Archive for category 2010 Contemporary Issues

Health in the Workplace

Women have been trapped under the proverbial glass ceiling for as long as they have been in the workforce. Women’s rights have indeed been bettered in the past century, though mostly in developing countries. One area where there still needs to be some work is occupational health safety. Though we have come far since women began working factory jobs in WWII, there is still much to be accomplished. Clearly there is a problem, when women comprise 46% of the U.S. workforce but are responsible for 81% of injury and sickness claims on a per hour basis (1). There are myriad problems stemming from the gender bias that exists in health research. Not only is this a detriment to women’s health but it is also costing companies the time and money lost when workers take sick leave.

It has been well documented in scientific literature that the dangers women encounter in their work have been underestimated (1). When approximating acceptable doses of toxins in humans, health researchers base daily concentration allowances on the standard body: a 70 kg male. I am a 55 kg woman, so how do the government regulated “acceptable” doses relate to me? Males and females metabolize chemicals at different speeds and in different ways: “bone, fat, and immune system metabolism as well as cardiovascular and endocrine function are all known to differ by sex” (1).

Women are not the only one’s left out in occupational health research. Men’s reproductive health is sometimes overlooked in the workplace, as seen in the Johnson Controls case, where women were denied jobs in a factory working with lead because employers feared reproductive harm in the women. Health researchers and industry leaders need to take into account all types of bodies and sexes when making such decisions about who is safe and who is not.

Furthermore, sex can be left out of population descriptions in public health publication. The social sciences include sex in their studies, so why shouldn’t biomedical sciences? Studying the biological differences between men and women’s health and safety needs will not work against women’s plight for equality: achieving equal respect in regard to each sexes needs will bring this country closer to justice in the workplace.

1.) Karen Messing et al. “Be the Fairest of Them All: Challenges and Recommendations for the Treatment of Gender in Occupational Health Research.” American Journal of Industrial Medicine. 43:618-629 (2003)

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The Wonder That Is Baking Soda

Since our class talked about eco- and body-friendly alternatives to beauty, health, and household products, I’ve researched some more things that you can do with a fan favorite: baking soda. I use it once a week with a bit of water to exfoliate my face, but this guy came up with 75 more uses for the product, ranging from relieving jellyfish stings to cleaning your dentures. With the very reasonable price of  about $2 per package and with little to no deleterious health effects, baking soda is making its way onto my shopping list pronto.

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Consciousness to Action: Local Foods

Throughout the semester, we have discussed various ways to change the ways that we treat our bodies so that the things we do are better for our bodies, the environment, and the larger social implications. Most of what we discussed has focused on the products that come into contact with our bodies, such as cosmetics and tampons. We had not, however discussed a major everyday product that impacts our bodies, the environment, and society until today – food. We’ve had a few intermittent discussions about food in terms of veganism and vegetarianism, but today in class we had a more in depth discussion about the decisions we all make as individuals about the food we consume and how we talk to friends and family about our food choices.

Food and food choices tie into ecofeminism multiple ways. The choices we make about the food we eat relate to our body image and sometimes the choices we make are influenced by the body image that society has constructed for us.  Some societies also construct women as the home keepers, meaning women are responsible (in some households) for determining the food their families eat and sometimes also determining where that food comes from.  Our food also has larger environmental and societal implications as well, as the common statistic cites that that average piece of produce in the U.S. travels 1,500 miles from field to table including cleaning, packaging, and processing. The fact that much of our food, such as that sold in grocery stores, comes from so far away detaches many of us from any relationship to our food. The reality of this system, however, includes the factory farms and pesticides used to grow our food, the fossil fuels used to transport our food, and the plastic used to package food. This also includes the workers who are exposed to the pesticides used and the workers who are exploited for inexpensive labor to keep food costs low, as discussed in the article “Farmworkers and Pesticides” by Marion Moses.

So what are we going to do about it? First, as we discussed in class today, we need to educate ourselves and others and essentially arm ourselves for the intellectual battle of convincing others why this is something to be concerned about. Last year I took my parents to see Food Inc.  (http://www.foodincmovie.com/) and they have (slowly but surely) reconsidered factory raised meat. I further read books, such as Vandana Shiva’s Stolen Harvest which explain the larger implications of bioengineered food, minimal crop diversity, and the loss of local foods systems on the global scale. This particularly explains what is wrong with our food system and why it needs to change.

As we also discussed in class, the second key to getting friends and family members involved in these issues was to present the issues to them in a way that sparks their interest. I got my parents involved in local foods the summer that I worked at the farm by taking them to the farm and other nearby farms and to our farmer’s market. Since then, my parents have really taken off with it – my dad started a compost infrastructure for composting our food and garden waste to use for the gardens. My dad has also started growing a lot more of the food that he cooks with (even growing it organically), and my mom has started keeping her herb gardens organically as well. My parents go to the farmer’s market in my home town religiously every weekend and look forward to when I bring home produce and goods from the farmer’s market in Carlisle.

I realize that not everyone’s friends and family will be as quick to take to their interests and concerns as mine have been.  However, I think that taking these approaches can be helpful  when talking to friends and family about the various issues we’ve discussed this semester and trying to get them just as enlightened, concerned, and involved as we’ve become. It is the responsibility of those of us who have the ability to make a choice to make informed choices about not only the products we apply to ourselves, but the food we eat and the food that we encourage others to eat.

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Toxicity and Hygiene

I typically do not give the hygiene and cosmetic products that I apply to my skin much thought, as they have become part of my daily routine over time. I wake up, wash my face, brush my teeth, apply deodorant, and so on. Every 2-3 days I take a shower, during which time I apply various soaps to my skin and hair. For special occasions, I apply various cosmetics and makeup items to my skin (particularly my face). Most of these applications are habitual, so I do not often consider the larger implications that they might have on my body. Two weeks ago, I (along with my ecofeminist classmates) tracked my use of cosmetics and hygiene products for four days. This included everything I apply to myself throughout the day – soap, toothpaste, deodorant, and lip balm. Most of the time I do not think about these products, as their application is routine. However, this tracking exercise made me more aware of the sorts of products I am applying to myself and what they are made of.

Time Day Product Type Product Name Product Brand Name
6:55 PM Tuesday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
7:02 PM Tuesday Hygeine (shower) Shampoo Organix Teatree Mint Shampoo
Conditioner Organix Teatree Mint Conditioner
Soap Marie’s Soap Co. Forest Fresh bar soap
Face wash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
7:16 PM Tuesday Hygeine Deodorant Tom’s of Maine Natural Lavendar Deodorant
9:17 PM Tuesday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
9:28 PM Tuesday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
10:50 PM Tuesday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
1:33 AM Wednesday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
1:35 AM Wednesday Hygeine Face wash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
9:06 AM Wednesday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
9:08 AM Wednesday Hygeine Face wash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
9:12 AM Wednesday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
9:12 AM Wednesday Hygeine Deodorant Tom’s of Maine Natural Lavendar Deodorant
12:03 PM Wednesday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
12:16 PM Wednesday Hygeine Dental Floss Desert Essence Natural Tea Tree Oil Dental Floss
1:15 PM Wednesday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
6:21 PM Wednesday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
12:47 AM Thursday Hygeine Facewash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
12:29 AM Thursday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
12:31 AM Thursday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
7:49 AM Thursday Hygeine Face wash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
7:52 AM Thursday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
7:55 AM Thursday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
8:01 AM Thursday Hygeine Deodorant Tom’s of Maine Natural Lavendar Deodorant
12:21 PM Thursday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
4:36 PM Thursday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
6:27 PM Thursday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
6:30 PM Thursday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
9:49 PM Thursday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
12:31 AM Friday Hygeine Face wash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
12:34 AM Friday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
12:37 AM Friday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
9:04 AM Friday Hygeine (shower) Shampoo Organix Teatree Mint Shampoo
Conditioner Organix Teatree Mint Conditioner
Soap Marie’s Soap Co. Forest Fresh bar soap
Facewash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
9:16 AM Friday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
9:21 AM Friday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
9:25 AM Friday Hygeine Deodorant Tom’s of Maine Natural Lavendar Deodorant
9:30 AM Friday Cosmetic Hair product Deva Curl Moisture Lock Conditioner
9:40 AM Friday Cosmetic Face powder Bare Escentuals Bisque face powder
9:42 AM Friday Cosmetic Face powder Bare escentuals Foundation- mendium beige
11:47 AM Friday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop

I am surprised by and relatively happy with the list of products I used throughout the week.  I consistently used the same few products, and most were for hygiene (i.e. soap and deodorant) rather than cosmetic (i.e. make up).  I consider products such as soap, toothpaste, and deodorant necessities because they attribute to my cleanliness (as defined by the larger society which I am a part of). I do not consider most cosmetics, such as makeup, to be necessities, and are therefore an unnecessary cosmetic.  Also, I know where some of my products came from and how they were made (specifically the bar soap I purchase from the Farmer’s Market in my home town).  Other products I use are deemed “natural” or “organic” on the label, however there are no regulations for organic hygiene products and I would like to further investigate these products and the potential implications of their long term use.  I am not completely sure of my risk associated with the long term use of these products, as I am unsure of their toxicity. I feel confident in products such as the homemade bar soap and glycerin soap from Dickinson’s biodiesel shop, and I would like to feel confident in products labeled “natural” or “organic”, however I am not sure that I can completely trust that they will not expose me to anything toxic. The largest potential for toxicity that I think of when considering cosmetics and hygiene is from how frequently I apply them. For example, I apply lip balm about 5 times a day, and most other products such as my deodorant, face wash, and toothpaste I use at least twice a day.

I decided to investigate one of my hygiene products labeled “natural” more thoroughly. I use Tom’s of Maine brand fluoride whitening mint toothpaste on a daily basis, and the label considers it a “natural” product.  In class last week, I compared my toothpaste to the Crest toothpaste of another classmate using the cosmetics toxicity database at http://cosmeticsdatabase.org.  The database gave my natural toothpaste a toxicity of 2 on a scale of 1-10, while my classmate’s toothpaste was ranked a 5. I found this to be an extremely interesting answer to my question about whether or not “natural” products are really natural. The major difference between Tom’s of Maine toothpaste and Crest was the ingredient used for fluoridation -mine uses Sodium Monofluorophosphate while the other uses Sodium Fluoride. According to the cosmetics toxicity database, this key ingredient difference makes the Tom’s toothpaste less harmful than your average tube of Crest toothpaste.

The major concerns over both fluoride ingredients seem to be developmental impacts and their potential to be neurotoxicants. The fluoride in my toothpaste otherwise does not seem to have major concerns, such as its potential as a carcinogen, while the other fluoride toothpaste has more concerns such as the potential for it to be a carcinogen.  The major concern for me with my risk of using this toothpaste, though it seems to be mostly safe, is the increased exposure to fluoride that I face when I brush my teeth twice a day. This increased exposure could potentially cause the harmful fluoride to bioaccumulate in my body over time, increasing its toxicity in a higher concentration.  Beyond this concern, the Tom’s of Maine company appears to manufacture its products with a social and environmental awareness. According to the Tom’s of Maine website (http://tomsofmaine.com), their products are all made in one facility in Sanford, Maine, they source ingredients from within the U.S., they source workers from within the community around Sanford, they do not test on animals, and they use recycled packaging.  The website also states that Tom’s is overall committed to the community in which its workers live, and employees are given paid time to volunteer in their communities as well. Though there is not much detail on the conditions of workers in the facility, the website is very transparent about what ingredients are in each product, the purpose of each ingredient in the products, and where the ingredients come from.  The amount of detailed information regarding the ingredients, manufacturing, and packaging makes me, personally, feel rest assured about the larger implications of the toothpaste I use on a daily basis. While the product does come from Maine (roughly 500 miles), it is still manufactured and sourced within the U.S. (and at least on the same coast as where I live).  I feel confident that the environmental impact of my toothpaste is minimal, relative to the larger impacts that major brands such as Crest may have. I, however, do not have full confidence that the employees who produce my toothpaste are protected from exposures in their working conditions, but the ingredients used in manufacturing are considered less toxic than those in a conventional toothpaste.

While my research into my personal hygiene habits and my toothpaste made me feel warm and fuzzy, I do not have a completely clear conscience about cosmetics. I mentioned earlier in my post that the products I use on a daily basis (deodorant, soap, toothpaste) are hygiene necessities to me. However, these “necessities” are constructed by my social atmosphere, much as the heavy use of makeup and other cosmetics is constructed for others. Similar to the ideas Joni Seager expressed in the article “Creating a Culture of Destruction”, I have come to notice how large the implications of cosmetic use are in that this social construction causes great destruction. Because of the ways society has constructed my body, I am under the impression that I need to subject myself to the application of potentially harmful products, subject the environment to further degradation, and subject others to the exposure involved in manufacturing the products I use. The ideas of cleanliness and hygiene that myself and society have constructed for our bodies are perpetuating actions that are detrimental to the health of people and the environment.

Similarly to my uneasiness about my ideas of hygiene and cleanliness, the toothpaste comparison in class made me consider another factor in the cosmetic toxicity that individuals are exposed to – the cost of the “natural” products versus conventional products. My Crest-using classmate became horrified over the toxicity of her toothpaste, and commented that she had not purchased it, but rather that her mother bought it in bulk. This made me think about the role that privilege plays in exposure. I am lucky enough to have the choice to go to the local whole foods store and purchase environmentally friendly / less toxic products (which are often more expensive than conventional products), but many other people cannot do this for various reasons. Due to constraints on time, knowledge about toxic cosmetics, and money, most people are not able to make this choice for themselves. Similarly, those who end up working in more toxic conditions in factories that produce toxic products are often unaware of the exposures they face or continue to work in those conditions because of money. I am fairly confident in the choices I make as a consumer for which companies I support (trying to buy local or environmentally friendly products when I can), however I am now second guessing the standards that I construct for others when I use these products overall.

Time Day Product Type Product Name Product Brand Name
6:55 PM Tuesday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
7:02 PM Tuesday Hygeine (shower) Shampoo Organix Teatree Mint Shampoo
Conditioner Organix Teatree Mint Conditioner
Soap Marie’s Soap Co. Forest Fresh bar soap
Face wash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
7:16 PM Tuesday Hygeine Deodorant Tom’s of Maine Natural Lavendar Deodorant
9:17 PM Tuesday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
9:28 PM Tuesday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
10:50 PM Tuesday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
1:33 AM Wednesday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
1:35 AM Wednesday Hygeine Face wash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
9:06 AM Wednesday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
9:08 AM Wednesday Hygeine Face wash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
9:12 AM Wednesday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
9:12 AM Wednesday Hygeine Deodorant Tom’s of Maine Natural Lavendar Deodorant
12:03 PM Wednesday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
12:16 PM Wednesday Hygeine Dental Floss Desert Essence Natural Tea Tree Oil Dental Floss
1:15 PM Wednesday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
6:21 PM Wednesday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
12:47 AM Thursday Hygeine Facewash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
12:29 AM Thursday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
12:31 AM Thursday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
7:49 AM Thursday Hygeine Face wash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
7:52 AM Thursday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
7:55 AM Thursday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
8:01 AM Thursday Hygeine Deodorant Tom’s of Maine Natural Lavendar Deodorant
12:21 PM Thursday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
4:36 PM Thursday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
6:27 PM Thursday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
6:30 PM Thursday Hygeine Chapstick Burt’s Bees Beeswax Lip Balm
9:49 PM Thursday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
12:31 AM Friday Hygeine Face wash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
12:34 AM Friday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
12:37 AM Friday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
9:04 AM Friday Hygeine (shower) Shampoo Organix Teatree Mint Shampoo
Conditioner Organix Teatree Mint Conditioner
Soap Marie’s Soap Co. Forest Fresh bar soap
Facewash The Body Shop Seaweed facewash
9:16 AM Friday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop
9:21 AM Friday Hygeine Toothpaste Tom’s of Maine Natural Spearmint toothpaste
9:25 AM Friday Hygeine Deodorant Tom’s of Maine Natural Lavendar Deodorant
9:30 AM Friday Cosmetic Hair product Deva Curl Moisture Lock Conditioner
9:40 AM Friday Cosmetic Face powder Bare Escentuals Bisque face powder
9:42 AM Friday Cosmetic Face powder Bare escentuals Foundation- mendium beige
11:47 AM Friday Hygeine Hand soap Glycerine soap from Biodiesel shop

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Living in Abstraction and Ignorance: We are all Guilty

In class last week we had a discussion that focused on militarism and eco-terrorism. During our conversation, I came to the realization that secrecy and the removed nature of structures and industries in our world is one of the main contributing factors to the apathy we are all guilty of participating in, in one area of our lives or another. Whether it is ignoring the reality of where our food comes from, how our products are made, the loss of lives and torture/exploitation of bodies that results in war, or the impact our consumption practices have on the environment, we all find a way to cope with reality through abstraction, because reality at present, is cruel, torturous, exploitive and destructive. People and animals are killed and tortured every day and these actions are in some way condoned by industrial or governmental structures in place. Consumers purchase products even when they know that workers who are underpaid and mistreated most likely made them. People leave lights on and actively choose not to recycle despite the fact that our environment is in grave danger. Every day we make decisions that inevitably contradict values that we claim to have. This is not something that we do because we are bad or uncaring people. We do it because, if we honestly faced the consequences that all of our actions contributed to, we wouldn’t know how to function.

When I think about how it would be possible for me to live a life in which none of my decisions contributed to or condoned in any way structures that create practices that I find morally wrong, the only solution I see is moving to a foreign country, living in the middle of nowhere, growing my own food and minding my own business. Even though I have sometimes considered this, it is not a likely outcome for me and it would force me to abandon the family and people in my life I care about. But I also don’t want to live a life where I am being purposefully ignorant for the purpose of being able to live with a restful conscience. I don’t want to live the kind of life where I say, just because I can’t fix everything, I don’t have to worry about trying to fix anything. Even though my deciding to no longer eat meat (a decision I am still working through) will not put an end to the meat industry, it doesn’t make it okay for me to eat meat, just because everyone else is and I can’t get everyone to stop. And we all know, in one way or another, the facts. In Creating a Culture of Destruction: Gender, Militarism, and the Environment, Joni Seager claims that “Secrecy is the gatekeeper of power”(Seager 60). This is the truth with all industries of our time that work for monetary profit. And until you put effort into being more aware, it seems like a win-win for everyone; I get to eat juicy meats and buy fancy products free of guilt. But tell me honestly, do you want to consciously be the kind of person who believes packaging and advertising because you can, when deep down you know it isn’t the truth. In Eating Animals, Jonathan Safran Foer says that “Our response to the factory farm is ultimately a test of how we respond to the powerless, to the most distant, to the voiceless—it is a test of how we act when no one is forcing us to act one way or another” (Foer, 267). The question is, once cruelty and exploitation are no longer a secret, and IT’S NOT A SECRET, how disgusted and appalled do we have to be before we will change our behavior? This is a video called “Meet your Meat” that you may or may not have seen before. I have just seen it for the first time and this is my last straw. I’ve mentioned several times that I have been considering how and if I can be a vegetarian and I have now made the commitment to change my lifestyle. Here’s what I don’t understand, how could anyone know this information, watch it with their own eyes and continue eating meat that comes from an industry that factory farms animal flesh? I have begun my commitment to a new vegetarian lifestyle the day before Thanksgiving. Foer says that

…more than any other food, the Thanksgiving turkey embodies the paradoxes of eating animals: what we do to living turkeys is just about as bad as anything humans have ever done to any animal in the history of the world. Yet what we do with their dead bodies can feel so powerfully good and right. The Thanksgiving turkey is the flesh of competing instincts—of remembering and forgetting. (Foer 249)

I began this blog post with the intent of talking about how we must be patient with others and ourselves in our endeavor to care about these issues without being overwhelmed. But people are dying, animals are dying, the environment is suffering and even if we can’t all devote our full energy to fighting for everything that is wrong in our world, we can certainly change lifestyle patterns that we KNOW contribute to and perpetuate systems that exploit and torture. And it’s no huge sacrifice to us. This is what ecofeminism means to me; take responsibility for being informed about your actions and what they contribute to and have the courage to change things in your life if you know they are harmful; stop eating meat (in the very least, inform yourself about where meat comes from and how it is produced), don’t use products that are toxic for your body, turn the lights off and recycle, don’t tolerate jokes, language, or actions that insult people or animals, buy locally when you can, don’t take 20 minute showers, try using a diva cup, be aware of the privileges you have and most importantly, know the consequences, immediate and distant, of your actions, your purchases and your words. I truly believe that all this requires is being honest and refusing to look away in ignorance. I can be patient with myself and others, and so can anyone, but ignorance is not to be equated with patience.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIjanhKqVC4 This video is on YouTube. It has been watched 2,897,264 times.

For Christmas this year, I am asking my family and friends to read this book. That is all I want.

http://www.eatinganimals.com/

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My Body or a Superfund Site?

My Body or a Superfund Site?
In the mornings I have a set routine. I wake up, shower, moisturize, and put on my makeup and perfume before leaving my room. As I use each product, I think about how the product will affect me that day. My shampoo will make my hair clean and shiny; my makeup will make me look more awake and bright; my perfume will keep me smelling sweet throughout the day. It is not until recently that I have started thinking about the other affects that these products have. Will my shampoo contaminate my head with chemicals that my body is not used to? Will my makeup seep toxins into my face? How will breathing in this perfume affect my lungs? These are the questions I should be asking myself throughout my morning routine. As I thoroughly examine and evaluate the products I use daily, it becomes terrifying to confront myself with how poorly I have been treating my own body.

It is difficult to ignore the facts of toxic cosmetics. In the video “Story of Stuff” by the Story of Stuff Project, it is explained just how harmful some cosmetics can be. The cosmetics industry is extremely flawed in its production, marketing, and manufacturing techniques. The industry makes products out to seem amazing – almost as if some products work miracles: “this product will make you look ten years younger”, “this product will last all day long”. Sure, by using this shampoo I will have super shiny, luscious, bouncy locks, but what else will I have…cancer, asthma, and reproductive problems? It has been proved that many cosmetic products including shampoo, sunscreen, and lipstick contain harmful carcinogens and other toxins. With this information available to the general public, why do I continue using such harmful products?
The better question is how do the cosmetics industry and the government allow such contamination to happen? Unfortunately, not all products, ingredients, and chemicals used in cosmetic products are FDA approved or put on product labels. In fact, only about 20% of these ingredients are approved. It is quoted in the FDA Handbook “With the exception of color additives and a few prohibited ingredients, a cosmetic manufacturer may, on his own responsibility, use essentially any raw material as a cosmetic ingredient and market the product without approval.” (Hartley, 2009). It is frightening to know that the US regulation for cosmetics is almost nonexistent. Known harmful chemicals such as Mercury, Dioxane, Nitrosamines, and other carcinogens are permitted for use in cosmetics, even though exposure to these chemicals is extremely toxic to humans. Not only these chemicals alone, but combinations of such toxins can be lethal and are in no way tested, known, or regulated. In most cases, it is the combinations of such harmful substances that lead to the worst toxic exposure.

Story of Cosmetics
I would say that the solution to banning toxins from cosmetics lies in regulation, but obviously this does not seem to be working. My solution is education. The more I educate myself, friends, family, and the public about the harm in using such toxic products, the easier it will be to stop industry from poisoning its consumers. With a change in my daily routine, I will stop treating myself like a toxic waste dump.

– Maggie Rees

Sources:

Hartley, Jo. FDA Regulations Permit Toxins in Cosmetics. Natural News, 2009.

Story of Stuff Video. Story of Stuff Project, Free Range Studios, and the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics.

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The Intersections of Veganism

Being vegan has both gendered and racialized intersections and I will explore both. What kinds of people are choosing to be vegan? Why? From my prior knowledge and beginning research I have found a difference between the reasoning behind the black women and white women choosing a vegan lifestyle. I understand that studying these two areas might create a binary. However, I understand that there are many various racial and cultural identities of women that affect there food choice. For the brevity of this study I will focus on black and white women. I would also like to focus on the barriers to veganism: negative connotations of the word, images in the media and organizations such as PETA, lack of resources (economic and access to whole and healthy foods). A third and final focus of my final paper will be the effects of veganism on families and communities. As consumers, women are central decision makers and influencers on families and communities.

Here are some sources I have either already explored or plan to explore as I continue my research:

Veganporn.com

Blackplanet.com

PETA

Stayingvegan.com

Food, Inc. movie

Skinny Bitch by Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin

The Kind Diet by Alicia Silverstone

Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer

Sistah Vegan by A. Breeze Harper

Charles Patterson

Marjorie Spiegel

Patricia Hill Collins

Bitch magazine

Lori Gruen- Women and Animals class readings

vs.

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Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness… but just for some people.

Our growing population is becoming a more pressing issue every day as our numbers rise and consumption increases. While adjusting our consumption habits could solve the resource issues we face, many jump to population control as a solution. However, the burden of this solution is dumped upon women, especially those who are of color or facing poverty. This stigma takes form in US policies and community structures. According to US legislation, every woman technically has the right to choose whether or not to have a child. Unfortunately, the culture of choice is ultimately determined by the color of one’s skin and how much money one has in the bank. In my paper I will be investigating the issue of reproductive justice in relation to women of color and women in poverty and how the overpopulation has become associated with these demographics through the illusion of choice.

The term reproductive justice is defined by Asian Communities for Reproductive Justice (ACRJ) as “the complete physical, mental, spiritual, political, social, and economic well-being of women and girls, based on the full achievement and protection of women’s human rights.” The term was coined in 1994 by African-American women who fought for healthcare reform when the Clinton Administration’s denied fair access to abortion. The women used the term justice instead of choice because the people it refers to do not have real choices much of the time. Since that time, grassroots political organizations supporting reproductive justice have emerged throughout the nation.

Currently, access to birth control methods are not equally distributed among social classes. The 1976 Hyde Amendment prohibits public funding for abortions, putting affluent (and usually white) women in control of their reproductive health since they can afford such services, while poor women (usually of color) are unable to make such a choice without sufficient funds. Other instances of eugenics, such as the popularization of sterilization in Puerto Rican women, have created a culture that puts the blame of overpopulation on minority communities. Abortion is not covered in Native American women’s healthcare plans because they are federally funded.

In order to address unfair reproductive policies and adjust our culture we must approach the breadth of reproductive oppression. This includes, though is certainly not limited to, access to birth control, abortion rights, education, and support for childcare. Though reproduction is not the sole answer to overpopulation, assuring reproductive justice for all would promote social, economic, political equality among all.

Sources:

“Reproductive Justice Briefing Book: A Primer on Reproductive Justice and Social Change.

http://www.sistersong.net/reproductive_justice.html

http://reproductivejustice.org/what-is-reproductive-justice

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does the death continue?

I just finished reading the book Sarah”s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay. The story resonated with me and I have been thinking about its themes as well as its characters’ constantly since turning the last page. In the book the characters travel to different settings, some of which used to function as holocaust camps or places to house the masses until the Nazi Government decided their next course of action. This got me thinking about what these types of locations are currently being used as. For example, I would like to explore how the repercussions of the mass murders that occurred in gas chambers effect the surrounding communities presently and how it will/could effect the health and well-being of future generations. I’m not sure if this is something has been looked at or studied, however I would be very interested to know how these terrible tragedies, although in the past, could potentially be having a harmful effect on people today.

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CODE RED!

It is now time to tackle one of the most kept quiet phobias and “taboos” within the media-menstruation. Instead of accepting the fact that all women do indeed menstruate, commercials and magazine ads for tampons and pads have been sending false messages that menstruation is embarrassing, non-hygienic, inconvenient and even blue. About 3 billion women have a monthly cycle, yet why is there such a social discomfort? Why do we change our language when we talk about menstruation…”Oh no!…A surprise visit from Aunt Rose!” These euphemisms have kept women and men from talking about menstruation directly or seriously. Throughout my final paper, I will be exploring historical and religious influences on menstruation. Stigmas have been formed centuries ago starting with famous philosophers to religious texts. By researching these stigmas, I would like to see how it has affected cultural practices and shaped the media today.

“The stages of our lives are in a sense defined by where we are on the menstrual time line”(Stein and Susan 15). This is something to be celebrated. Whether it a choice when to have a child, or going through puberty or menopause, these defining moments in a women’s life are revolved around ovulation and menstruation. Instead of thinking Mother Nature has given me a monthly curse, I will call it a blessing.

Sources:

Stein, Elissa, and Kim Susan. Flow: The Cultural Story of Menstruation. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2009.

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