmark
investigation of industrial chemicals, pollutants and pesticides in
umbilical cord blood, Environmental Working Group, July 14, 2005

Kathleen: "Here is some more absolutely horrifying information. I knew it
was bad, but not this bad - this makes me want to gag."

Executive Summary is at:

Toxic chemicals found in umbilical cord blood
By Erik Arvidson

Transcript Statehouse Bureau

Saturday, July 16, 2005 - BOSTON -- A group of scientists and medical
experts Thursday called for broader research on the effects of toxic
chemicals on newborn babies in the wake of a national study that found
dozens of possibly harmful chemicals in human umbilical cord blood.

Unborn babies are potentially being exposed to fire retardants,
methylmercury, and pesticides that may cause abnormal development or
increased cancer risks, environmental advocates warned.

The Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C., public interest
organization, released a study of the umbilical cord blood of 10 randomly
selected newborns in 2004 where nearly 300 types of chemicals were detected.

Scientists until recently believed that fetuses were protected from toxic
chemicals by the placenta, the organ that receives nutrients from the
mother's blood and filters out waste. However, the study's authors, along
with environmental advocates, believe that the umbilical cord also carries
industrial chemicals and other pollutants to the fetus.

"These are not naturally occurring chemicals. They're ones we made up," said
Dr. Sean Palfrey, past president of the Massachusetts chapter of the
American Academy of Pediatrics. "These substances are obviously in the
parent's blood and bodies for some reason. The body doesn't know how to deal
with these substances and can't secrete them."

The Environmental Working Group study found traces of a total of 287
chemicals in the umbilical cord blood of the 10 newborns, including some
chemicals that have been banned in the United States for decades. Each
newborn had an average of 200 of the chemicals present, according to the

The Environmental Working Group said it obtained the umbilical cord blood
samples from the American Red Cross, and that the analysis was done by two
Canadian research labs. The chemical analysis found polychlorinated
biphenyls, or PCBs, which were used as lubricants and industrial insulators
until they were banned in 1976. The chemical, which can persist in river
sediments and the tissue of fish and some mammals for decades, is considered
by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to be a "probable human

The study also found mercury, which comes from emissions from coal-fired
power plants and can harm brain function. Some of the blood samples also
contained DDT, a pesticide banned in 1972 after it was found to cause
unacceptable risks to human health.

In addition, the study found common consumer product chemicals used to
resist heat, water and oil, such as for nonstick cookware and
stain-resistant carpets.

Some byproducts that are produced after the burning of medical or municipal
waste, including dioxins and furans, were found in the cord blood as well.

Joel Tickner, an assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts at
Lowell School of Health and the Environment, said that while the
Environmental Working Group used a small sample size to study, the number
was still "scientifically relevant." He added that the troubling part was
that the newborns were randomly selected.

He said the study confirms a failure by both the state and federal
governments, and the chemical manufacturing industry, to adequately study
the use of these industrial chemicals.

"The big question is do we want to make the mistakes that we've already
made. What can we learn from those mistakes to make safer chemicals?"
Tickner said. "UMass Lowell has some of the most innovative and cutting edge
research on green chemistry, sustainable plastic and biomaterials in the
world. We are ready in this state to make the alternatives, it just needs a
government and industrial commitment to do it."

Tickner said parents can take steps to prevent harm to their newborns by
eating organic foods and not using the common household and flame-retardant
products found in the study. However, he added that "individual choices can
only go so far," and that parents can do little about industrial chemical

Palfrey said that while previous studies have found chemical exposure in
newborns, none had searched for the number of chemicals included in the
Environmental Working Group study.

He added that while the dangers of chemical exposure need to be further
studied, it's clear that the vital organs of fetuses and young infants are
"especially vulnerable to harm" from hazardous chemicals.

The Massachusetts House and Senate both voted Thursday to restore $250,000
to the state budget for fiscal 2006 for the Toxics Use Reduction Institute
at UMass Lowell, funds that had been cut by Gov. Mitt Romney. Tickner said
the funds would pay for research into safer alternatives to toxic


Unborn Babies Carry Pollutants, Study Finds
USA: July 15, 2005
(I DELETED TEXT, same story)



(sorry - with "plain text" the display of data in boxes is lost)

Body Burden - the pollution in people

In a study led by Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, in
collaboration with the Environmental Working Group and Commonweal,
researchers at two major laboratories found an average of 91 industrial
compounds, pollutants, and other chemicals in the blood and urine of nine
volunteers, with a total of 167 chemicals found in the group. Like most of
us, the people tested do not work with chemicals on the job and do not live
near an industrial facility.
Scientists refer to this contamination as a person's body burden. Of the 167
chemicals found, 76 cause cancer in humans or animals, 94 are toxic to the
brain and nervous system, and 79 cause birth defects or abnormal
development. The dangers of exposure to these chemicals in combination has
never been studied.

TABLE 1: The chemicals we found are linked to serious health problems
Health Effect or Body System Affected Number of chemicals found in 9 people
tested that are linked to the listed health impact
Average number found in 9 people Total found in all 9 people Range(lowest
and highest number found in all 9 people)
cancer [1] 53 76 [2] 36 to 65
birth defects / developmental delays 55 79 [3] 37 to 68
vision 5 11 [4] 4 to 7
hormone system 58 86 [5] 40 to 71
stomach or intestines 59 84 [6] 41 to 72
kidney 54 80 [7] 37 to 67
brain, nervous system 62 94 [8] 46 to 73
reproductive system 55 77 [9] 37 to 68
lungs/breathing 55 82 [10] 38 to 67
skin 56 84 [11] 37 to 70
liver 42 69 [12] 26 to 54
cardiovascular system or blood 55 82 [13] 37 to 68
hearing 34 50 [14] 16 to 47
immune system 53 77 [15] 35 to 65
male reproductive system 47 70 [16] 28 to 60
female reproductive system 42 61 [17] 24 to 56
* Some chemicals are associated with multiple health impacts, and appear in
multiple categories in this table.
Source: Environmental Working Group compilation
Footnotes | References: Health Effects

These results represent the most comprehensive assessment of chemical
contamination in individuals ever performed. Even so, many chemicals were
not included in the analysis that are known to contaminate virtually the
entire U.S. population. Two examples are Scotchgard and the related family
of perfluorinated chemicals, and a group of compounds known collectively as
brominated flame retardants.

A more precise picture of human contamination with industrial chemicals,
pollutants and pesticides is not possible because chemical companies are not
required to tell EPA how their compounds are used or monitor where their
products end up in the environment. Neither does U.S. law require chemical
companies to conduct basic health and safety testing of their products
either before or after they are commercialized. Eighty percent of all
applications to produce a new chemical are approved by the U.S. EPA with no
health and safety data. Eighty percent of these are approved in three weeks.

Only the chemical companies know whether their products are dangerous and
whether they are likely to contaminate people. As a first step toward a
public understanding of the extent of the problem, the chemical industry
must submit to the EPA and make public on the web, all information on human
exposure to commercial chemicals, any and all studies relating to potential
health risks, and comprehensive information on products that contain their


(5)  GLOBE AND MAIL, March 5, 2005, "I am polluted"

I am polluted
You are exposed to hundreds of chemicals every day, so it's not surprising
that they get inside you. MARK STEVENSON has himself tested in the name of
the emerging and unsettling science of body burden

By MARK STEVENSON Saturday, March 5, 2005 - Page F8

BOSTON -- My nose is clamped and I'm trying not to choke on a tube a
scientist at Harvard University has stuffed in my mouth. I am blowing into a
clear plastic bag, which is sealed and later studied for what it contains.
Sure, everyone suffers occasionally from a little bad breath. But what they
found in mine was enough to keep my wife away for a week.
Besides my breath, researchers at Harvard's School of Public Health examined
my blood, hair, urine, toenails and bones. It's all in the name of the
emerging science of body burden, a concept referring to the amount of
chemicals that accumulate in the human body.
As it turns out, I am polluted. Everyone is to some degree. But as the list
of toxic chemicals identified in people continues to grow, scientists are
trying to figure out what the implications are for human health.
"It is alarming," Professor John Spengler says. "This is not meant to be
settling information. I think if more people wake up to this fact, the
better we are going to be . . . and the more demanding we're going to be of
our governments and our industries."
An estimated 35,000 chemicals are in commercial use in Canada and more than
twice as many in the United States. The national American government
registers an average of 2,000 newly synthesized chemicals each year.
Cosmetics have at least 5,000 chemicals; more than 3,200 are added to food.
As many as 1,010 chemicals are used in the production of 11,700 consumer
products, and about 500 chemicals are used as active ingredients in
pesticides, according to Environmental Protection Agency data cited by the
Environmental Working Group, based in Washington, D.C.
Many chemicals end up in the environment, even thousands of kilometres from
Despite being banned years ago, PCBs are still found in Arctic wildlife.
Biologists are also finding rising levels of polybrominated diphenyl ethers
(PBDEs), flame retardants used in foam, textiles and plastics, as well as
chlorinated paraffins, chemicals used in paints, sealants and
Scotchgard, which is part of a family of chemicals used to make clothes,
carpets and furniture stain-resistant, has been found in polar bears in
Alaska and bald eagles around the Great Lakes.
If chemicals are showing up in wildlife and the environment, it's no
surprise that many are being discovered in people.
"Pretty much from the minute you wake up to the moment you go to bed, you're
exposed to hundreds and hundreds of chemicals," says Jane Houlihan,
vice-president of research for the Environmental Working Group. ". . . In
most cases, they're in minuscule quantities. But that fact is it's hundreds
[of chemicals] and they're adding up."
What's disturbing, Prof. Spengler says, is how the majority of the chemicals
have been approved for use without any research being done on their
potential impact on human health, except mainly for those that end up in
drugs or food.
What's more, little is known about what our chemical body burden truly is.
"So measurements like we're doing on you, and myself, and our research
subjects are really part of a new frontier because it's really trying to
understand . . . what effects these might have on disruption of human
function," Prof. Spengler says.
No extensive study has considered the chemical body burden of Canadians,
although separate studies have reported the presence of individual
compounds -- for example, research documenting a dramatic rise of PBDEs in
breast milk.
More wide-ranging studies have been done in the United States.
In one, researchers found at an average of 91 "industrial compounds,
pollutants and chemicals" in the blood and urine of nine volunteers and a
total of 167 chemicals in the group. According to the research, conducted by
Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York with the Environmental Working
Group, "76 cause cancer in humans or animals, 94 are toxic to the brain or
nervous system, and 79 cause birth defects or abnormal development." None of
the people tested worked with chemicals or lived near an industrial
"I expected to find many different chemicals," Ms. Houlihan says. "But to
actually see the numbers roll out that show that one person has 100
chemicals in their blood at one time. It's pretty powerful."
The most comprehensive research on body burden to date was conducted by the
U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and released in 2003. As
part of the $6.5-million (U.S.) report, the agency tested the blood and
urine of 2,500 volunteers for 116 compounds, including PCBs, pesticides,
dioxins, furans and metals.
It found many of the contaminants in at least half of the people they
tested. As well, researchers discovered elevated levels of lead in the blood
of children and the ubiquitous presence of phthalates, chemicals widely used
in plastics that are linked to cancer and reproductive problems in studies
on rats.
Meanwhile, they also discovered that chemicals such as DDT and PCBs, which
are banned or restricted, appear to be going down.
"Just because they can [detect it] doesn't mean it's at a dangerous level or
a level that causes health effects. It mostly reflects the fact that we've
improved our ability to measure," says Jim Pirkle, deputy director of
science for the CDC, referring to new technology that allows scientists to
identify compounds in amounts that would have gone unnoticed a decade
Dr. Pirkle notes that most of the chemicals being found are in
infinitesimally small amounts of parts per million and parts per billion,
equivalent to a grain of rice in an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
"There are going to be small levels of many things in people. That's because
they're dispersed in low levels all over the environment. What you really
have to do is stop and look at them one by one and go through them and say,
'Is that a level that's likely to cause disease? Is that a level that's so
trivially small, we have good instruments that can measure it, but it's so
small it's not of any concern?' You have to do that one chemical at a time."
All this brings us back to Harvard and my own results.
After bombarding my knee for half an hour with a small amount of radiation,
the technician in the bone lab gives me the news: My skeleton is
contaminated with lead.
Lead is an acute toxin. It's poisonous at higher levels. But even at low
concentrations, research has linked it to an increased risk of hypertension,
kidney disease, impaired neurological development in children, even
The good news is my lead levels place me well within the average range for
someone my age with no appreciable health risk, says Howard Hu, a professor
of occupational and health medicine at Harvard's School of Public Health.
Others are less fortunate. Dr. Hu has measured lead amounts five to 10 times
higher in many women, posing potential harm to their unborn babies.
"There's so many different exposure routes that just living and breathing
can provide exposures today," he says. "Lead is in many different consumer
products. It was in gasoline. . . . It was in food cans, pipes and solder. .
. . It was in toys and plastics."
In another lab across the street, scientists have clipped a lock of my hair
and are analyzing it. It will tell them how much mercury my body contains.
Although it occurs naturally in the environment, mercury is also a byproduct
of coal-fired power plants and waste incinerators. When it enters the water
and reacts with bacteria, it is transformed into methyl mercury and it
accumulates in fish, and people when they eat it.
It's a neurotoxin and the human fetus is particularly vulnerable. At low
doses, it can cause subtle changes to the developing brain; at larger doses,
it can cause blindness and other birth defects. At high levels, it can kill
nerve cells, causing blurred vision, lack of co-ordination and slurred
Fortunately, my mercury level is .411 parts per million, about half the EPA
guideline of 1 ppm.
Next came my blood results. As it turns out, my blood contains PCBs and
pesticides, including DDT, an insecticide banned in North America decades
ago. But for many people my age, my results are considered well within the
low-to-average range.
Unfortunately, as Russ Hauser of Harvard's School of Public Health points
out, his research is finding that men exposed to similar doses have problems
with semen quality, which is associated with infertility.
"PCBs and DDT were banned decades ago, but they're still present in the
environment," Dr. Hauser says. "You're exposed primarily through intake of
food because they accumulate as we move up the food chain. . . . So
consuming fish, dairy products, meats, that's primarily how you're exposed."
Although the Harvard scientists were looking for arsenic, a highly poisonous
metal, in my toenails, they found virtually none. Prof. Spengler wasn't
surprised, saying it's something they typically find in people who drink
water from a well and mine comes from a lake.
But he was amazed by something in my breath, the content of which is an
indicator of relatively recent exposure to chemicals in the air. It wasn't
the list of solvents, such as benzene, that are often associated with
vehicle exhaust. It was MTBE, a fuel additive that is not supposed to be
widely used in Canada (less than 2 per cent of gas in this country contains
it, according to Environment Canada). Prof. Spengler speculates I breathed
in MTBE on the way to Harvard in a taxi.
In total, the scientists found 76 chemicals in my body, including PCBs,
pesticides, solvents and metals. Even though my body contains extremely
small amounts of them, I can't help but ask Prof. Spengler whether I should
be worried.
"I would say you're not very toxic compared to people we've measured all
over the world, even compared to me," he says.
He points out that his own DDT levels place him in the top fifth of
Americans. I'm in the bottom fifth.
"On the one hand, you might say, 'Well, I'm normal. I might be a little high
on one thing and low on another.' But that's not the way we should look at
Prof. Spengler says the issue is not whether one has an average amount of
chemicals in his body. Rather, it's why the average person is carrying
around so many chemicals in the first place.
There has been little scientific inquiry into the net effect of being
exposed to many chemicals at the same time, the so-called "toxic soup
Complicating the toxicology is the counterintuitive concept of hormesis, a
phenomenon in which a small dose of an otherwise toxic substance can be
helpful. Studies on plants and animals have documented it in alcohol,
antibiotics, hydrocarbons and pesticides.
Nevertheless, Prof. Spengler and many other scientists believe that exposure
to a range of chemicals in the environment may be behind a host of emerging
health problems in addition to those already well documented. "We're
concerned about the growing rates of cancer in our society, the growing
rates of autism," he says. "In most developed countries, asthma has grown
substantially over the past 20 years, particularly in children"
As for myself, Prof. Spengler says there's very little I can do to reduce
the contamination that is already in my body. Aside from eating different
types of fish to lower my mercury level, the PCBs and pesticides are there
for the long haul while the solvents will continue to show up in my breath
as long as I'm exposed to cars and trucks, which are kind of difficult to
Prof. Spengler says the solution is targeting chemicals we don't want in our
bodies in the first place. He points to PBDEs, which has been referred to as
the "PCBs of the 21st century."
Research commissioned by The Globe and Mail and CTV News found that many
everyday foods consumed by Canadians -- such as salmon, ground beef, cheese
and butter -- are laced with PBDEs.
In Sweden, the flame retardants were banned after rising levels were noticed
in the breast milk of women. "They said to the industry, 'We don't want them
in our plastics. We don't what them in our materials' -- and they started to
see the levels come down," Prof. Spengler says.
"Now, you see the similar data out of North American women. . . . The levels
are already 50 times higher in our populations and nobody is saying, 'Ban
that product.' . . . So I think this really has to do with how we've come to
judge what is beneficial to the population," he says. "[But] at what point
do we invoke some precaution?"
Mark Stevenson is an independent producer and a regular contributor to the
Discovery Channel's Daily Planet. A version of this feature has aired on the
Test results show low levels of 76 chemicals.
Metals in blood*
Normal levels (ppb):
Mark's levels (ppb):
Mercury in hair
EPA reference level: 1.0 ppm
Mark's level: 0.411 ppm
Arsenic in toenails
Normal level: below 0.2 ppm
Mark's level: 0.032 ppm
Solvents in breath (nanogram/litre)
Pesticides in blood
Mark has 0.879 ppb of DDT (low to average)
PCBs in blood
Mark has 0.82 ppb (low to average)
Lead content in bone
Mark has 4.67 ppm (average)
*Lead, cadmium and mercury are not considered "natural" elements in the
body. Manganese, on the other hand, is an essential element at very trace
**MTBE, a fuel additive to improve emissions, could have been inhaled in the
United States where it is much more common than in Canada.
***The high limonene level could be attributed to orange juice or air


It has been assumed that there is a "safe" level of exposure to
pharmaceuticals and chemicals. A large dose might harm or kill, a small
dose is benign. Makes sense?
The chemical industry strongly rejects what it claims are "unproven fears".
"Just because chemicals are present does not mean they are at dangerous
levels." The Royal Society of Chemistry in England, in response to the
Prozac evidence said "just because you can detect something doesn't
necessarily mean it is dangerous.'"

But research is showing the assumption that small doses are harmless to be
false. Scientists have been perplexed. In some instances large amounts of
a toxin do NOT cause harm, whereas small doses do. It seems to be a

The explanation now put forth is that body defence mechanisms will allow
small amounts of a toxin to enter the body - they get in "under the radar
screen". Whereas a large dose - extreme threat - sets off alarm bells and
the body aggressively defends against the encroachment.

You may understand this the same way I do: from teen-age experience with
alcohol! If I drank a modest amount, nothing too much happened except that
I didn't feel on-top-of-my-game the next day. Slightly head-achy. My body
tolerated the alcohol.

It was actually better if I drank TOO MUCH, because then my stomach revolted
and threw everything out. Get rid of the poison! It was unpleasant
temporarily, but the next day I would be clear-headed without hangover
effects. You may remember the same phenomenon?!

What the scientists are discovering about low doses of chemicals and
pharmaceuticals: isn't it the same thing as the alcohol example? A large
dose doesn't harm because my body's defensive reactions go into high gear:
it wants to survive! I flee the scene. Smaller doses (especially if I am
exposed to them every day) can definitely be harmful, but the body attempts
to COPE with the toxins, putting blood through the kidneys and liver for
cleansing, etc. (Check out the recent rates of kidney cancer.)

Minute amounts of particular hormones can trigger significant reactions in
an organism. Think of the developing embryo. It is a tiny clump of cells.
You or I could not visually detect the infinitesimal speck of natural
chemical that will determine whether it develops female or male
characteristics. Science is only beginning to understand the quantities,
pathways and what happens.

Consider the brain: it is very careful about what it lets in. There is a
protective shield, the blood-brain barrier to screen out things that might
damage the brain. Complex interactions between proteins, insulin - a
myriad of factors - determine the circumstances under which individual trace
ingredients carried by the blood will cross the barrier into the brain.

Pharmaceuticals and chemicals mimic ingredients of our body chemistry; they
become part of the interplay. It makes sense to me that trace amounts of
these substances will affect the way we function, in ways we don't
understand. After all, it is "trace amounts" of hormones in our bodies that
continuously regulate our activity.

There are a couple of things we do know:
- the pharmaceuticals have "side effects" which become more problematic
over time.
- some of the chemicals contribute to the development of dis-ease in the
body. The same is true of pharmaceuticals. ( I am reminded of a recent
example: a family friend from Calgary received immediate medical treatment
for her newly-diagnosed breast cancer. Her explanation was that her doctor
had prescribed hormone-replacement drugs during menopause and found out
belatedly that the drug was linked to breast cancer. The doctor felt
responsible and guilty for the disease caused by her prescription and
consequently made an all-out effort to obtain immediate treatment for her
patient's cancer.)

This is background for discussing trace amounts of pharmaceuticals and
chemicals in water, air and food. These products are designed to change the
chemistry of organisms. Chemicals in highly diluted amounts - parts per
trillion are being found to have significant effects on developing
organisms. We know very little about which chemicals remain in the water
supply, how they then interact with other chemicals, and the impact they
have, especially on developing human foetuses and young children, let alone
on adults.

The fact that science is only now recognizing the reality of very low-dose
effects leads me to conclude that it is unwise to abandon my own informed
common sense in naive belief that "all is well, someone is looking after us.
There is no work to be done by me".

25 2005

Thanks to Donna. The article from the Los Angeles Times is quite

The European Parliament is set to debate new regulations that would
dramatically increase the number of banned chemicals in the EU. The law
would require manufacturers of some 30,000 currently legal chemicals to
provide scientific evidence that their products are safe for human health
and the environment. If the legislation passes, it would have a major impact
on thousands of chemicals and products manufactured and sold in the U.S.
Despite much weaker regulations in the U.S. many American companies have no
choice but to adhere to European regulations given that the EU, with 25
countries and 460 million people, represents an even larger market than the
For more info:

U.S. Exporters & Chemical Companies Fight Against New Strict EU Regulations
From: Grist Magazine <> 5/17/05
U.S. Companies: Working to Keep Europeans Safe

American firms conforming to E.U. chemical regs

Though the U.S. was once a global leader in environmental regulation, that
is, to put it mildly, no longer true. Now, the real challenge for many U.S.
companies is complying with the stringent standards that govern the European
Union market -- if they want to reach its 460 million consumers. Using a
"better safe than sorry" model, the E.U. has instituted hundreds of bans on
industrial compounds linked to cancer, reproductive problems, and other ill
health effects. The newest piece of such legislation, set for evaluation by
European Parliament this fall, would require companies to provide scientific
data on some 30,000 chemical compounds, in many cases evaluating their
effects on environmental and human health.
The testing could cost industries up to $6.8 billion and might involve bans
on thousands of chemicals if they can't be proven safe. "In the E.U., if
there is a risk with potentially
irreversible impact, we don't wait until the last piece of information,"
said Rob Donkers, the E.U.'s environmental counselor in Washington, D.C.

straight to the source: Los Angeles Times, Marla Cone, 16 May 2005,0,5222200.story?coll

Europe's Rules Forcing U.S. Firms to Clean Up
Unwilling to surrender sales, companies struggle to meet the EU's tough
stand on toxics.
By Marla Cone
Times Staff Writer
May 16, 2005

At their headquarters in Santa Clara, researchers at Coherent Inc., the
world's largest laser manufacturer, are wrestling with an environmental law
that is transforming their entire product line.
Soon, everything produced at the Bay Area company < even the tiniest
microchip inside its high-powered lasers that fly on NASA satellites and
bleach jeans sold at boutiques < must be free of lead, mercury and four
other hazardous substances.
The mandate that has Coherent and other American electronics companies
scrambling doesn't come from lawmakers in Washington, or even Sacramento.
Instead, it was crafted 5,000 miles away, in Brussels, the capital of the
European Union.
Europe's law, governing any product with a battery or a cord, has spawned a
multibillion-dollar effort by the electronics industry to wean itself from
toxic compounds.
"This is the first time we've encountered something like this on such a
global scale," said Gerry Barker, a vice president of Coherent, whose lasers
are used to create master copies of Hollywood films, test the safety of car
tires, imprint expiration dates on soda cans and more.
And the electronics rule is only the beginning.
Already, Europe is setting environmental standards for international
commerce, forcing changes in how industries around the world make plastic,
electronics, toys, cosmetics and furniture. Now, the EU is on the verge of
going further < overhauling how all toxic compounds are regulated. A
proposal about to be debated by Europe's Parliament would require testing
thousands of chemicals, cost industries several billion dollars, and could
lead to many more compounds and products being pulled off the market.
Years ago, when rivers oozed poisons, eagle chicks were dying from DDT in
their eggs and aerosol sprays were eating a hole in the Earth's ozone layer,
the United States was the world's trailblazer when it came to regulating
toxic substances. Regardless of whether Republicans or Democrats controlled
the White House, the United States was the acknowledged global pioneer of
tough new laws that aimed to safeguard the public from chemicals considered
Today, the United States is no longer the vanguard. Instead, the planet's
most stringent chemical policies, with far-reaching impacts on global trade,
are often born in Stockholm and codified in Brussels.
"In the environment, generally, we were the ones who were always out in
front," said Kal Raustiala, a professor of international law at UCLA. "Now
we have tended to back off while the Europeans have become more aggressive
Europe has imposed many pioneering and aggressive < some say foolish and
extreme < bans meant to protect people from exposure to hundreds of
industrial compounds that have been linked to cancer, reproductive harm and
other health effects. Recent measures adopted by the European Union have
taken aim at chemicals called phthalates, which make nail polishes
chip-resistant, and compounds added to foam cushions that slow the spread of
fires in furniture.
EU's Big Market
Many companies, even those based in America, follow the European rules
because the EU, with 25 countries and 460 million people, surpasses even the
United States as a market. Rather than lose access to it, many companies
redesign their products to meet European standards. For example, Revlon,
L'Oreal and Estee Lauder have said that all their products meet European
directives that control the ingredients of cosmetics. And U.S. computer
companies say they are trying to remove lead and other substances banned in
the EU from everything they sell.
As the EU emerges as the world's toughest environmental cop, its policies
increasingly are at odds with Washington.
Among the compounds now phased out or restricted in Europe but still used
in high volumes in the United States are the pesticides atrazine, lindane
and methyl bromide; some phthalates, found in beauty products, plastic toys
and other products; and nonylphenol in detergents and plastic packaging. In
animal tests, those compounds have altered hormones, caused cancer,
triggered neurological changes in fetuses or damaged a newborn's
reproductive development.
The "biggest single difference" between EU and U.S. policy is in the
regulation of cosmetics, said Alastair Iles, a postdoctoral fellow at UC
Berkeley's Energy and Resources Group. Cosmetics sold in Europe cannot
contain about 600 substances that are allowed in U.S. products, including,
as of last September, any compound linked to cancer, genetic mutations and
reproductive effects.
Driving EU policy is a "better safe than sorry" philosophy called the
precautionary principle. Following that guideline, which is codified into EU
law, European regulators have taken action against chemicals even when their
dangers remain largely uncertain.
Across the Atlantic, by contrast, U.S. regulators are reluctant to move
against a product already in use unless a clear danger can be shown. A
chemical, they say, is innocent until proven guilty.
Critics say the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's search for
scientific clarity takes so long that the public often goes unprotected.
Paralysis by analysis, the critics call it.
U.S. risk assessments can last years, sometimes longer than a decade, and
in some cases, the EPA still reaches no conclusions and relies upon
industries to act voluntarily. For instance, despite research that showed by
2002 that polybrominated flame retardants were doubling in concentration in
Americans' breast milk every few years, the EPA has still not completed its
risk review. Meanwhile, the U.S. manufacturer of two of the flame retardants
agreed voluntarily to stop making them last year after they were banned in
Europe and in California.
In the 1970s and '80s, all the major chemical and pollution laws in the
United States had a precautionary slant, said Frank Ackerman, an economist
at Tufts University's Global Development and Environment Institute.
Lengthy reviews of chemicals, which now dominate U.S. policy, began to
evolve under President Reagan and grew in the 1990s. Carl Cranor, an
environmental philosophy professor at UC Riverside, said that a conservative
groundswell in American politics and a backlash by industries set off "an
ideological sea change."
Part of the change stems from the much more vocal role of U.S. companies in
battling chemical regulations, said Sheila Jasanoff, a professor of science
and technology studies at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of
Government. American attitudes toward averting environmental risks haven't
changed since the 1970s, Jasanoff said. "What has changed is politics and
political culture," she said.
EPA's Limited Role
The Toxic Substances Control Act, adopted by Congress in 1976, grants the
EPA authority to restrict industrial chemicals that "present an unreasonable
risk of injury to health or the environment." The law, however, also tells
EPA to use "the least burdensome" approach to do so and compare the costs
and benefits.
A pivotal year for the EPA was 1991, when a federal appeals court nullified
its ban on asbestos. The court ruled that the agency, despite 10 years of
research, had failed to prove that asbestos posed an unreasonable risk and
had not proved that the public would be inadequately protected by steps
short of a ban.
Since then, the EPA has not banned or restricted any existing industrial
chemical under the toxics law, except in a few instances where manufacturers
acted voluntarily. New chemicals entering the market are more easily
regulated, and so are pesticides, under a separate law.
Some states, including California, are filling what they see as a void by
adopting their own rules. California and Maine banned some polybrominated
flame retardants, for example.
Iles said that restricting a chemical under federal law now requires a
"very tough burden of proof."
"Americans tend to think that products are safe because they are in the
market and must somehow have passed government regulation," he said. "But
there is no real regulation. Cosmetics, for example, are almost
Since the asbestos rule was thrown out by the court, EPA officials perform
more complicated calculations to quantify how much risk an industrial
chemical poses, assigning a numeric value, for example, to the odds of
contracting cancer or figuring out what dose might harm a fetus or child.
They also do more research to predict the costs and the expected benefits to
public health.
But making these precise judgments is difficult with today's industrial
compounds. In most cases, the dangers are subtle, not overtly
Studies of laboratory animals suggest that low doses of dozens of chemicals
can contribute to learning problems in children, skew sex hormones, suppress
immune systems and heighten the risk of cancer. Some chemicals build up in
the bodies of humans and wildlife, and spread globally via the air and
oceans. But while harm is well-documented in some wild animals and lab
tests, the risks to human beings are largely unknown.
In the face of that scientific uncertainty, Europeans say, their
precautionary principle is simply common sense. If you smell smoke, you
don't wait until your house is burning down to eliminate the cause, they
say. Their standard of evidence for chemicals is similar to the creed of
doctors: First, do no harm.
"In the EU, if there is a risk with potentially irreversible impact, we
don't wait until the last piece of information," said Rob Donkers, the EU's
environmental counselor in Washington, D.C.
"You can study things until you turn purple, but we do not work from the
concept that you really need to prove a risk 100,000 times," he said. "In
the face of potentially very dangerous situations, we start taking temporary
risk management measures on the basis of the science that is available."
Europe's policy is, in part, a reaction to a series of disturbing
revelations about dioxins in chicken, mad cow disease, toxic substances in
diapers and baby toys, all of which have made many Europeans more averse to
taking risks with chemicals.
Under Europe's rules, "there are chemicals that are going to be taken off
the market, and there probably should be," said Joel Tickner, an assistant
professor at the University of Massachusetts' School of Health and the
Conservative critics and some officials in the Bush administration
criticize Europe's precautionary approach as extreme, vague, protectionist
and driven by emotions, not science.
EPA officials would not go on the record comparing their policies with the
EU's. But they asserted that their approach, while different, is also
Instead of banning compounds, the EPA teams with industry to ensure there
are safe alternatives. In the last five years, 3M Corp. voluntarily
eliminated a perfluorinated chemical in Scotchgard that has been found in
human blood and animals around the world, and Great Lakes Chemical Corp.
ended manufacture of polybrominated flame retardants used in foam furniture.
In those cases, EPA officials said, forming partnerships with industry was
quicker than trying to impose regulations and facing court challenges as
they did with asbestos.
More than any other environmental policy in Europe, the proposal known as
REACH, or Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals, worries
U.S. officials and industries.
Under REACH, which was approved by the EU's executive arm and is scheduled
to go before the European Parliament this fall, companies would have to
register basic scientific data for about 30,000 compounds. More extensive
testing would be required of 1,500 compounds that are known to cause cancer
or birth defects, to build up in bodies or to persist in the environment, as
well as several thousand others used in large volumes. Those chemicals would
be subject to bans unless there is proof that they can be used safely or
that the benefits outweigh the risks. The testing would cost industries $3.7
billion to $6.8 billion, the EU says.
Some company executives contend that Europe is blocking products that pose
little or no danger. In Santa Clara, Barker of Coherent said that the EU's
precautionary approach sounds good in principle but it forces businesses to
do things that are "unnecessary and probably very expensive."
In some cases, U.S. officials say, Europeans are using the precautionary
principle as an excuse to create trade barriers, such as their bans on
hormones in beef and genetically modified corn and other foods.
Not on the Same Page
"There is a protectionist element to this, but it goes beyond Europe trying
to protect its own industries or even the health of its public," said Mike
Walls, managing director at the American Chemistry Council, which represents
chemical manufacturers, the nation's largest exporter. "It's a drive to
force everyone to conform to their standards < standards that the rest of
the world hasn't weighed in on."
John Graham, an economist and senior official of Bush's Office of
Management and Budget, which reviews new regulations, has called the notion
of a universal precautionary principle "a mythical concept, kind of like a
"Reasonable people can disagree about what is precautionary and what is
dangerous," he said at a 2002 conference.
It is ironic, says Richard Jensen, chairman of the University of Notre
Dame's economics department, that Europeans "who embrace the precautionary
principle should have such a high tolerance for risk from smoking and
secondhand smoke."
Americans are more fearful of cigarettes, nuclear power and car exhaust <
and it shows in their laws. They also pasteurize foods to kill bacteria,
while European children grow up drinking and eating raw milk and cheese.
Said UCLA's Raustiala, "The United States is quite schizophrenic, as are
Europeans, about when we decide" to be cautious.

If you want other stories on this topic, search the Archives at
Copyright 2005 Los Angeles Times
certainly related)
BIRD GUANO (deleted)

(10)  CHEMICALS IN COSMETICS, Think before you pink
Date: Apr 17 2005 - 2:23pm

Many thanks to Mike for putting together this information from the Ottawa
Related to our call on the Cancer organizations to act on the CAUSES of
disease, people should have this.
Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Ottawa Citizen

Think before you pink

Cosmetic firms tie on pink ribbons in support of a cure, but there's
a rub: health activists say their products may actually cause cancer

by Shelley Page

They keep your mascara from running, help fragrances to linger longer
and stop your nail polish from chipping. Chemicals called phthalates
were the beauty industry's secret ingredient -- until recently. With
stunning swiftness, several cosmetic giants have removed phthalates
from many of their products.

First, Body Shop International and Aveda Corporation removed the
ubiquitous plasticizers from their lines. Then Procter & Gamble said
it had taken phthalates out of its Max Factor and Cover Girl nail
polishes. Estee Lauder has eliminated the chemicals from its MAC and
Clinique nail polishes. Avon has also announced it was ridding its
cosmetics of the chemicals. In recent months, Revlon and L'Oreal
announced phthalates were gone.

You won't read this story in the beauty magazines, where cosmetics
are almost always portrayed as potent elixirs. But for three years,
breast cancer and environmental activists in the United States have
been demanding companies change their formulas for the sake of
consumers' health.

The family of chemicals called phthalates are just one of several
ingredients that activists say should not be part of our daily beauty
routine. Their crusade has been met with criticism from the cosmetics
industry, which says the activists are ignoring the facts in favour
of fear mongering.

The battle began with Avon.

"What we've been saying is that Avon positioned itself as a champion
of breast cancer, so it should be open to scrutiny," says Barbara
Brenner, executive director of Breast Cancer Action, a scrappy, San
Francisco-based group that bills itself as "the bad girls of breast

"Everyone who wants to wear cosmetics is entitled to know they are
safe. And you cannot depend on the company to set the standard
because they are in the business of making money. We're in the
business of trying to save lives."

Avon markets itself as "the company of women" and has long been a
huge benefactor of breast-cancer research, raising more than $300
million worldwide. Avon saleswomen across North America have raised
more than $8.6 million for the cause. In Canada, Avon runs where it compiles the stories of women who have
battled the disease and sells pink-ribbon bookmarks, donating the
proceeds to breast-cancer research.

Other cosmetics companies have also tied themselves with a big pink
ribbon to the breast-cancer cause. Revlon sponsors the annual Walk
for Women to raise funds for research. Estee Lauder's Breast Cancer
Research Foundation (BCRF) says its mission is the "prevention and a
cure in our lifetime." Mary Kay's website proclaims that the
company's charitable foundation is "committed to eliminating cancers
affecting women."

But Breast Cancer Action (BCA) made Avon, "the company of women," its
first target.

Brenner, a breast-cancer survivor who has been described in media
reports as a "single-breasted dynamo," practically growls over the
phone as she describes her expectations for the cosmetic company. Her
group, which has 11,000 members across the U.S., believes that cancer
prevention efforts must embrace the "precautionary principle" -- the
idea that when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or
the environment, precautionary measures should be taken in the
absence of scientific certainty.

While the American Cancer Society rates environmental concerns low on
the list of possible causes of cancer, BCA questions the long-term
effects of layering on, day after day, hundreds of different
chemicals in products ranging from deodorant to hair spray to shampoo
to nail polish.

The group had concerns about the safety of two ubiquitous ingredients
in cosmetics made by Avon and many other cosmetic companies: parabens
and phthalates.

Parabens are derived from a petroleum base and are used as a
preservative in everything from shampoo to mascara to deodorant. They
prevent fungal and bacterial growth and give toiletries shelf lives
of many months. Recent studies have shown that parabens act like an
estrogen in the body. They also easily penetrate the skin. BCA is
worried that, because exposure to external estrogens has been shown
to increase the risk of breast cancer, repeated exposure to parabens
in cosmetics might promote the growth of cancerous cells.

"Industry has told us forever that this stuff is safe, that it
doesn't penetrate the skin. It turns out we're swimming in this
stuff. We ought to be looking at it more closely," Brenner said.

Phthalates, meanwhile, are a family of chemicals that are clear
liquids resembling common vegetable oil. The larger-molecule
phthalates make vinyl plastic flexible in everything from toys to
kitchen flooring. Smaller-molecule phthalates are used to make the
time-release coatings on drugs. They help make adhesives, lubricants,
weather stripping and safety glass. Four phthalates in particular
(DMP, DEP, DBP and DEHP) are used in cosmetics and personal-care
products. DBP gives nail polish a plastic-like consistency that makes
it flexible and chip resistant. When perfume fragrances are dissolved
in either DEP, DMP or DEHP, they evaporate more slowly, making the
scent linger longer.

Hundreds of animal studies have shown that phthalates can damage the
liver, the kidneys, the lungs and the reproductive system, primarily
to male offspring, including testicular atrophy, reduced sperm count
and defects in the structure of the penis. DBP was found to be
particularly harmful to rats. While there had been no evidence about
their presence in humans, it could be shown that phthalates are
absorbed through the skin, inhaled as fumes and ingested when they
contaminate food.

Health Canada has been monitoring all phthalate-related issues, in
particular the use of DEHP in a number of consumer products,
including children's toys and medical products such as IV tubes and
blood bags. DEHP has been found to have adverse effects in animals at
very high levels of exposure, and one study implicated it in causing
premature breast development in a population of Puerto Rican girls.
DBP, meanwhile, has been declared non-toxic to human health and the
environment by the Canadian government.

Then, in late 2000, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention (CDC) announced the results of its study on the presence
of a number of compounds, including phthalates, in 289 human urine
samples. Every person tested had one of the most common phthalates,
dibutyl phthalate (DBP), in their body. DEP (diethyl phthalate) and
BBzP (butylbenzyl phthalate) were also found at high levels, as well
as four other phthalates. Estimates based on the results of this
study indicate that for more than three million women of childbearing
age in the U.S., exposures to DBP may be 20 times greater than the
average exposures in the rest of the population. But no one could say
what this meant. Are those women with high levels of DBP and other
phthalates at risk for disease, maybe even cancer? Are their
offspring at risk? What happens when numerous phthalates build up in
the body? Is it worse if someone is exposed to myriad phthalates --
from deodorants, nail polish, time-release pills, or leached from IV

Scientist Don Wigle, formerly with Health Canada and now affiliated
with the McLaughlin Centre for Population Health Risk Assessment in
Ottawa, says there are many unknowns about phthalates. Studies of lab
animals show that exposures just after birth affect reproductive
health and fertility. "There is no evidence linking phthalates to
directly adverse health problems in humans, partly because the
studies really haven't been done."

But the trends in human male reproductive health include many of the
same effects seen in lab animals that have been dosed with
phthalates. For example, there are dramatically increasing cases of
cancer in young males and other testicular problems. An analysis by a
researcher at the University of Missouri of 101 studies (from 1934 to
1996) shows average sperm counts in industrialized countries are
declining at a rate of about one per cent a year.

Data from the CDC show that rates of hypospadias in the U.S. -- a
penis deformity where the opening of the urethra occurs on the
underside instead of the tip -- began climbing in the 1970s. Rates of
undescended testicles increased greatly in the U.S. during the 1970s
and 1980s. Testicular cancer, meanwhile, is the most common cancer of
young men in many countries, including the U.S. and Canada. In
industrialized countries, its incidence is increasing about two to
four per cent a year.

Although a cause-and-effect relationship has not been established,
the ubiquity of phthalates in the human population creates a
"biologically plausible presumption" that phthalates may be
contributing to these problems, according to the Environmental
Working Group, a collection of Washington-based activist researchers
who study the health and environmental threats posed by everyday
consumer products, such as Teflon or fire retardants.

EWG researchers wondered why women had the highest levels of
phthalates, particularly DBP, in their urine. They suspected the
culprit might be personal-care products.

They are Everywhere

EWG searched the ingredient labels of cosmetics and toiletries, as
well as the U.S. patent office looking for patent applications for
new products containing DBP. They found:

- DBP in 37 popular nail polishes, top coats and hardeners, including
products by L'Oreal, Maybelline, Olay and Cover Girl.

- Patents proposing to include DBP in a broad range of shampoos and
conditioners, lotions, hair-growth formulations, antiperspirants and
sunscreen. Even patents relating to gum, candy and oral
pharmaceuticals proposed DBP as an ingredient.

- Of more than 100 patents analysed by EWG, Procter & Gamble, maker
of Max Factor and Cover Girl, holds the most (37) that propose to use
DBP in personal-care products. Other major companies with multiple
patents are L'Oreal (10), Lever Brothers (4) and Maybelline (3).

Since cosmetic companies, including those in Canada, aren't required
to state on the labels if their products contain phthalates, it
wasn't known how common they were in cosmetics. "We had a pretty
strong hunch that phthalates were in a lot more products than we
knew," said Stacy Malkan, of Health Care Without Harm.

Health Care Without Harm, an umbrella organization of dozens of
environment and health groups, tested 72 cosmetics made by major
brands such as Revlon, Calvin Klein, Christian Dior and Procter &
Gamble for three types of phthalates. The lab found phthalates in 52
of the products. Nine of 14 deodorants tested and all 18 fragrances,
six of seven hair gels, four of seven mousses, 14 of 18 hair sprays
and two of four hand and body lotions contained phthalates.

DBP was found in only six of the 72 products but it was found in
substantial concentrations. The phthalate DEP was found in 51 of 72
products. It is considered a less potent reproductive toxin than DBP,
but is still associated with reproductive damage including reduced
sperm counts in lab animals.

The activists thought they had found a smoking gun hidden in
cosmetics. The self-regulated cosmetics industry watchdog, the
Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel (CIR), declared in 2002 that three
phthalates used in cosmetics -- DEP, DMP and DBP -- are "safe as
used." The review found "a tremendous margin of safety" between what
is likely absorbed under everyday use and what level was known to
cause harm in rats.

Rod Irvin, spokesman for the American chemical manufacturers
Phthalate Esters Panel, said at the time, "Phthalates are among the
most-studied products out there. They have a long record of safe use,
with no reports or evidence of harm to human health."

The phthalate industry pointed to other studies, including one
released in March, 2001, by the CDC, which found that rats became ill
only after absorbing the human equivalent of 4.5 bottles of nail
polish every day for 70 years. Another study concluded that the
mechanism that causes cancer in rats would not produce tumours in

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which has regulatory
authority over cosmetics, studied the CDC's data on phthalates in
2001, and said it found "no reasons for consumers to be alarmed at
the use of cosmetics containing phthalates."

Still, a number of European countries, worried about phthalates, had
been studying alternatives. Denmark, for example, identified 11 other
chemicals that could be used instead.

Body Shop International became one of the first to react to concerns
about phthalates and in 2002 announced it would phase them out of the
perfumes used in its products.

A Direct Attack

BCA wanted Avon to follow suit. First, it tackled the company's use
of parabens. According to Avon's own U.S.-based website, 82 products
contain parabens, including Auto Focus Light Adjusting Foundation,
Beyond Colour Illuminating Radiance Vitamin C Foundation and Clear
Finish Great Complexion Pressed Powder.

BCA purchased one share of Avon stock and became a shareholder. It
then approached three larger shareholders, who were also "socially
responsible" investment funds: Domini Social Investments Inc.,
Trillium Asset Management, and Walden Asset Management. BCA convinced
them to join in sponsoring a shareholder resolution demanding Avon
study the feasibility of removing parabens completely or substituting
a non-estrogenic alternative.

"Initially, we simply signed on to a statement urging Avon to sit
down and talk with these breast-cancer activists and listen to what
they had to say," Adam Kanzer, director of shareholder advocacy for
Domini, told the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. "We were
quite surprised when we didn't get any response to that request and
decided to examine the issue more seriously."

Kanzer said that Avon's initial response was to approach the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in an unsuccessful attempt
to prevent the proposal from appearing before shareholders. Avon
cited the efficacy of parabens in reducing the risk of microbial

Avon's board of directors urged stockholders to vote against the resolution.

In its statement to shareholders opposing the proposal, Avon cited
experts who "do not support the proponents' assertion that there is
substantial scientific evidence linking exposure to parabens with
increased health risk." The company pointed out that paraben use had
the support of the World Health Organization and the industry's CIR

"We believe that discontinuing the use of parabens and replacement
with an inferior preservative would present a potential health risk
to our consumers that is neither necessary nor warranted," company
officials wrote to shareholders.

Brenner countered that the studies Avon cited dated back nearly three
decades, before more recent research showing parabens mimic the
effects of estrogen.

At the May, 2003, Avon annual general meeting, the resolution did not pass.

The following year, a new study seemed to give credibility to BCA's
concerns that parabens might be implicated in breast cancer.
Microbiologist Philippa Darbre of the University of Reading, England,
found parabens in the breast-cancer tumours of 18 of the 20 women she
tested. The very small study did not show that parabens caused breast
cancer, but according to Dr. Darbre there was evidence the parabens
came from beauty products.

The parabens she found were the "ester-bearing form of parabens"
which indicates they came from something applied to the skin, such as
an underarm deodorant, cream or body spray. When parabens are eaten,
they are metabolised and lose the ester group, making them less
strongly estrogen-mimicking.

She suggested they might have come from deodorant.

"One would expect tumours to occur evenly, with 20 per cent arising
in each of the five areas of the breast," Dr. Darbre told New
Scientist. "But these results help explain why up to 60 per cent of
all breast tumours are found in just one-fifth of the breast -- the
upper-outer quadrant, nearest the underarm."

The cosmetic industry was quick to minimize the findings. The U.S.
Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CFTA), which represents
600 cosmetic companies, said the Darbre study was inconclusive and
the amounts of parabens found in the tumours was "exceedingly small."
The industry association pointed out that the paraben reported most
frequently and at the highest concentration was methyparaben, which
is used to preserve many medicines, including those used to treat
breast cancer. Maybe the parabens were present in the tumours because
of the cancer treatment the women were receiving.

Experts at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, New York, have also said
that the reason more tumours are found in the upper, outer quadrant
is because that is where most of the breast tissue is found.

BCA's next target was phthalates, which it was set to put on the
agenda of the shareholders meeting in May, 2004.

While it was gearing up the phthalates fight, new information emerged
about the chemicals which didn't seem to support the activists'

In 2003, the CDC issued more extensive reports on 116 substances in
samples from 2,500 people, including the original 289.

The results showed that the levels of exposure to each phthalate were
not only within predicted levels but also well within the safety
levels set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- levels that
phthalates manufacturers pointed out already incorporate a number of
conservative safety margins.

The data showed that average exposure levels for DBP remained more
than 100 times below government safety levels. In addition, the
exposure levels indicated from DMP, DBP and DEP were about half of
what had been indicated in the smaller sample from the initial study
in 2000. CDC researchers also showed that the exposure levels of
women aged 20 to 39 were slightly lower for women, not higher.

"It was clear from the first," Marian Stanley, manager of the
Phthalates Esters Panel, said at the time, "that a major premise of
the anti-phthalates campaign was dubious, because the sample was
small and not representative of the population as a whole. Now we
know the campaign is not supported by the CDC data."

Activists with BCA and Health Care Without Harm countered by saying
the safety standards set for phthalates are based on decades-old
studies and do not consider the new information about birth defects
caused in animals. Besides, it is not known what daily use of several
phthalates, one atop the other, does to people.

Just as BCA and the other activist shareholders were preparing to put
a resolution before shareholders asking them to force Avon to study
alternatives to phthalates, Avon made a startling announcement. It
was taking -- or in some cases, had already taken -- phthalates out
of its products. Most of the Avon products sold in Canada -- none are
made in this country -- come from the U.S., so they would also be
affected by this decision.

BCA was euphoric.

"This is a small but important step by a corporate giant," Brenner
said. "It's important for the people Avon markets to, many of whom
are women of childbearing age, and it's important for future

An Avon spokesman said at the time that the move was a part of the
company's "wish to allay public concern, not a safety concern" and
was in large part due to changes in the European cosmetics industry.
Since May last year, Avon has not made any new nail polishes with
DBP. It has also developed seven new DBP-free nail products.

In Europe, cosmetic companies had no choice over whether or not to
include phthalates in their products. The EU announced in 2003 it was
banning DBP and DEHP from cosmetics as of September, 2004. The two
chemicals were placed in a category of substances considered
carcinogens, mutagens or toxigens for reproduction.

The actions of the EU were used as proof by activists that phthalates
must be dangerous. In reality, however, the EU was banning them
because there was no proof they were safe.

The EU had adopted the "precautionary principle" toward chemicals and
had placed the onus on the cosmetic companies to prove the
ingredients weren't harmful. If the companies can provide proof of
safety, substances can be taken off the banned list. In the case of
phthalates, companies chose to find alternatives.

Back in the U.S., a number of activist groups began the Campaign for
Safe Cosmetics and last year bombarded hundreds of companies with
letters insisting their products meet the "standards and deadlines"
set by Europe. More than 60 companies, the vast majority small
players, agreed to meet the EU standards. However, a few larger
companies have also indicated they are making changes.

L'Oreal Senior Vice President for Research and Development, Alan J.
Meyers, recently wrote to Jeanne Rizzo, the executive director of the
Breast Cancer Fund, also based in San Francisco, to tell her his
company's products are now in compliance with the EU cosmetics
directive "no matter where they are sold around the world."

A Revlon spokesperson told Rizzo before Christmas that "all products
sold by Revlon are in full compliance" with the EU directives.

Activist groups claim it was their pressure that pushed the companies
to remove phthalates, but the EU requirements have been a powerful
incentive for change.

A Procter & Gamble spokesperson said after the company banned DBP
from nail polishes that the decision "was not based on any concern
about the safety of the chemical."

But even if U.S.-based companies are changing because of regulatory
changes in Europe, it was activists who started the chain reaction in
Europe. Robert Donkers, co-author of the REACH report which called
for the banning of harmful chemicals in the EU, said that activists
are "much more influential in the dialogue in Europe than at least in
the U.S."

He said the traditional parties in Europe didn't respond to the
environmental concerns of the '60s and '70s, so a "green movement"
grew to deal with the problems. Green Party members were elected.
Activist groups became "social partners," Donkers said.

In Canada, there are few activist groups lobbying for safer
cosmetics. Breast Cancer Action Montreal said it defers to the San
Francisco-based group, while several other women's health-research
groups said they were aware it was an issue but they didn't have the
resources to devote to the cause.

The Environmental Health Association of Nova Scotia has produced its
Less Toxic Guide ( enumerating its concerns
about cosmetics safety. And the Western Canadian Wilderness Committee
last month called on consumers to buy safer products.

Carl Carter, of the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance
Association, said that the Canadian cosmetics industry wants to be as
safe as possible, and will have to respond to the changes taking
place in Europe. But he says that some of the changes aren't based on
good science.

"In the case of phthalates, from the government perspective, it's a
tough one. The science has been fairly clear in terms of their
safety, but there has been a lot of pressure from interest groups in
the media and so forth. Various jurisdictions are feeling pressured
to take some sort of action, but it may not be best based on science."

While L'Oreal says its products throughout the world are in
compliance with the EU restrictions, the Canadian arm of the company
admitted it still uses phthalates. Nadine Lajoie, L'Oreal Canada
spokeswoman, said the company uses the plasticizers in its perfume
because "the use of phthalates in cosmetics is supported by an
extensive body of scientific research and data that confirm their

Unlike the EU, both the FDA and Health Canada have not restricted the
use of phthalates. However, both agencies have questioned their
safety. An FDA report, Aggregate Exposures to

Phthalates in Humans, stated, "No study has ever examined the impact
of phthalates (on human reproduction) ... Lack of evidence can hardly
be used as evidence of safety when no one has ever studied the issue
on humans."

The report's authors also observed, "The increasing incidence of
hypospadias, undescended testes, testicular cancer, and declining
sperm counts in the U.S. and many other parts of the world suggests
that a closer look at many reproductive tract toxicants and endocrine
disruptors is urgently needed in people. With respect to phthalates,
however, evidence from relevant animal studies and from limited
studies of non-reproductive tract impacts in hospitalized patients is
sufficient to require phasing out the use of many of the phthalates."

A Health Canada panel stated that "the status quo is not an acceptable

Officials from Health Canada told the Citizen it is reviewing its
policy on phthalates.

Activists, meanwhile, say they will continue to push until cosmetics
are free of suspect substances.

"It's not our goal to terrify people," Brenner said. "We really want
people to understand that the only people working in their
self-interest are people who are not making money selling these
products. We want to tell people what are in their products and help
them work to get this stuff out of their products."

What Price Beauty?

Yesterday: Hundreds of chemicals in our daily beauty routines.

Today: Beauty and the breast: The worldwide campaign against
chemicals in cosmetics.

Monday: The dangers of hair dye.

Tuesday: What's really in the bathwater with the baby.

Wednesday: The wrinkle in anti-wrinkle creams.

Thursday: Shopping organics: Finding green in a world of grey.

Friday: You are what you eat ... breathe ... scrub ... lather ... spray.

Saturday, April 23: A consumer's guide to personal-care products.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2005


Sun 17 Apr 2005

The Ottawa Citizen

What Price Beauty?

Face Facts: A Timeline

By: Susan Allan

National Children's Study

Dr. Phil Landrigan of the U.S. Center for Children's Health and the
Environment urges Congress to support his proposal to study 100,000
children from the womb to adulthood. "More than 75,000 new synthetic
chemical compounds have been developed and disseminated in the
environment during the past 50 years. Children are especially at
risk," he tells a House of Representatives committee. "Such a study
holds the potential for providing extraordinarily valuable
information on the impact of environmental toxins on children's

November 2000

Beauty Secrets

The Washington-based Environmental Working Group issues "the
first-ever" consumer alert on beauty products containing dibutyl
phthalate. The release follows a report from the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention that found all of the 289 people tested had
dibutyl phthalate in their body.

"Researchers are just beginning to discover the names of the hundreds
of commercial chemicals that contaminate the human body," the group
said. "This situation is the single biggest failure in U.S.
environmental law." The EWG writes to cosmetics companies urging
companies to take notice of the findings.

'Researchers are just beginning to discover the names of the hundreds
of commercial chemicals that contaminate the human body'

Summer 2002

Better Safe than Sorry

The Center for Children's Health and the Environment runs seven
full-page advertisements in the New York Times raising concerns about
the effects of chemical exposures on children. "She's the test
subject for thousands of chemicals. Why?" asks one. "Medicines are
the only chemicals that have to be proven safe. Why?" asks another.

July 2002

Not Too Pretty

The Safe Cosmetics Campaign begins by releasing a report showing that
tests found phthalates in 52 of 72 chosen name-brand beauty products.
The coalition of environmental and health organizations urges the
industry-financed Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel in the U.S. to
label all products containing the ingredient while working to produce
phthalate-free products. The coalition highlights its findings in
full-page ads in the New York Times. One advertise-ment featured a
young, pregnant woman sniffing a bottle of perfume. "Sexy for her,"
it read. "For baby, it could really be poison."

October 2002

Who's Really Cleaning Up Here?

Breast Cancer Action launches its Think Before You Pink campaign with
a full-page ad in the New York Times asking a provocative question:
Are companies with pink-ribbon promotions making a difference or
exploiting breast cancer?

November 2002

Memo to CIR

The Environmental Working Group, Coming Clean and the World Wildlife
Fund present comments to the U.S. Cosmetic Ingredient Review panel
concerning the use of phthalates in cosmetics. "We ask that the
expert panel at this time recommend against the use in cosmetics of
DBP and toxicologically similar phthalates based on human
biomonitoring data showing high levels of exposure relative to safety
limits, and based on the fact that the industry is capable of
producing cosmetics free of phthalates."

January 2003

EU Cosmetics Directive

The European Union amends cosmetics legislation to ban chemicals
known or strongly suspected of causing cancer and birth defects. The
amendments take force in September 2004.

April 2003

California Body Burden Campaign

California legislators contemplate a bill to establish state-wide
biomonitoring that would test individuals for synthetic chemicals.
The bill, championed by Senator Deborah Ortiz, would establish the
Health Californians Biomonitoring Program.

October 2003

Dirty Laundry

Greenpeace in London announces that independent lab tests have found
"gender bending" chemicals in everyday products used by children.
Activists fan out across the city slapping caution stickers on kids
pyjamas found to contain phthalates and nonylphenol ethoxylate. (The
chemicals were believed to be in the inks and plastic film used in
the design on the front of the garment.) The group urges consumers to
send toxic products to the Secretary of State for trade and industry.

Philanthropy or Hypocrisy?

Breast Cancer Action, a San Francisco-based group, takes out
full-page ad in the New York Times that challenges major cosmetics
companies marketing "pink-ribbon products" to remove parabens and
phthalates from their products. "Corporate conscience belongs in a
company's products," the ad said, "not just in its marketing."

Early 2004

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics sends letters to hundreds of
cosmetics companies urging them not to use toxic chemicals linked to
cancer and birth defects.

June 2004

Skin Deep

EWG releases the results of a six-month study of 7,500 brand-name
products, declaring that most cosmetics and personal-care products
sold in the U.S. have never been assessed for safety. "The news is
cause for concern, but not alarm," says Jane Houlihan, EWG's vice
president for research. The group petitions the FDA to assess the
safety of personal-care products.

Biomonitoring and California

A bill introduced by Deborah Ortiz to establish statewide
biomonitoring in California fails by one vote. The legislation would
have established a program to test for "pollution in people" by
measuring blood, urine and breastmilk for toxic chemicals.

Proposed Ban on Phthalates

Judy Chu, a California assembly member who introduced a bill to ban
phthalates from cosmetics and personal-products, learns that her bill
has been defeated. "Preventing birth defects is far more important
than producing nail polish that doesn't chip," she had argued.

September 2004

Read Our Lips

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics takes out a full-page ad in USA Today
demanding companies remove toxic chemicals from their products:
"Which company do you trust with your daughter?" it asks.

October 2004

Think Before You Pink

The Women's Environmental Network (WEN) in the U.K. launches a
campaign encouraging consumers to ask questions before buying
pink-ribbon products. A campaign leaflet explains: "We are concerned
that some companies claiming to support the 'fight' against breast
cancer may be using or producing toxic chemicals that may increase a
person's risk of developing the disease."

Contaminated: The Next Generation

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Co-operative Bank in Britain
release a report after testing 33 people from seven families for 104
man-made chemicals. The grandmothers in each family were found to be
carrying fewest of the chemicals tested (56) while children and
parents were found to have 75. Phthalates were found in
three-quarters of the group, including children.

Bad Blood

The WWF in Europe releases its Bad Blood report revealing that it
found a total of 55 industrial chemicals in the blood of 14 EU
politicians. The DetoX campaign, shown below, is aimed to get the EU
to adopt new chemical legislation that would phase out hazardous

November 2004

Bad Blood in Poland

WWF Poland analyses the blood of 15 Polish celebrities and finds such
toxins as pesticides, phthalates and PCBs.

December 2004

Phthalate-free formulas

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics celebrates as L'Oreal and Revlon
confirm they will reformulate products to be free of phthalates. In a
Dec. 15 letter, a senior official at Unilever writes that the company
does not use phthalates in its products.

February 2005

A Warning from the FDA

The FDA writes to cosmetics manufacturers and warns them it is
preparing to act on consumer concerns. "You should know that FDA
intends to consider taking compliance action, where appropriate,
regarding cosmetic products that contain ingredients that we
determine have not shown to be safe."

DetoX Campaign

WWF Italy tests 18 Italian celebrities and finds 65 contaminants in
their blood including heavy metals, PCDs and polycyclic aromatic
hydrocarbons. The tests are part of WWF's DetoX campaign.

Toxic Valentine

Greenpeace warns Valentine Day shoppers that it found phthalates and
synthetic musks in 36 well-known brands of perfumes. They encourage
visitors to their website to spread the word with an e-mail Valentine
that says, "Love is ... ensuring you're not contaminated!"

Sealed With a Kiss

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics encourages women to send a Valentine
to cosmetics company CEOs urging them to sign a pledge to remove
toxic chemicals from their products.

Pollution in People

Deborah Ortiz introduces another bill in the California legislature
in a renewed attempt to create a statewide biomonitoring program to
test Californians for chemical exposure.

March 2005

Operation Beauty Drop

Teens in Montana and California start a campaign that encourages
consumers to read labels and toss questionable items into Operation
Beauty Drop bins at schools and local stores.

International Women's Day 2005

A coalition of women's groups rally against toxic chemicals in the
centre of Berlin. "While chemicals are seen as a technical issue,
when it comes down to health, it's a personal issue," says Sonja
Haider, spokeswoman for Women in Europe for a Common Future.

Chemical checkup

The WWF in Europe invites Europeans to enter to win the chance to
have their families' blood screened for 100 potentially hazardous
man-made chemicals. One family is to be chosen from each of 14 EU

Bill to Ban Phthalates

Judy Chu introduces the Phthalates Ban Bill in the California
assembly, this time calling for the ban on two phthalates from
cosmetics. "It is outrageous that American women aren't given the
same protection that European women are," she says. A spokeswoman for
the Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Association says the group will
"vigorously oppose" the legislation.

'It is outrageous that American women aren't given the same
protection that European women are'


April 16, 2005

The Ottawa Citizen

The great cosmetics debate
A growing number of scientists and countries worry that cosmetics can
hurt you. Yet Health Canada insists there is nothing to fear.

by Shelley Page and Susan Allan

Almost one million Canadians, mostly women, are harmed each year
because of bad reactions to the cosmetics and toiletries they use to
cleanse their bodies and rejuvenate their skin. According to
documents from Health Canada, consumers frequently suffer bad
reactions -- ranging from minor to severe -- because they don't know
what is in their personal-care products.

And Canadians won't know until the end of next year when Canada
catches up to the U.S. and the European Union by requiring
manufacturers to list ingredients on products.

If Canadians don't know about the potential short-term effects of
beauty products, neither are they informed about the huge gaps in
knowledge surrounding cosmetic safety.

New research shows cosmetics and toiletries sometimes contain a
potentially dangerous cocktail of carcinogens, mutagens and
reproductive toxins that can alter the function of hormones, and in
rare circumstances, lead to infertility.

Amidst growing concerns, governments in the United States and Europe
are taking precautionary actions.

The European Union recently banned some worrisome ingredients from
cosmetics unless companies can provide proof they are safe.

This past February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned
cosmetic manufacturers that they may soon be forced to warn consumers
if their products contain ingredients that have not been tested for
safety. The unprecedented action from the FDA means labels, stating
"Warning: The safety of this product has not been determined," could
appear on an estimated 99 per cent of personal-care products sold in
the U.S., many of which are also sold in Canada, according to the
Washington-based Environmental Working Group (EWG), an activist
research organization that independently analyses products for safety.

The FDA's action is, in part, a response to an EWG petition filed
last June that identified 356 products containing ingredients whose
safety could not be substantiated. The Citizen was able to find most
of those products for sale in Canada.

The EWG noted the cosmetics industry's safety panel was unable to
perform safety reviews on the ingredients because basic data was
lacking. The EWG also complained that 99 per cent of all products
they studied contained one or more ingredients that have never been
assessed for either data adequacy or basic safety by the industry's
panel, the FDA or any other publicly accountable institution.

Stacy Malkan, a spokeswoman for the U.S.-based Campaign For Safe
Cosmetics, says it's misleading to say ingredients are safe when
evidence does not exist to back the claim. "The vast majority of
ingredients used in cosmetics have never been tested for safety," she
told the Citizen in an interview.

Health Canada says it has no concerns about the labelling or safety
of cosmetics.

"We believe that we have more control over the safety of cosmetics
products here in Canada and do not have a need for a requirement for
such a statement," says Luisa Carter-Phillips, the head of Health
Canada's Cosmetics Division Product Safety Bureau, citing Health
Canada's "hot list" of banned and restricted substances, as well as
the department's power to pull products off the shelves if they are
suspected of being unsafe.

In the U.S., the government must actually prove a product is unsafe
before it can be pulled off the shelves.

Ms. Carter-Phillips also downplayed concerns that Canadians don't
know what is in their personal-care products, citing the labelling
laws that will take effect in November 2006.

Many critics say Health Canada's labelling system will only confuse
people. Ingredients will be listed using the symbol-based
International Nomenclature Cosmetic Ingredients system, which is used
in many countries. "We fully acknowledge that this ingredient list
will only be understood in conjunction with a medical professional,"
said Carl Carter, vice-president of the Canadian Cosmetic, Fragrance
and Toiletry Association, which represents approximately 60 cosmetics
companies. But Mr. Carter said in a country with two official
languages INCI

was the best solution, especially for companies that plan to sell
products worldwide. "We know consumers want to know what is in their
products," says Mr. Carter. "We don't want to hide what is in our
products so consumers can make an informed choice whether they have
allergies, concerns or fears."

Mr. Carter acknowledged that Canada is decades behind some countries,
but he blamed the government. "We have been totally flabbergasted
about how hard we have had to work to get labels." He said the
cosmetics industry has been in discussions with the government since
the 1970s, when ingredient labels began to appear in the U.S.

Others agree the new labels will be confusing. "It will be
unintelligible," says Dr. Samuel Epstein, professor of Environmental
and Occupational Medicine at the University of Illinois School of
Public Health. Dr. Epstein, co-author of The Safe Shopper's Bible, is
the head of the Cancer Prevention Coalition and a longtime critic of
Canada's failure to inform consumers about product ingredients.

"The system they plan to use will mean nothing to 99.9 per cent of
the public. It's an international scientific language that will seem
like gibberish to anyone but those with a pharmacology degree."
Beyond concerns over labelling, many experts interviewed by the
Citizen expressed concerns about the new research emerging about the
safety of beauty products.

About This Series

Today: Hundreds of chemicals in our daily beauty routines, Saturday
Observer, pages B1-B4

Tomorrow: Beauty and the breast: The worldwide campaign against
chemicals in cosmetics.

Monday: The dangers of hair dye.

Tuesday: What's really in the bathwater with the baby.

Wednesday: The wrinkle in anti-wrinkle creams.

Thursday: Shopping organics: Finding green in a world of grey.

Friday: You are what you eat ... breathe ... scrub ... lather ... spray.

Saturday, April 23: A consumer's guide to personal-care products.

What Price Beauty? A Special Report. Ran with fact box "About this
series", which has been appended to the story.

© The Ottawa Citizen 2005


Saturday » April 16 » 2005

The Ottawa Citizen

Not so pretty: Most beauty routines include the use of carcinogens,
allergens and other harmful substances
They are in everything from shampoo to hair dye to nail polish and hair

Shelley Page and Susan Allan

By the time the average woman grabs her morning coffee, she has
spritzed, sprayed and lathered with 126 different chemicals in nine
different products, everything from shampoo and hair gel to skin
toner, foundation and perfume. Tweens and teenagers, just beginning a
lifelong regimen, might use fewer products, while heavy-handed
glamour queens will have lacquered themselves with even more

But here's a beauty tip: far from being youth-giving lotions and
elixirs, science is now telling us that some of the products we use
to enhance our appearance can actually cause harm.

Artificial colourings derived from coal tar are found in eye shadow,
lipstick and blush and have been implicated in cancer and allergic
reactions. Cream foundations can contain formaldehyde and silica,
which have both been shown to cause harm. Parabens, which are
preservatives, are in most moisturizers and many deodorants even
though they are skin and eye irritants and have been found to mimic
the female hormone, estrogen. Ingredients in hair dyes and perfumes
can cause mild to severe allergies and asthma. Cosmetics have been
found to be rich in cancer-causing impurities. Some ingredients are
just plain irritating: The same chemicals we coat our skin with are
also used in industrial manufacturing to grease gears, clean
industrial equipment and stabilize pesticides.

The quantities of these substances in most personal-care products are
minute, but one British pharmacologist recently estimated that each
year women absorb about two kilograms of chemicals from their
cosmetic products. Scientists now know that skin does not act as a
barrier but rather facilitates absorption. In fact, it's so effective
at delivering mixtures to the bloodstream that, increasingly, drugs
are applied to the skin using patches or creams. Yet, unlike drugs,
cosmetics are rarely studied by a government body for their safety on
humans even though no other products come in such intimate contact to
our skin.

Cosmetics and other personal-care products are at the centre of an
ugly debate over exactly how great a risk they pose to human health
-- and how closely they should be regulated.

The cosmetics industry says personal-care products are harmless,
especially when compared to daily hazards such as car exhaust,
dry-cleaning fumes, pesticide exposure, even cigarette smoke.

Carl Carter represents more than 60 cosmetics companies as vice
president of the Canadian Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance
Association (CCTFA). "I have a 14-year-old and a 17-year-old and I
love them dearly and I wouldn't let them use anything unsafe," he
said in an interview. "I have absolutely no concerns about the safety
of the products available in Canada." He said that cosmetics
companies do conduct safety tests -- if not clinical trials -- and
government intervention is not needed.

But a growing number of health-care activists want the cosmetics
industry more closely regulated. Consumer groups in Europe and the
United States have mounted an orchestrated attack that includes
confronting shareholders of major cosmetics companies, petitioning
companies to make their formulations safer and forcing government
regulators to crack down on cosmetics manufacturers. Some consumer
groups in Europe have taken cosmetic companies to court over adverse
reactions to certain beauty products.

"We're not talking about life and death, we're talking about face
cream," says health-care advocate Charlotte Brody. "Most women
understand that if we can make cosmetics without carcinogens or
reproductive toxins, we should be doing that, we shouldn't be arguing
about how much of a certain carcinogen is dangerous."

Ms. Brody, who founded Health Care Without Harm, says no amount of a
dangerous substance is safe.

"The old way of thinking was that it was OK to put a little bit of a
carcinogen in cosmetics as long as you got less than the dose that
caused cancer," she said in an interview from her home in Virginia.
"What we're learning -- there are new studies every day and areas
that are still grey -- that small amounts of chemicals can turn on
and off genes, the same way drugs do; that an amount that doesn't
seem to have an effect on adults can have a dramatic effect on a
developing child; that some people are much more sensitive to
chemicals than others, just like drugs; that mixtures matter a lot."

The Citizen has interviewed dozens of scientists, health-care
advocates, cosmetics-industry representatives and government
regulators and pored over piles of scientific studies. This is what
the investigation found:

- The vast majority of the ingredients in toiletries in Canada and
other countries have not been rigorously studied by a
publicly-accountable body for safety on humans, unlike pharmaceutical
drugs which are put through clinical trials. The Washington-based
Environmental Working Group, which organizes activist campaigns on
consumer products, reported last year that of the 10,500 chemical
ingredients used in personal-care products, only 11 per cent have
been assessed by a government body for safety, including their
potential to cause allergies. According to the EWG, the remaining 89
per cent of unassessed ingredients are used in more than 99 per cent
of all products on the market.

- An increasing number of studies link common cosmetic ingredients to
a host of long-term health problems, some as serious as cancer and
infertility. No one is yet sure about the cumulative effects of
layering dozens of different products, one on top of the other, day
after day.

- Scientists and activists have compiled a list of more than a dozen
ingredients that are widely used in cosmetics in Canada and have the
potential to harm users. This list, which contains endocrine
disruptors and known carcinogens, includes lead acetate, silica,
petrolatum, Resorcinol, phenol, carrageenan, talc, phenylenediamine,
synthetic fragrance and formaldehyde.

- In Canada, the government does not compel manufacturers to prove
their products are safe before they are marketed. Last year, almost
16,000 new or reformulated personal-care products came on the market
in Canada.

- Health Canada says it is very concerned about a number of chemicals
and chemical byproducts in cosmetics and has significantly expanded
its "hot list" of banned or restricted ingredients, including
carcinogenic impurities. Later this year it will expand the list
further to include other worrisome ingredients, including coal tar
and some synthetic fragrances.

- Despite a decade of discussions, companies selling cosmetics in
Canada -- unlike most other countries -- do not have to list
ingredients on their products. That will change in November 2006.
According to Health Canada's own estimates, unlabelled cosmetics
cause 900,000 adverse reactions a year. Even when the ingredients are
listed, it will be in an international scientific language that the
cosmetics industry association admits will be incomprehensible to
consumers without the help of a doctor or pharmacist.

- The European Union has started to ban ingredients from cosmetics
when manufacturers cannot prove they are safe. Canada is breaking
away from powerful U.S. cosmetics influences and following the lead
of the Europeans, an approach that U.S. industry officials call a
huge over-reaction.

Dr. Wilma Bergfeld, chairman of the industry-run Cosmetic Ingredient
Review (CIR) panel in the U.S., dismissed concerns in 2003, saying,
"Whatever may be added to the pool by the cosmetics industry is so
minute, and what is added to the pool by other industrial-based
pollutants so enormous, it isn't even fathomable that cosmetics would
be scrutinized and considered a culprit."

Canadians spend an estimated $5.3 billion annually on beauty care.
Yet, the Canadian government doesn't tell consumers about the risks
posed by personal-care products, nor do the companies that make them
and profit from the purchases.

Women's magazines, which make most of their money from advertisements
bought by the cosmetics industry, are not telling this story either.

In the absence of systematic ingredient safety testing, the long-term
health effects of some cosmetics are only just being discovered.
Among recent findings:

- A study published last month in Public Health Reports, the official
journal of the U.S. Public Health Service, found that using permanent
hair dyes increases an individual's risk of developing bladder cancer
by up to 50 per cent.

- Lead acetate, the key ingredient in progressive grey-hair reducers
commonly used by men, is now considered a carcinogen and a
reproductive toxin by the state of California and last fall was
banned from use in cosmetics by the European Union. Meanwhile, the
U.S. Food and Drug Administration says products containing lead
acetate can be safely used because studies have shown that they don't
cause a significant increase in blood lead levels. Progressive dyes
with lead acetate are readily available in stores across Canada.

- Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHAs) in skin creams promise fewer wrinkles
but studies show they cause sun damage that actually leads to
premature aging. In January, the FDA issued a rare guideline to
manufacturers asking them to warn consumers to wear a sunscreen after
using AHAs. In Canada, the hot list says AHAs should not be sold
without a sunscreen advisory, yet the vast majority of companies
ignore that requirement.

- Just last month, Greenpeace tested 36 well-known perfumes and found
that virtually all contained phthalate esters and synthetic musk,
chemicals that the environmental organization said "can enter the
body and may cause unwanted health impacts" such as altering hormone

Phthalates are used as plasticizers to give nail polish its
flexibility and enable perfumes to evaporate more slowly. They have
been shown to impair fertility and cause developmental toxicity in
the male offspring of rats.

Greenpeace complained that high levels of one phthalate, called
dibutyl phthalate or DBP, were found in two major brand-name
perfumes. However, the concentrations found are still within safety
limits set by Health Canada.

The Environmental Working Group, which last year evaluated 7,500
personal-care products sold in the U.S., and in most cases Canada,

- One-third of the products they tested contain one or more
ingredients classified as possible human carcinogens.

- Ninety-nine per cent of the products contained one or more
ingredients that have never been assessed for potential health
impacts by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, the cosmetic
industry's self-regulated trade association.

- One of every 100 products on the market, including shampoos,
lotions, foundations and lip balms, contains ingredients identified
by government authorities in numerous countries as known or probable
human carcinogens.

- Seventy-one per cent of hair dyes contain chemicals, such as
phenylenediamine, which have been derived from the carcinogen coal

- Fifty-five per cent of all products assessed contain "penetration
enhancers," ingredients that encourage the skin to absorb a lotion or
cream, at the same time increasing exposures to other chemicals in
the product. EWG found 50 products containing penetration enhancers
in combination with known or probable human carcinogens.

- Nearly 70 per cent of all products sold in the U.S. contain
ingredients that can be contaminated with impurities arising during
the manufacturing process or as a result of a reaction to other
chemicals in the product, and that have been linked to cancer and
other health problems. Studies by the FDA and European agencies show
that these impurities are common, in some cases occurring in nearly
half of all products tested.

The authors of the EWG report insisted the report was not cause for
alarm, just concern.

The report was roundly challenged by the cosmetics industry, which
said that the work wasn't peer reviewed and was pulled together by
activists selectively using science. Even some mainstream
cancer-patient groups were quick to dismiss the concerns.

Michael Thun, head of epidemiology for the American Cancer Society,
said at the time, "If cosmetics pose any risk at all, that risk is
very small compared to known major risks like smoking, (poor)
nutrition, obesity and physical inactivity and sunlight."

However, the work of EWG is causing change. In February, the FDA
issued an unprecedented warning to the cosmetics industry stating
that the agency will enforce an existing law requiring companies to
inform consumers that personal-care products have not been tested for
safety. Its announcement was in reaction to an EWG petition filed
eight months earlier demanding that consumers be warned that products
have not been proven safe by the government, or any other
publicly-accountable body.

The FDA announcement could mean 99 per cent of personal-care products
on the U.S. market would require warnings, according to the EWG.

Mr. Carter, of the Canadian cosmetics industry association,
acknowledged that the industry is under unprecedented pressure to
change its formulations and provide more information to consumers. It
is being pushed by activists and by policy changes in Europe, where a
revolution led by Green politicians is underway.

The U.S. has generally allowed the use of chemicals until it can be
proven that they make people sick. Cosmetics companies there can put
almost unlimited amounts of chemicals into personal-care products.

According to the EWG, the toxicity of product ingredients is
scrutinized almost exclusively by the CIR. "Because testing is
voluntary and controlled by the manufacturers, many ingredients in
cosmetics products are not safety tested at all," said the EWG.

Europe, however, is embracing a "precautionary principle" approach
for all products, not just cosmetics. They are debating REACH --
Registration, Evaluation and Authorization of Chemicals -- which
proposes laws that will put the onus on manufacturers to prove
products are safe. Chemicals in all products that fail the toxicity
test would be phased out within a decade. This is expected to lead to
the identification and phasing out of the most harmful chemicals.

Last September, the EU banned hundreds of known or probable
carcinogens, mutagens or reproductive toxicants from perfume, makeup,
hair dye and other cosmetics. Scientists are assessing additional
chemicals found in cosmetics for possible inclusion on the list.

Consumers in Europe are also now able to ask cosmetic companies
through for details not only about the
ingredients, but also about the quantity used and for any data on
"undesirable effects on human health resulting from the use of the
cosmetic product."

Robert Donkers, who co-authored the EU's REACH report, said in an
interview that it is not about banning substances in the face of the

"We look at the information that we have on the table right now. If
we think something is an imminent threat, we have to make a political
decision and decide either to take risk-management measures on that
basis or to wait for more information."

There's no contradiction, he says, between the precautionary
principle and science. "We have to ask: By the time we decide we are
right, will it be too late to act?"

North American chemical manufacturers say precautionary actions
should be proportional to the risks addressed. They argue that excess
precaution stifles innovation.

In November 2003, the EWG obtained an internal memo from American
Chemistry Council -- a trade association of companies in the business
of chemical manufacturing -- that discussed the chemical industry's
plans to conduct a covert campaign attacking the growing movement in
California to adopt the precautionary principle of public health. The
ACC called the approach a "threat to the entire U.S. chemical

Canada "is absolutely sandwiched" between the EU and the U.S., says Mr.

Canada is undergoing a process that is similar to -- but much slower
than -- Europe's REACH. Chemicals are being assessed under the
Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) for their potential to
harm the environment and human health.

Most new substances manufactured or imported into Canada must be
assessed for safety, while chemicals in use are slowly being
evaluated, including those in cosmetics, although they are not a

But in the short term, neither process will provide protections for
Canadians. Of the 23,000 chemicals on what is known as the Domestic
Substances List only very few have been fully evaluated for their
health effects.

Kathleen Cooper, senior researcher with the Canadian Environmental
Law Association in Toronto, observes that CEPA has a "massive

"It's a long, long process involving lots of bureaucrats who don't
have enough resources to do their jobs," Ms. Cooper says of the CEPA
process. "Industry delivers these platitudes saying 'It's all being
tested.' When they keep it at that level of spin, they can sort of
barely tell the truth.

"They (industry) do their own evaluation, but they're testing whether
it's causing an allergic reaction on a rabbit ... they're not looking
at effects on developing fetuses and they're certainly not evaluating
the effects on the developing brain, which is where the vulnerability
is the greatest."

Most manufacturers say that a safety margin of 100 is the norm -- you
could use 100 times as much of your cosmetic as you are currently
using without risk of harm. In Canada, the onus to show personal-care
products are safe lies with the companies.

"A lot of people are surprised (that cosmetics aren't tested for
safety)," acknowledged Luisa Carter-Phillips, head of Health Canada's
cosmetics program. "Testing is very costly and time-consuming," she
said. "The burden of testing is put on the companies." This is the
case throughout the world, she said.

Still, Ms. Carter-Phillips gave assurances that Health Canada has
"much more control over the safety of cosmetic products here" than
the FDA. Health Canada also has plans to develop environmental
assessment regulations specifically tailored for food, drugs and

And in 2003, Health Canada expanded its hot list, which is
independent of the CEPA process. It previously restricted the use of
only 93 cosmetic ingredients, but was increased to almost 500 after
Health Canada reviewed existing studies and looked at some of the
chemicals the EU has restricted.

Even though companies are not yet required to list ingredients on
labels, they do have to submit a list of ingredients to the
government. If the products contain ingredients that are on the hot
list, Health Canada "flags" the product and notifies the company to
withdraw or reformulate.

It's not clear how aggressively the hot list is enforced.

"Health Canada hasn't come to us and told us they have identified
this (hot-list violations) as a major issue," said the CCTFA's Mr.

Health Canada said that after it expanded the hot list it sent out
letters to manufacturers notifying them that almost 1,700 products on
the shelves were in violation of the new list. The government didn't
have to pull any products off the shelves, Ms. Carter-Phillips said,
either because the products were no longer being sold, the companies
withdrew or reformulated products.

Still, the Citizen found products for sale that didn't follow the
restrictions of the hot list-- for example, Alpha Hydroxy Acids are
routinely sold without warning users to protect themselves with a

Canada, unlike the EU, has not banned ingredients from hair dyes,
including lead acetate, or some phthalates. But Ms. Carter-Phillips
said the hot list ensures Canada is tougher on cosmetics than the U.S.

Among the ingredients Canada restricts or limits are several dyes,
additives, antibiotics and even hormones. Retinol, the Vitamin A
derivative that is used to smooth wrinkles, is only permitted in
concentrations of less than one per cent.

There are also outright bans on various impurities, including
carcinogens such as 1,4-dioxane and nitrosamines, both of which are
easily absorbed through the skin and are common byproducts of the
manufacturing process.

1,4-dioxane has frequently been found in shampoos and conditioners
made with sodium or ammonium lauryl sulfates. Nitrosamines,
meanwhile, can form when common cosmetic ingredients such as
diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA) and monoethanolamine
(MEA) combine with another common ingredient, nitrates. A chemical
reaction can occur during manufacturing or after a product is opened
and sits in your bathroom cabinet.

Ms. Carter-Phillips said that 1,4-dioxane and nitrosamines are
byproducts that Health Canada is very worried about, and scrutinizes
the ingredients in new products to ensure the combination of
chemicals that leads to these byproducts aren't present. But because
these impurities are byproducts, and not actual ingredients, some
activists say its presence is difficult to police.

The hot list is updated regularly, said Ms. Carter-Phillips, and if
new evidence comes to light that shows an ingredient or product is
harmful, Health Canada can react quickly.

She cited an example from 2003 when consumers complained about the
glue in some artificial nail products, which was causing "painful
tearing and possible permanent loss of natural nail, should the
artificial nail be jammed or caught." Consumers also suffered
allergic reactions, including skin rashes, contact dermatitis,
itching and oozing blisters, nose and throat irritation and headaches.

Health Canada identified the problem. It was the strong adhesion
properties of a glue, MMA, or methyl methacrylate. Health Canada
banned MMA from products sold in Canada and warned consumers of the

Because the government didn't conduct pre-market testing, consumers
had to learn about MMA the hard way, through personal experience.

Ms. Carter-Phillips said cosmetics companies are not supposed to put
anything in a product that might "cause injury to the user under
customary use or according to directions.

"What may be acceptable today, based on the science, may not
necessarily be acceptable in the future," she explained.

She also said that certain cosmetics containing small amounts of
carcinogens or reproductive toxins are not banned. "Although some
ingredients may pose a hazard at large doses, the principles of
toxicology indicate that in many cases these ingredients may be of
low risk at smaller quantities," she said.

While Canada bans some harmful ingredients from cosmetics, these same
ingredients can sometimes be bought in over-the-counter drug products
and will have a Drug Identification Number, or DIN. In many cases, a
consumer would not know the difference and would likely assume they
were buying a cosmetic. A consumer has no way of knowing that the
drug product they just bought contains a harmful active ingredient.

For example, the ingredient hydroquinone, a skin whitener that is
considered a carcinogen and skin irritant by the EU, is banned as a
cosmetic ingredient in Canada but is available in 17 drug products
that to the uninformed consumer seem very much like cosmetics. The
EWG says these creams are only safe when washed off the skin
immediately; however, consumers aren't warned of this.

The CCTFA is lobbying to have these cosmetic-like drug products
(including dandruff shampoo, sunscreen, antiperspirants and
fluoride-containing toothpaste) sold as cosmetics, as is the case in
the U.S. and the EU.

Barbara McElgunn, Health Policy Advisor with the Canadian Institute
of Child Health, questions whether the hot list is enforced.

"What if any one of the 500 on the hot list appear in cosmetics? What
authority does Health Canada have? There's no recall. There's no
authority for fines or any kind of enforcement. In cases where they
specify a level of an ingredient, who is looking to make sure that is
the level being used? Is there any follow-up?" Ms. McElgunn said.

"Basically, the government responds to pressure and industry is
putting even bigger pressures on government than the health interests

Indeed, the cosmetic industry association's stated mandate is to
lobby the government for as little regulation as possible.

But Mr. Carter, of the CCTFA, said it is the government's dithering
that has meant, for example, that all cosmetics sold in Canada don't
yet have ingredients on labels. He also said he hopes Canada works
with other countries to adopt a unified approach to determining what
chemicals are safe, what are not safe.

As Health Canada tries to weigh the scientific evidence -- much of it
generated by the cosmetics industry itself -- others debate how much
protection should be afforded the women, and increasingly children
and men, who use these products.

Daniel Krewski, of the McLaughlin Centre of Population Risk
Assessment at the University of Ottawa, says the precautionary
principle should only be applied to major risk issues such as climate
change where the potential for serious consequences exists.

Dr. Krewski laments that the principle is now invoked whenever
advocates think there must be action in the face of uncertainty.

"We have to find the balance between prudence and the interests of
public health and making sure we expend our scarce public health
protection dollars wisely."

Don Wigle, an affiliate scientist at the McLaughlin Centre, urges a
more cautious approach.

Dr. Wigle, who is an expert in the environmental health of children,
said he is guided by the words of Justice Horace Krever, who in the
early '90s led a inquiry on the safety of Canada's blood supply.
"Basically, he said that in the absence of conclusive evidence when
there is a serious and widespread threat that affects the public
health, we should take action."

Lead toxicity is a case in point, Dr. Wigle says. "For most of the
20th century, the health hazards of lead, especially the effects on
the brains of children, were consistently downplayed by scientists
and public-health officials," he said in an interview. "As the
science got better, the effects on brain at ever lower blood-lead
levels became clear." Today no exposure is considered safe.

Dr. Krewski cautions that it's impossible to eliminate all potential
hazards from one's life. "We need to understand that there will be
risks. We have to look at the more serious risks with greater concern
and focus most of our efforts on managing those risks."

© The Ottawa Citizen 2005

Email from:
Sandra Finley
Saskatoon, SK

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