Posts Tagged environment

Is it My Land?

“This land is your land, this land is my land

From California to the New York Island

From the Redwood Forest to the Gulf Stream waters

This land was made for you and me.” – Woody Gutherie, 1940′s

 

Whether you believe the earth was created in seven days or that it formed over millions and millions of years, there is one thing that I think we can all know for sure: the Earth and the land is here for us and maintains us. However, although this popular and patriotic folk song from the 1940’s reminds us of this fact, it is clear that all of us have taken its lyrics too seriously and believe that since “this land is my land,” we can treat it and use solely to benefit our needs.

 

Over the last couple weeks in our Ecofeminism class, we have been focusing on analyzing and breaking down the relationship between our bodies and the land that we live on. In order to do this, we have been reading and discussing several books that not only bring up a great variety of issues concerning the land around us and our own bodies but also raise a lot of important questions and offer solutions to these issues. We began with Sandra Steingraber’s powerful book Living Downstream (2010) which is a very personal and honest yet extremely in-depth analysis of cancers and their direct and indirect relationships to the environment. In this book, Steingraber introduces her readers to a multitude of case studies, which stand as evidence of the effects that the population’s handling and manipulation of the environment around us can have on our bodies’ well being. From Steingraber’s book we transitioned to Soil not Oil by Vandana Shiva, which although different in its approach, provides a framework that we can use to change our relationship to the environment in order to slow down and maybe even stop the environmental crises developing around us. Unlike Steingraber’s book, Shiva focuses on the big picture, immediately urging us that “we will either make a democratic transition from oil to soil or we will perish.” (p. 7) According to Shiva, our Earth as we know it is in the middle of three major crises; a climate crisis in which global warming is a threat to our survival, an energy crisis where reaching peak oil (the end of cheap oil) will dismantle our structures of industrialization and globalization and last but not definitely not least the food crisis, in which our population’s food sources are being squandered by the first two crises.

After reading both of these books, I find it impossible to ignore the breathtaking number of issues that our handling of the environment has caused and will continue to cause if we do not take action. Prior to taking this class, I was aware of some of these issues and how they can affect our lives on earth. However, I cannot lie and say that I tried to do anything with the information I knew or even tried to become more informed. The truth is that I have always been one of those people that although is easily persuaded in accepting that there are issues at hand in our environment, I let myself become consumed in sadness and completely convince myself that there is just nothing I can do about any of it.

 

What difference can I make? Yes I can recycle things here and there or choose to not drive a car but in the big picture, what difference does that really make? It’s not like my sole actions are going to single-handedly solve these three crises. Yes I know that if we all think this way then we will be even worse off, but can we truly make enough of a difference if we all pitch in?

 

Until I took this class, my answers to all of these questions would have be straight-up “No.” Yes, I did know deep down that I was wrong, but I felt too defeated and distraught to accept it and I chose to live in denial. I’m ashamed admit know that I chose to ignore, just like I’m sure many other people do when they listen to “This Land is My Land” and get lost in its catchy tune. However, after reading both Steingraber’s and Shiva’s books, I can say that it is time to snap out of it and stop being a coward. In Soil not Oil, Shiva introduces the idea of pseudo-solutions, solutions that seem to solve the issues at hand but may actually add to those issues over time, and actual real solutions that do address the three crises. Although she argues that we must collectively come up and implement real solutions that will have us moving towards reaching “Earth Democracy,” an active and complete transformation of our lifestyle and structures to one centered around soil, I believe that taking some action over no action is an important first step. With the urgency of the crises developing around us, I do agree with Shiva that we should focus on creating real solutions over superficial ones but I also believe that arriving to those solutions will take actions that will result in trial and error. In other words, I am now willing to participate in creating some changes than in ignoring the problem as a whole.

I do not want to claim that I have suddenly been reborn an outspoken environmental activist, but am very grateful to both of these women for truly convincing me that I do have a responsibility in changing our lifestyles because I am connected to the land. Maybe I had never understood this before having grown up in New York City, where having Central Park with its abundant trees is somewhat of a miracle, but I’m tired of making excuses.  However, I have felt disconnected to the land in big part because I haven’t really been surrounded by it. The only place where I have truly felt any sort of connection is in Colombia, where my parents are from. It is because of this distance between my body and the actual land that I am so grateful for reading these two books, which in a very small way have not only interested me in pursuing more connection with the land but in actually recognizing that it and its population needs help fast.

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My Toxic Make-Up Remover

Date Time Product Type Product Name Product Brand
Tuesday 5:05 PM Hygiene Hand Sanitizer Purell
11:00 PM Beauty Cuticule Remover Liquid Sally Hansen
Wednesday 12:11 AM Hygiene Toothpaste Crest Extra Whitenning
12:14 AM Hygiene Hand Soap Up-and-Up Anti-Bacterial
12:15 AM Hygiene/Beauty Face Wash Mary Kay Timewise
12:18 AM Hygiene/Beauty Eye Make-Up Remover Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Make Up Remover
12:20 AM Health/Beauty Face Moisturizer Pond’s
12:22 AM Hygiene Hand Sanitizer Purell
12:28 AM Hygiene/Health Vaseline (lips) Vaseline
12:30 AM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
8:52 AM Hygiene/Beauty Eye Make-Up Remover Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Make Up Remover
8:54 AM Beauty Liquid Foundation Loreal True Match Foundation Sand Beige W5
8:56 AM Beauty Powdered Foundation Loreal True Match Powder Foundation Sun Beige W6
8:57 AM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
8:59 AM Beauty Bronzer NYC Color Wheel Mosaic Face Powder
9:00 AM Beauty Blush Physician’s Formula Powder Palette Multi-Colored Blush
9:01 AM Beauty Concealer Cover Girl + Olay Simply Ageless Eye Concealer 205
9:02 AM Beauty Concealer Lorac Coverup C5
9:05 AM Beauty Eye Shadow Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow Night Sky
9:07 AM Beauty Mascara Cover Girl Last Blast Volume Waterproof Very Black
9:08 AM Beauty Eyeliner CoverGirl Perfect Point Plus Self Sharpening Eye Pencil
9:10 AM Hygiene Hand Sanitizer Purell
9:13 AM Hygiene/Health Contact Solution Opti-Free Replenish Multi-Purpose Disinfecting Solution
9:19 AM Health/Beauty Lotion Vaseline
9:21 AM Hygiene Toothpaste Crest Extra Whitenning
11:45 AM Hygiene Shampoo and Conditioner Pantene Pro-V 2 in 1 Dry to Moisturized, Medium to Thick
11:52 AM Hygine Body Wash Dove
12:15 PM Beauty Powdered Foundation Loreal True Match Powder Foundation Sun Beige W6
12:16 PM Beauty Concealer Lorac Coverup C5
12:20 PM Beauty Eyeliner CoverGirl Perfect Point Plus Self Sharpening Eye Pencil
2:49 PM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
5:03 PM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
11:55 PM Hygiene Toothpaste Crest Extra Whitenning
11:58 PM Hygiene Hand Soap Up-and-Up Anti-Bacterial
11:59 PM Hygiene/Beauty Face Wash
Thursday 12:02 AM Hygiene/Beauty Eye Make-Up Remover Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Make Up Remover
12:04 AM Health/Beauty Face Moisturizer Pond’s
12:06 AM Hygiene Hand Sanitizer Purell
12:28 AM Hygiene/Health Vaseline (lips) Vaseline
12:35 AM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
8:17 AM Hygiene/Beauty Eye Make-Up Remover Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Make Up Remover
8:19 AM Beauty Liquid Foundation Loreal True Match Foundation Sand Beige W5
8:21 AM Beauty Powdered Foundation Loreal True Match Powder Foundation Sun Beige W6
8:23 AM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
8:25 AM Beauty Bronzer NYC Color Wheel Mosaic Face Powder
8:26 AM Beauty Powdered Blush Physician’s Formula Powder Palette Multi-Colored Blush
8:27 AM Beauty Concealer Cover Girl + Olay Simply Ageless Eye Concealer 205
8:28 AM Beauty Concealer Lorac Coverup C5
8:31 AM Beauty Eye Shadow Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow Night Sky
8:33 AM Beauty Mascara Cover Girl Last Blast Volume Waterproof Very Black
8:34 AM Beauty Eyeliner CoverGirl Perfect Point Plus Self Sharpening Eye Pencil
8:36 AM Hygiene Hand Sanitizer Purell
8:39 AM Hygiene/Health Contact Solution Opti-Free Replenish Multi-Purpose Disinfecting Solution
8:41 AM Health/Beauty Lotion Vaseline
8:51 AM Hygiene Toothpaste Crest Extra Whitenning
12:20 PM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
3:55 PM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
5:00 PM Hygiene Hand Sanitizer Purell
5:03 PM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
Friday 1:05 AM Hygiene Toothpaste Crest Extra Whitenning
1:08 AM Hygiene Hand Soap Up-and-Up Anti-Bacterial
1:09 AM Hygiene/Beauty Face Wash Mary Kay Timewise
1:12 AM Hygiene/Beauty Eye Make-Up Remover Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Make Up Remover
1:14 AM Health/Beauty Face Moisturizer Pond’s
1:38 AM Hygiene Hand Sanitizer Purell
1:45 AM Hygiene/Health Vaseline (lips) Vaseline
1:46 AM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
8:50 AM Hygiene/Beauty Eye Make-Up Remover Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Make Up Remover
8:54 AM Beauty Liquid Foundation Loreal True Match Foundation Sand Beige W5
8:56 AM Beauty Powdered Foundation Loreal True Match Powder Foundation Sun Beige W6
8:57 AM Health Lubricating Eye Drops Systane Long Lasting Lubricant Eye Drops
9:00 AM Beauty Bronzer NYC Color Wheel Mosaic Face Powder
9:01 AM Beauty Powdered Blush Physician’s Formula Powder Palette Multi-Colored Blush
9:03 AM Beauty Concealer Cover Girl + Olay Simply Ageless Eye Concealer 205
9:04 AM Beauty Concealer Lorac Coverup C5
9:06 AM Beauty Eye Shadow Maybelline Expert Wear Eyeshadow Night Sky
9:07 AM Beauty Mascara Cover Girl Last Blast Volume Waterproof Very Black
9:08 AM Beauty Eyeliner CoverGirl Perfect Point Plus Self Sharpening Eye Pencil
9:11 AM Hygiene Hand Sanitizer Purell
9:12 AM Hygiene/Health Contact Solution Opti-Free Replenish Multi-Purpose Disinfecting Solution
9:20 AM Health/Beauty Lotion Vaseline
9:22 AM Hygiene Toothpaste Crest Extra Whitenning
11:35 AM Hygiene Shampoo and Conditioner Pantene Pro-V 2 in 1 Dry to Moisturized, Medium to Thick
11:41 AM Hygine Body Wash Dove
11:54 AM Health/Beauty Lotion Vaseline

It is incredible how a process that is so irritating can be so informative. During the last couple days I have tracked my body work, the products that I apply to my body to meet a health, hygiene or beauty need. As you can probably imagine, the process of tracking everything that you use in one day on your own body and the specific time when you used it was incredibly frustrating. However, halfway throughout this process I realized that the source of my frustration was just how often and how many products were included in my own body work.  As I look through my finished list, I can honestly say that I am decently happy with it and that I am not very surprised. Before beginning the process, I was aware that the majority of my body work log was going to consist of my make-up products that I use on a daily basis, which many people may consider “unnecessary.” At first, I was self-conscious for the implications that these products have – I expected people to look at my log and conclude that I was a woman that plastered her face with make-up to cover up some insecurity. Although some people may consider using nine make-up products every day to be excessive, I know I genuinely enjoy the process of putting on make-up, regardless of the beauty need that it may be fulfilling. However, now that I can see exactly how many cosmetics I use and how often I use them, I plan on making an effort to reduce the amounts I apply on my body. I expect that there are a good 30-40% of college women my age that use around the same amount of make-up product that I use, but I believe it varies significantly according to class and income, than any other societal measures. Although women from a higher class than me may use the same amount of product, I expect their brands to be more “high end” such as Bobbi Brown, Clinique, M.A.C., Nars, etc. In result, women in higher classes may have the ability to use more natural and less toxic make-up products on their bodies than I can. Since I use “lesser quality products” or “popular consumer brands,” it is also possible that I am exposed to more toxins and am therefore in a higher level of risk.

 

Neutrogena Make-Up Remover

Since it seems plausible that my “popular brand” products are made up of some toxic ingredients, I decided to investigate the toxicity of my make-up remover, Neutrogena Oil-Free Eye Make Up Remover. Keeping my fingers crossed, I began to do research on this product, hoping that at least my make-up remover, which I trust every night to fully remove my make-up off my face, was not toxic.

-DRUMROLL-

Crap, it looks like I’m not that lucky. According to the Cosmetics’ Database, my Neutrogena eye make-up remover is considered to be a “moderate hazard” to my body…just great.  Listed under the products highest health concerns are “neurotoxicity, persistence and bioaccumulation, and irritation of the skin, eyes and lungs;” talk about a scary list! Although the database states that most of these concerns reach only a moderate level, it is clear that there are several ingredients in this product that after a long time of exposure can have very hazardous effects on my face and the rest of my body; among the most harmful are Benzyl Alcohol, Benzalkonium Chloride, and Cyclopentasiloxane. According to the Database, Benzyl Alcohol is a naturally occurring and synthetic ingredient that is frequently used as a solvent and a preservative, although it has several other uses that do not really pertain to my eye make-up remover. Unfortunately, this ingredient has shown strong evidence of human neurotoxicity, is expected to be harmful or toxic to organs in human bodies in Canada, and has shown possible allergic effects in human studies…if that list doesn’t make a girl scared I don’t know what does. Due to the evidence of all these hazardous consequences, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review Assessments have recommended the use of this ingredient to be restricted in products, although they somehow determined it to be safe for use in cosmetics under the limitations. Is there something I’m missing here? If this ingredient is moderately toxic in so many ways, why are companies like Neutrogena including it in their products?

 

Benzalkonium Chloride is another sneaky ingredient that is ranked relatively high on the hazard scale, with a rating of 6 out of 10. Although it is not related to neurotoxicity or organ system toxicity, there is very strong evidence of allergies and immunotoxicity. It has been found to be such a powerful immune, skin, and respiratory irritant that Japan has restricted its use in cosmetics and Canada has not only restricted its use but also prohibited it in their cosmetics. What the hell is the U.S. waiting for then? What legitimate reason can they have for allowing this to be in my cosmetics? If these two ingredients don’t scare you enough already, we also have good old Cyclopentasiloxane, a silicon-based cyclic compound used as a skin conditioning agent. Even though this ingredient is ranked lower in the hazard scale, it sounds to me like one of the most potentially dangerous ingredients in my eye-make-up remover. Cyclopentasiloxane is not only a potential neurotoxin, but it is also an endocrine disruptor and is likely an environmental toxin that is known to be persistent and bioaccumulate. The latter characteristics have raised a lot of concern as they are regarded as indicators of truly dangerous toxins, as they will endure throughout time and increase in amounts through levels of the food chain. If this wasn’t terrifying enough, this ingredient is also thought to be a “mild” carcinogen, as one or more animal studies have shown formations of tumors in moderate doses. In other words, I can technically get cancer by using this product…who wouldn’t expect that in their cosmetics, right?

After reading about these different toxins, the only solace I had was the fact that there was only marginal evidence of these ingredients leading to toxicity; even though they can cause cancer and affect your immune system and organs, these would be extreme long term effects after persistent and continuous exposure. However, shouldn’t Neutrogena try to find alternatives for these ingredients instead of distributing them in their products? What were their particular standards for evaluating toxins and were they meeting these standards in all their products? In order to get some answers for these questions, I had to visit the website of Johnson & Johnson Co., who bought Neutrogena in 1994.  As one of America’s largest and most successful multinational pharmaceuticals, Johnson & Johnson has a website that lives up to its status. It is very detailed and transparent in many ways. Although many of us may think of Johnson & Johnson as an American company, it actually has facilities and manufacturers all throughout the world; the list includes Africa, Asia (several countries), Europe (several countries), the Middle East, South American (several countries), and of course the United States (several states). It is possible that my product was created in any of these countries as it is sold worldwide, but it is most probable that it was manufactured here in the United States. Nonetheless, by looking at this impressive list of nations, it is evident that Johnson & Johnson not only reaches a huge public through their products but also has direct effects on its thousands of employees as well on the communities that house their facilities. Recognizing this fact, the company has supposedly gone through great lengths to address the health of its employees by researching the toxicity and other harmful components of the ingredients they use in their products, as well as to create standards for the use of those ingredients and other measures that reduce the occupational hazards for their workforce. On their website under Ingredient Safety, it states, “Our companies are expected to comply with regulations on ingredients in all countries where our products are sold. Wherever authorities have set limits on certain ingredients, we require that our product formulations are within those limits. We also work with regulatory authorities around the world to ensure our ingredients are safe for patients and consumers as well as the environment.” However if this statement is true, why is Neutrogena, a brand under Johnson & Johnson, allowed to use such toxic ingredients in their products? Should they be allowed to use them only because the “product formulations are within the limits?”

 

Johnson & Johnson Headquarters

In terms of workplace safety, the company goes through great lengths to reduce occupational hazards that range from exposure to toxic ingredients and exposure to factors such as factory noise, heat stress, and radiation. They have special toxicology teams that are responsible for setting “acceptable” exposure standards for different chemicals that meet the limitations given by regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), among others. Furthermore, if any chemicals exceed the set standards within the workplace, employees are given the appropriate tools to ensure they are protected. Beginning from 1993, Johnson & Johnson has set environmental goals to reduce toxic emissions and reduce their impacts on the surrounding communities. As a whole, the company has strived to “address our environmental performance, including energy use, carbon dioxide reduction, water use, paper and packaging, waste reduction, product stewardship, environmental literacy, biodiversity, compliance and external manufacturing.” According to the Johnson & Johnson, the majority of its companies was committed to meeting the goals and was able to exceed them. Therefore, although these statements may not truly reflect their day-to-day follow-up on the health of their workers and their communities, the company does seem to take these issues very seriously and are proud of their improvements. However, where does Neutrogena fit into this? Does Johnson & Johnson follow-up with its brands like Neutrogena and ensure that they are abiding by their toxicological and health standards? Hopefully they do, but whether that is the case or not, I believe we can all agree that it might be time for me to find a new make-up remover. Wish me luck!

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Toxicity Report 2012

TOXICITY REPORT

Time Date Product Type Product Name Product Name
5:08 PM Tuesday Hygeine Chapstick Eucerin Aquaphor Advanced Therapy
6:34 PM Tuesday Hygeine Body wash Gud from Burt’s Bees
6:40 PM Tuesday Hygeine Shampoo Tea Tree Lavender Mint moisturizing Shampoo
6:45 PM Tuesday Hygeine Conditioner Tea Tree Lavender Mint moisturizing Conditioner
11:10 PM Tuesday Hygeine Toothpaste Crest Regular Toothpaste
12:05 AM Tuesday Hygeine Chapstick Eucerin Aquaphor Advanced Therapy
10:34 AM Wednesday Hygeine Toothpaste Crest Regular Toothpaste
10:45 AM Wednesday Hygeine Deoderant Dove antiperspirant & deoderant invisible solid original clean
5:06 PM Wednesday Hygeine Chapstick Eucerin Aquaphor Advanced Therapy
6:36 PM Wednesday Hygeine Chapstick Eucerin Aquaphor Advanced Therapy
8:35 PM Wednesday Beauty Body spray Gud from Burt’s Bees
12:06 AM Wednesday Hygeine Toothpaste Crest Regular Toothpaste
11:33 AM Thursday Hygeine Toothpaste Crest Regular Toothpaste
11:42 Thursday Hygeine Deoderant Dove antiperspirant & deoderant invisible solid original clean
12:36 PM Thursday Hygeine Chapstick Eucerin Aquaphor Advanced Therapy
7:45 PM Thursday Hygeine Shampoo Tea Tree Lavender Mint moisturizing Shampoo
7:55 PM Thursday Hygeine Conditioner Tea Tree Lavender Mint moisturizing Conditioner
8:05 Thursday Hygeine Body wash Gud from Burt’s Bees
1:30 AM Thursday Hygeine Toothpaste Crest Regular Toothpaste
11:05 AM Friday Hygeine Toothpaste Crest Regular Toothpaste
11:15 AM Friday Hygeine Deoderant Dove antiperspirant & deoderant invisible solid original clean
11:45 AM Friday Hygeine Chapstick Eucerin Aquaphor Advanced Therapy

A. Reflection on my body work products

I was happy with my list and wasn’t really very surprised because I’ve always been pretty simplistic in terms of body work. That isn’t to sound all high and mighty, because the somewhat minimal effects on my environment and my body due to my little product usage is not based on my awareness and education on the importance of maintaining a conscious lifestyle in this context. In other words I’d like to give a shout out to my sheer laziness, without which I might have otherwise become a complete product hound. Really though, if I am to be completely fair, my mother is very simplistic product-wise, so I think in that sense I had a good role model. Although both of my sisters use more products than I do (starting with make-up), they keep it fairly low-key as well.

A thought this image stirs: We may be personally applying our eyeliner daily (literally), but what got us to this point? Who is really (indirectly, figuratively) picking out the specific product for us and applying our eyeliner every day and driving us to the store when we use it all up every two months? What is our role in that entire process?This image is so common. My sisters and I definitely played with make-up as little girls. Things like this are instilled in women at a very young age. They become instinctual. It's not to say that wearing make-up is bad; my claim is instead that wearing makeup (or acting, in general) unconsciously, without considering the many implications and motivations of the action can be dangerous. It isn't the end (wearing make-up, in this case) that is the problem, it is the justification behind it (or lack thereof). The stronger claim that it is irresponsible on a personal and societal/environmental level to remain unaware regarding body work is something else to be considered.

My older sister is very into health and good habits, and she actually has an herbal doctor who she gets consultations from and talks to about her body work (although she doesn’t use this term) as well as the things she ingests (vitamins, diet, etc).  It is funny because I never really thought of her as being particularly aware of her body in this ‘body work’ context, but she has always been very careful about the products she uses. I think that she would be totally into this class. But although she does try to buy products that are ‘good’ for the environment, she is primarily concerned about how the product will affect her. She doesn’t think about how the production of the product has affected its workers, or how the location of the company has affected others, either. I am just realizing that there are so many elements to consider for each and every product. I am certainly interested in reevaluating all of the products that I use and running them through by the Skindeep site, but I have a feeling that something’s gotta give, as they say. What I mean is, I think that realistically, though not always, I am going to have to choose between buying from a company that tests its product on animals or one that is located near a school and emits toxins into the air through their production process. Maybe I will choose a product that is a moderate hazard overall on my body and does not test on animals; I know that my sister, although an animal lover, will probably always prioritize her own body first. Maybe that is the way it should be. This project has not taught me the “correct” way to prioritize which hazards are better than others, and for good reason: there is no such universally “correct” way. In buying a product, we are responsible for all of the effects it has because we are paying for this product to continue to exist; we are endorsing it with our money. I am going to have to prioritize what is most important to me in the products I use. Maybe it will change from product to product, or maybe I will have a strong ‘no testing on animals’ policy every time. But to get into these specifics right now would be to miss the point: we are responsible for being conscious of our impact on our environment (which of course includes other people) and ourselves. The first and most important step is to be aware. It is easy to check the skindeep site as a starting point and figure out if the product that I am thinking about buying is really good for me or made by a company that I want to support. This class educates me on the effects, this project informs me on ways in which I can become aware of the particular effects of the products I use, but the next step is entirely up to me. The next step, deciding how to prioritize its effects, what to do with this knowledge, will be up to me. I define ‘risk’ and I define ‘necessary’ regarding the products that I use, but this responsibility to be aware of the way in which my product usage affects the world must play a role in my decision. My point really is that, although I “did well” in using so few products (which were rated as moderately low concern), it is not actually “doing well” in the relevant sense because it was essentially by accident. With the privilege of education, this “by accident” cannot result in praise or excuse.

B. Talk about specific product: Dove antiperspirant & deoderant invisible solid original clean

Okay so let’s get down to business. The deodorant I use is of moderate concern. It is a 5 on the scale of 1 (minimal concern) to 10 (high concern). High concerns are persistence and bioaccumulation, irritation (Skin, eyes, or lungs), and contamination concerns. Moderate concerns are neurotoxicity and organ system toxicity (non-reproductive). The low concerns are endocrine disruption, ecotoxicology, data gaps and enhanced skin absorption. I chose a few that I found particularly interesting to explore in more depth, regarding the specific ingredients that are harmful. With respect to organ system toxicity Talc, Propylene glycol, Dimethicone and Cyclopentasiloxane are classified as “expected to be toxic or harmful”. In terms of allergies/immunotoxicity, the fragrance is a “known human immune system toxicant” and there is strong evidence that BHT is a human skin toxicant. But don’t worry; there is only limited evidence of skin and immune system toxicity in Propylene Glycol!

Major sidenote: I am going to throw this product away once I get back to my room. But then is that somehow worse to throw it away and “waste it”, since I’ve already bought it and therefore endorsed the company that is causing all of this other harm? After I’ve already bought the product, is it worse to throw it away, because then the harm was a complete waste. No matter how many people were affected in the making of this product, and how the rest of the environment was affected, I have already bought it. So now, I will continue to affect myself negatively with the continual use of this product so that something good can come of the whole thing, in this case smelling like ‘original clean’. Sorry, isn’t that what a shower is for? This logic reminds me of the whole scenario in which your parents guilt you into eating more (even though you have explained to them that you are full) because children are starving in (insert country of choice here). Finishing the food out of guilt is just adding another negative to a chain of unfortunate effects. I think that I have my answer. But this leads me to yet another question: how and where should I responsibly dispose of the product?

Anyway back to bringing you the facts: in terms of endocrine disruption, one or more animal studies show endocrine disruption at high does in BHT and moderate doses in Cyclopentasiloxane. The fragrance has moderate evidence of human neurotoxicity and one or more animal studies show tumor formation at moderate doses in Cyclopentasiloxane, and at high doses in BHT. WOW, I have to take a moment to catch my breath. There is so much information to take in. Next I looked at the amount of exposure vs. level of risk analysis. Although this product is only considered an overall moderate hazard, being that it is deodorant makes a difference. What I mean by this is that it is something that I use at least once daily. Deodorant is also the kind of product that you just continue to replace once it is used up, without thinking twice about it. You may want to try a different body spray scent or a shampoo that “fights frizz”; but once you find a deodorant that you like you generally stick with it, like toothepaste. What I mean is, it is important to consider these concerns in the context of the product and how you use it. A high concern of persistence and bioaccumulation in deodorant is a big problem for the long term because the dose is a key factor in play. Skin and eye irritation is also a high concern and that would be a factor not only long term, but specifically an example of a short term effect as well. That is one of the considerations I made when thinking about the product and myself. Even just considering the way in which the product affects me, I have come to the conclusion that I do not want to use it anymore. I will have to search for a better alternative.

Now I should talk about the impacts the existence of this deodorant has on the environment. I want to talk about the bioaccumulation and persistence aspect. If it is a bioaccumulative and persistent toxin, it means that even when I decide to throw it away and stop using it, the negative effects do not stop there. This seems to be an overall pattern in ecofeminism. In particular, the ingredient Cyclopentasiloxane is persistent and bioaccumulative (although it has not been deemed ‘dangerous’ by the powers that be since the bar is so ridiculously high in the United States), and so it will continue to be a problem for the environment. Generations after mine will be affected by my uninformed choice to endorse this product by buying it. To give an overview of the ecotoxicology report, there were two ingredients which were “expected to be an environmental toxin and persistent or bioaccumulative”. These were Dimethicone and Cyclopentasiloxane. There were four ingredients that were “suspected to be an environmental toxin”, being Steareth-100, Stearyl Alcohol, Glyceryl oleate and C12-15 alkyl benzoate. It is so frustrating that this is not information that the companies are compelled to disclose.

Okay, so now I am going to look at where the product was produced and the impacts in terms of the workers and the surrounding community. Dove toiletries are produced in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Germany, India, Ireland, Netherlands, Thailand, Turkey and the United States and both the trademark and brand name is owned by Unilever. This is the part of my research that became even more complex. I looked into Unilever and they seemed to be really sustainable. I looked at many different sites, but I was particularly struck by their official website, which includes information about the environment and specific links to “investing in our employees” and “local communities”. In terms of investing in its employees, Unilever discusses in detail “employee safety, health and well-being, promoting diversity, sustainable living plan targets and respecting rights” (Unilever Global; all further quotations unless otherwise specified are from the same source). I chose to concentrate on “employee safety, health and well-being” for this report because I think that it best speaks to the effects of the company on its workers in the context of toxicity, although they are all important elements. Unilever purports to be “committed to providing a safe workplace for [its] employees and improving their health through better diets, work practices and lifestyles”. In this section, the site explains how the company has improved conditions in terms of workplace fatalities and accidents, trying to ensure safe travel and transport, etc. I was confused… where was the mention of the chemicals used?

I thought that I found what I was looking for finally under the title, “Process safety”, defined here as “concern[ing] the safety of manufacturing processes which can be potentially hazardous”. Aerosol spray is used as an example due to its flammable nature. Unilever’s aim is to “prevent any incident which would result in fatalities, serious occupational injuries or a threat to the local community, such as a major fire, explosion or leakage”. That sounds really good. Now I don’t want to be too cynical, because they do mention, for example, that they have developed “new methods of the handling of the enzymes in their laundry products manufacture and ammonia refrigeration” which again, sounds promising. It is tough to believe that the company is genuine when it could be just as likely that they are greenwashing; what I mean by this is that they could easily be playing up through advertisement their great environmentally friendly initiatives all for show. In this specific case I am talking about workers rights, but the concept still holds. What I mean is, they could be all-talk in a superficial kind of way.

Regardless of their intentions though, the results are what is important. The company seems very intent on stopping obvious injustices, like “fatal accidents”, but they overlook the fact that toxins are fatal. These toxins are silent and invisible killers from the general societal perspective, and therefore ignored. The fact is that these toxins are dangerous to me, because they are in the product that I use daily; the level of risk is high enough for me. But the level of risk is substantially higher for these workers due to their heightened exposure.

However after doing further research, I think that the company is on the right track. They specifically outline “aerosol manufacture, sulphonation and the handling of enzymes”; this is hopeful because these are things that I found out were problematic from the SkinDeep website. At least the company is admitting some of the major dangers involved for the workers. However, I would have liked to see more on their website about how they work towards combating these potential dangers and keep the workers safe. They give a very vague answer, citing that their approach to “process safety informs the way [they] design, develop, construct and operate [their] manufacturing sites.” It also ensures any modifications to sites are “managed correctly”. Once again, that sounds really good. But as long as the employees are dealing with these toxins for at least eight hours everyday, then I need to see specific statutes in place, protecting the workers. It is even worse when the employee lives nearby the worksite, because then even when she leaves work, the toxins are in the community, bioaccumulating and persistent, and silently harming and killing her even when she leaves work, along with the surrounding community.  Unilever explains how the company contributes to its local communities (89 million Euros in 2009 and 91 million Euros in 2008). This doesn’t really sit well with me because after noticing the blatant vagueness or total emission of important information on their site, this “contribution” felt eerily like a concession of guilt (misunderstood to all except those who have done a lot of research).

If instead of discussing the ways in which the toxins from the production of Unilever’s products affect the community, the company talks about how much money it provides to the community, it is as if the company asserts that the question of toxicity and its effects on the community does not matter because the community is being compensated. But the communities do not know what this money is “for”; they are not given the choice to reject the money and instead live and raise their children in a toxin-free environment. The website asserts that the company “seeks to make positive contributions to the communities where [they] operate”, however if it were being honest, it would include in this section the not-so-positive dangers and threats that they are contributing to the communities.

Who are the modern-day actors? Being clubbed over the head with "contributions to the community" can be a great distraction.

To give an example as to the dangers that Unilever puts on the workers and surrounding community, I will use Cyclopentasiloxane. At moderate doses, animal studies have shown endocrine disruption (McKim JM Jr, Choudhuri S, Wilga PC, Madan A, Burns-Naas LA, Gallavan RH, Mast RW, Naas DJ, Parkinson A, Meeks RG, 1999). By the Environment Canada Domestic Substance List, it is classified as expected to be toxic or harmful. We already know that it is persistent and bioaccumulative in wildlife based on Canada’s 2006 Accelerated Reduction/Elimination of Toxics. Six years after Canada has officially considered it a PBT, Unilever (and many other United States companies) allow their workers and the surrounding community to be subjected to it. It causes organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), neurotoxicity, and endocrine disruption and has ecotoxicological ramifications. This is all very interesting, because the product was given only a 5 for overall concern! That is only moderate concern. This made me realize that, especially in the United States, it is important to keep in mind that this scale is weighted. “Moderate” does not mean that you are doing great. It is actually quite bad even after just looking at it from a few of the different angles. This again speaks to what we talked about with Professor Howard. Many of these problems would be avoided if the U.S. had a precautionary approach to toxicity. I could go on for a lot longer, but I guess I should wrap this report up. It was very informational and has left me with more questions than answers, but at least now I have an understanding of how to approach this process of informing myself about these things, and will have this to draw on as a template from now on when investigating exactly what I am doing when I put my deodorant on in the morning.

C. What else to do besides feeling angry and ranting about it

So now I guess I will talk a little able the way to move beyond these injustices. First, I think that every company should have to be honest with their workers and inform them about what the effects of the job are. I think this type of educational orientation should be enforced. It is not the company’s right to tell a worker where she should or should not work, but it is its responsibility to inform them in an accessible way regarding the dangers of their jobs. This is the first of the kinds of incentives that will create this necessary shift. This kind of social shift that would need to take place (a valuing of the worker over the product!!) would involve a huge amount of work in a country like the United States. Commodifying human beings is deeply entrenched in our culture. This needs to change and there isn’t a simple solution. The Unilever sight explained a little about the “behavioral changes” that the company was encouraging as part of a new, more sustainable movement. I think that this is a good starting point. The company should be intent upon hiring executives who understand the importance of sustainability and safety. The only way that this can be the case is if the powers that be in the company itself decide to shift their priorities. In order for this to happen, there would need to be an incentive. A policy change on the federal level, like a tax or other monetary incentive of some sort, would encourage this shift. On a federal level, there could also be mandated educational conferences for the executives so that they not only have a monetary incentive, but are actually able to understand why the change is of ethical importance. With both monetary and ethical incentives, a genuine behavioral shift can take place. From this behavioral shift from the top, the social shift can more easily take place as the effects of the policy changes trickle all the way down the chain. Also, there should be a surging from the bottom-up as grassroots movements educate people regarding these issues.

This might only work in an ideal world. I realize from this class that it is important to focus on the small victories while also keeping the larger goal in view as well. I respect that. But the problem is, other countries have deemed a lot of these chemicals blatantly unsafe. They are chemicals that are not prohibited in products because of all the negative affects they can have. So I just can’t aim any lower than focusing on getting a precautionary principle implemented in the United States. This is a solid first step. In order to do so, there will need to be widespread education on these issues, so that could be considered the “smaller goal,” but I am aware that this is a colossal goal in itself. I realize that for the United States to take on a precautionary approach is a nearly unimaginable goal in itself, but I really do think that the kinds of changes, which need to take place, are firmly rooted within the foundation of our system. I am really not trying to be too idealistic and as a result too abstract, but I genuinely think that the small changes, which can be made in order to make the work environment and the surrounding community “more safe,” should take place only in conjunction with these larger initiatives. They are necessary to the cause, but certainly not sufficient. With that said, here are two specific modifications that would create some progress: more research on the long-term effects of these chemicals being used and handled and the development of safer alternative resources. These two examples are important and essential to reaching the overall goal, but the bigger ideological picture is what will drive all of this home, and create motivation and pressure to change.

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Aristotle, what were you thinking, man?

I have never thought to identify myself as a ‘feminist’ or ‘lover of the environment’, but I think this is mostly due to a lack of reflection. As a naturally reflective individual, it comes as a surprise that I haven’t given these labels more thought. Although it depends on the way one defines ‘feminist’, I fit at least one variation of the definition. I attended the Bryn Mawr School from the time I was twelve years old until graduation. It is a school in Baltimore, Maryland founded in 1885 by five women in an effort to provide young girls and women with a learning environment at least as stimulating as the plethora of highly competitive and academically challenging all-boys schools of the time. Growing up in that environment, gender equality was not a controversial topic. Everyone who was a part of the school was there because she or he shared these same values. I was proud of our school’s history, and proud to be a part of its present, but it was not a stance that I was ever placed in the position to defend.

For all of my years at Bryn Mawr, I learned from a very passionate faculty. In high school, I took an environmental science course. As a result of the class and a few other experiences, I had a somewhat extended stint as a vegan, but my current diet is unlabeled and based on a more informed understanding of environmental and animal treatment issues. It’s not a coincidence that the majority of my friends are environmental science majors. I try to stay informed and surround myself with people who I can learn from and with. I strive to make the environment a priority in my everyday life and as I noted, I have had the opportunity to study about the environment in an academic setting. I can’t say the same in terms of feminism. I have never pursued the topic academically. Strange given my background? I think that it might have something to do with the fact that I am so in love with my major, and as a result I’m not inclined to give up my time very easily to other disciplines. But when I had the chance to choose a philosophical article to critique in one of my classes last year, I chose one from the Canadian Journal of Philosophy (*our library subscribes to a bunch of great philosophical journals*) on the philosophy of feminism. I really enjoyed the process of writing that paper and thinking about particular issues surrounding the feminist movement. I don’t think very much about gender issues in my classes, but there is one experience that stands out in my mind. I remember reading Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics in a class last year, and reaching the section in which Aristotle states the proper place for women. Being physically inferior to men, their role in society is to stay in the home, bearing and raising children, pleasing their husbands and being generally obedient to men; they should not be educated as men. I did not believe it. Excuse me, Aristotle, I thought we were friends. I remember looking around the classroom, and noticing that I was one of very few girls. Ultimately it was a good thing, because it reinforced the fact that putting anyone or any idea on a pedestal is not a productive practice, and that one should always be critical. Already, I have found this to be true with regard to the feminist movement. Putting it on a pedestal doesn’t allow an individual proper space to realize what internal problems exist there; if she doesn’t realize the problems, there is no way to correct them and eventually create a more effective movement. Jordan’s comment in class regarding the historically imperialistic background of ecofeminism definitely struck me as important. Along the same lines, I was surprised to learn that “many native people sense that feminists struggle to make a better life for themselves at the expense of Native people” (Warren, 25). Andy Smith’s entire article, Ecofeminsim through an Anticolonial Framework, was very enlightening. It just seems obviously contradictory to the movement’s philosophy on a few levels, the most basic one concerning the fact that women are obviously a part of the Native American population.

In that philosophy class, the greatest surprise for me was that a philosopher who appeared so rational and intelligent could hold such a view of women. These surprises are everywhere. It doesn’t mean that we should consider everything that Aristotle has provided us with as worthless, just as the feminist movement should not be disregarded completely by the Native Americans or those who are aware of this flaw in the movement. We should take what is considered to be the standard and test it against our critical minds; what is created as a result, will be progress.

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