Some blog posts are definitely more fun to write than others are. This one isn't fun at all. I find, however, that I can't keep ignoring a news story that someone recently posted to Facebook. I've tried, but it won't leave my brain.
It's a very sad story. Something heartbreaking happened to a family and a 12 year old girl. What happened to her isn't new, however, but has happened before to other young people. In fact, I've written about it. In 2012 I wrote a post I called "Death by Deodorant" about two boys who died ten years apart, both from the toxicity of deodorant fumes. I wrote, "What improved between 1998, when the 16-year-old died and 2008, when the 12-year-old met the same fate? Did the products get safer or did society become more aware of the dangers? It doesn’t appear so. How about 2018? Will things be different then?"
We haven't reached 2018, but the answer to whether things are different in 2017 is apparently "no." A news story from March reports on the sudden death of 12-year-old Paige Daughtry. A pathologist found that she died from the inhalation of chemicals found in the deodorant she had been using. He stated, "There was no natural disease that has contributed to her death. There was no evidence of heavy use and no direct evidence that there was chronic use." In other words, it appears that she was a healthy girl who died from using a common product for its intended purpose.
It should be noted that the deodorant deaths took place in Europe, where spray formulations are more common than they are in the United States. However, "body sprays" are very common in the United States, and the popularity of spray deodorants is rising. The propellants implicated in Paige's death (butane and isobutane) are the same ones found in Axe and other body sprays.
There are a number of issues raised by these stories, but if nothing else, surely they serve as a stark reminder that the great majority of personal care products in use have never been tested for safety. We can't trust that simply because a product is on the market or is widely used guarantees that it isn't harmful, either to ourselves or those around us. Many, many products may, in fact, be deadly, but tend to kill slowly, by contributing to cancer, heart disease, or other illness.
This story saddens me deeply, in part because it highlights the lack of progress we seem to be making on this vital issue. I can, however, think of at least one way in which things have improved. It's much easier than it used to be to determine the safety of a product by using websites such as EWG (Environmental Working Group) or by simply doing an internet search. The caveat, however, is that sites are only helpful if people use them. We have to care enough to look for the information, and when we have the information, we have to act on it, by voting with our dollars, purchasing the kind of products we want to see more of on our store shelves.
This is what I wrote in my post about the boys. It still reflects my thoughts. "If anything is going to change, I suspect you and I are going to have to be part of changing it. I believe there are things worth dying for. Deodorant isn't one of them."