Monday, August 20, 2012

A Bit of Good News

There's some good news on the toxins-in-common-products front this week. The Johnson and Johnson company has announced plans to remove a number of problematic chemicals from its products by 2015. The company had previously begun moving in a safer direction by setting a goal of 2013 for reformulating its baby product line.

The move comes after several years of pressure from health and environmental groups. Chemicals to be removed include formaldehyde, which is released from common preservatives, and triclosan, a widely-used antibacterial ingredient. Phthalates, certain fragrance ingredients, and some parabens will also be eliminated.

I have to admit to a bit of cynicism. History shows that sometimes toxic ingredients are removed from products only to be replaced with something that later proves to be equally problematic. I also doubt that enough health-impacting ingredients will be removed to make most of the products safe for those of us with serious chemical sensitivities.

Still, there is reason to be pleased with the news. In a New York Times article on the announcement,  a Johnson and Johnson official is quoted as saying that “there’s a very lively public discussion going on about the safety of ingredients in personal care products.”  The fact that manufacturers are beginning to hear and respond to the discussion is certainly positive.

Activists hope that other manufacturers will follow Johnson and Johnson's lead. The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics plans to continue to put pressure on other companies to do so. There are more than 175 nonprofit groups represented in the coalition.

The work of advocates and activists is important and welcomed, but none of us need to rely on them or wait for manufacturers to make changes. We can value our health and the health of those around us enough to make safer product choices now. Every purchase we make not only impacts us in the present, but is a vote telling manufacturers what we want to see on the shelves in the future. No one can force us to buy toxic products. We get to choose what we buy and what we use. Every day we get to make that choice and every day it has consequences. Let's choose wisely.

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