Archive for November, 2010

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. 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.


Get Your Dynamite off My Mountain

Breanna Marr, published on November 24, 2010:

Celene Krauss’ article “Blue-Collar Women and Toxic-Waste Protests: The Process of Politicization,” which appears in Richard Hofrichter’s Toxic Struggles: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Justice explores the overwhelming input by diverse groups of women (particularly, as the title suggests, working-class groups) in the grass roots anti-toxics movement. She addresses the challenges facing these women, particularly the hand of men blocking them from the public sphere, effectively locking them in the private. This largely excludes them from the policy making process. This article shook me; it would be hard for a chapter from a book to hit closer to home. These women “fight to close down toxic-waste dump sites, prevent the siting of hazardous-waste incinerators, influence chemical companies’ production processes and waste disposal, and push for recycling projects” (Krauss, 108). In my backyard, however, women grass roots activists fight mountaintop removal.


A scream in silence (Merchant, 2010).

Mountaintop removal is the process by which coal companies reduce mountains to rubble in order to mine strips of coal as thin as six inches in width. It is the “dismemberment of our natural environment” (Williams, 24). Fueled by greed and America’s addiction to fossil fuels, these companies brutalize the Appalachian Mountains. Armed with guns, explosives, excavators the size of a 20-story building, and enough money to buy the consciences of state politicians and the future of West Virginia, coal companies like Massey Energy decimate entire mountain chains. They replace beauty and biodiversity with desolate moonscapes and crabgrass. Over 1,200 miles of streams in the state have been destroyed by valley-fill, and hundreds of thousands of acres have been clear-cut, blown up, and mashed together in a sick joke that the coal companies call “reclamation.” Mountaintop removal is the violent, irreverent act of raping the land and stripping hope and health from West Virginia.

One of the loudest voices in West Virginia against mountaintop removal belongs to a woman. Are you surprised? Judy Bonds belongs on the list of environmentalist heroes right beside Lois Gibbs. A coal miner’s daughter and proud hillbilly, Bonds is the director of Coal River Mountain Watch (CRMW) and a recipient of the Goldman Environmental Prize. I had the privilege of meeting this incredible woman while traveling through West Virginia during the 2009 Luce Watershed Semester (check out the blog!). Her commitment to activism began when her grandson picked up a handful of dead fish out of a stream and asked her what was wrong with them. The overwhelming desolation and pollution caused by mountaintop removal became too much for her to accept. If her elected representatives were not going to protect her and her state from pollution, flying boulders, increased flooding, loss of heritage, and explosions orders of magnitude more powerful than the Oklahoma City bombing, then she would.

Judy Bonds outside CRMW (American Public Media 2009).

Today, she and her organization operate out of a shop front in Whitesville, WV.  CRMW began in 1998 with only a small group of volunteers determined to fight for social, economic, and environmental justice for West Virginians. Like the activists Krauss describes in her article, they “recognize[d] the failure of the system as a whole to act on their behalf and their own disenfranchisement from the policy-making process” (108). Now, CRMW is a powerful force against mountaintop removal. It hosts rallies, protests, educational programs, and petitions. It is Bonds’ goal to push state and local officials to finally act in the best interest of West Virginians and stop mountaintop removal. Despite the more than one hundred acts of violence that she has faced at the hands of coal supporters, her fierce determination cannot be shaken. While the end of the madness is nowhere in sight, Bonds and CRMW have won numerous important concessions from the State Mining Board and pursued cases in the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. She has brought attention to the safety and rights of Appalachians, a group of people often forgotten and neglected by the rest of the United States. She’s fighting for their lives.

American Public Media. 2009. “Is There Energy to Slow Climate Change?” Site accessed: 24 November 2010.

Krauss, Celene. “Blue-Collar Women and Toxic-Waste Protests: The Process of Politicization.” Toxic Struggles: The Theory and Practice of Environmental Justice. Richard Hofrichter. Ed.

Merchant, Bryan. 2010. “Fate of Biggest US Mountaintop Removal Mining Project to be Decided This Year.” Treehugger. Site accessed: 24 Nov. 2010.

Williams, Delores, S. “Sin, Nature, and Black Women’s Bodies.”

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explanation of ecofem…discuss

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a day in the life

At first glance at the toxicity report project, I found myself rolling my eyes and being pissed off. I didn’t want  to take the time to record all of the products I use daily and honestly I thought the project was silly. Once the first day of  journaling was over I stared at the amount of times I used soap. It was a tuesday so I was working at the restaurant. Every time I touched my hair, blew my nose, spilled the remains of a salad into the trash and dressing engulfed my fingers I had to wash my hands. What’s funny is I can’t even figure out the name of the soap. It is just that pink restaurant gooo that is used from everything to handwashing to dish soaking to floor cleaning. I thought about how much “stuff” must be getting killed on my hands it completely freaked me out and made be stick to the project and realize how important it is to know what you are using, when, why and for what. This project has encouraged me to continue the practice of not showering everyday ( even though my roommates make fun of me for being the ragamuffin roomie). It has made me really decide what is necessary to use and seek out healthier products to fill my needs. Hopefully I will be able to wean myself off of by canerous face scrub and hot pink nail polish of death.

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All that soy

Lotions, creams, mascara, lip balm, eye shadow, eyeliners, deodorant, and serums are lined up neatly on my book shelf. How many of these products have I used over the years? I  realize that I pay much more attention to what I ingest than to what I apply to my skin. After keeping this short product consumption diary, I am entirely surprised at how few of my products are just the cheapest or brand name products from the supermarket shelf. I doubt that many other girls my age use Weleda or Dr. Hauschka cosmetics because they are more expensive, foreign, and found only in health food stores. However, my mouthwash, toothpaste, hand soap, make-up, and body wash are just the same as everyone else’. I usually pay attention to the quality of the products that I leave on my skin such as lotion but I rarely think about those products that I rinse off. The idea of toxic chemicals in hand soaps etc. almost seems normal because soaps are meant to disinfect and cut through oils. I realize that I do not use a large array of products but that I use each of them very frequently. Do I really need to wash my hands ten times a day or wash my hair every single day? For the past seven years, I have showered almost daily and so my hair has become accustomed to this constant care. Not only have I used an insane amount of drinking water and polluted the drainage water, but I have probably also absorbed many toxins. My hair would perhaps dry out less in the winter months if I showered every two days and so I could resist using anti-frizz serums. When I run out of toothpaste and deodorant next week, will I  choose a brand name product that I am familiar with or think about my personal health and that of the planet?

 Time              Day                     Product type  Product Name              Brand      

6:05 Tuesday Hygiene Hand sanitizer Purell
8:30 Tuesday Health Chap stick Burts Bees Honey
11:30 Tuesday Hygiene toothpaste Colgate: sensitive whitening
11:32 Tuesday Hygiene Mouthwash Listerine
11:34 Tuesday Hygiene Face wash Aveeno Clear complexion
11:35 Tuesday Hygiene Hand soap Softsoap crisp cucumber melon
7:35 Wednesday Hygiene toothpaste Colgate: sensitive whitening
7:37 Wednesday Hygiene contact solution Sauflon one Step Hydrogen Peroxide
7:37 Wednesday Hygiene Face wash Dr. Hauschka face cleanser
7:40 Wednesday Hygiene Shampoo Envia ultra hydrating
7:41 Wednesday Hygiene Body wash Dove Grapefruit and lemon grass
8:00 Wednesday Hygiene Deodorant Kiel’s anti-persperant cream
8:02 Wednesday Health Face lotion Weleda Wild Rose
8:05 Wednesday Beauty eyeliner L’oreal Infallible 16 hrs
8:06 Wednesday Beauty liquid eyeliner Revlon color stay
8:06 Wednesday Beauty mascara Clinique
9:00 Wednesday Hygiene Hand soap foaming Dickinson soap
11:45 Wednesday Hygiene Hand soap foaming Dickinson soap
2:15 Wednesday Hygiene Hand soap foaming Dickinson soap
2:16 Wednesday Health Chap stick Burts Bees Honey
4:30 Wednesday Hygiene Dish soap Clorox green works natural tangerine
4:35 Wednesday Hygiene Hand soap Softsoap crisp cucumber melon
6:00 Wednesday Hygiene Hand soap foaming Dickinson soap
7:20 Wednesday Health Chap stick Burts Bees Honey
10:00 Wednesday Health Chap stick Burts Bees Honey
11:50 Wednesday Hygiene toothpaste Colgate: sensitive whitening
11:52 Wednesday Hygiene Face wash Dr. Hauschka face cleanser
11:53 Wednesday Hygiene Hand soap Softsoap crisp cucumber melon
8:01 Thursday Hygiene toothpaste Colgate: sensitive whitening
8:02 Thursday Hygiene Face wash Dr. Hauschka face cleanser
8:05 Thursday Hygiene Hand soap Softsoap crisp cucumber melon
8:06 Thursday Hygiene Shampoo Envia ultra hydrating
8:08 Thursday Hygiene Body wash Weleda Wild Rose
8:15 Thursday Hygiene contact solution Sauflon one Step Hydrogen Peroxide
8:20 Thursday Beauty eyeliner L’Oreal Infallible 16 hrs
8:20 Thursday Beauty liquid eyeliner Revlon color stay
8:21 Thursday Beauty mascara Clinique
8:23 Thursday Hygiene Deodorant Kiel’s anti-persperant cream
8:24 Thursday Beauty lipstick Clinique
8:25 Thursday Beauty Eye shadow Clinique
8:27 Thursday Hygiene hand lotion Weleda Wild Rose
10:00 Thursday Hygiene hand soap foaming Dickinson soap
12:20 Thursday Hygiene hand soap foaming Dickinson soap
12:30 Thursday Health Chap stick Burt’s Bees Honey
3:45 Thursday Hygiene hand soap foaming Dickinson soap
5:15 Thursday Hygiene Hand sanitizer Purell
9:30 Thursday Health Chap stick Burt’s Bees Honey
10:30 Thursday Hygiene body lotion Uriel: Aurum lavender rose cream
11:30 Thursday Hygiene toothpaste Colgate: sensitive whitening
11:32 Thursday Hygiene face wash Dr. Hauschka face cleanser
11:35 Thursday Hygiene hand soap Softsoap crisp cucumber melon
8:00 Friday Hygiene toothpaste Colgate: sensitive whitening
8:02 Friday Hygiene face wash Dr. Hauschka face cleanser
8:10 Friday Hygiene Shampoo Envia ultra hydrating
8:12 Friday Hygiene Body wash Dove Grapefruit and lemon grass
8:14 Friday Hygiene contact solution Sauflon one Step Hydrogen Peroxide
8:15 Friday Beauty Anti-frizz serum Garner Fructis
8:16 Friday Hygiene hand soap Softsoap crisp cucumber melon
8:20 Friday Hygiene Deodorant Kiel’s anti-persperant cream
8:21 Friday Beauty eyeliner L’Oreal Infallible 16 hrs
8:21 Friday Beauty liquid eyeliner Revlon color stay
8:22 Friday Beauty mascara Clinique
8:25 Friday Health Chap stick Burt’s Bees Honey
8:26 Friday Hygiene hand soap Softsoap crisp cucumber melon
10:30 Friday Hygiene hand soap foaming Dickinson soap

Aveeno has successfully marketed itself as a wellness company that uses only natural ingredients such as oats, chamomile, soy, lavendar, and ylang ylang in its
 long line of skin and hair products. Pictures of oat fields decorate their homepage and make me feel good about my choice. That is until I unveil the truth about the ingredients in my Clear Complexion Foaming Cleanser. I have been using this product on my face for past for three years. In the winter, I have to use moisturizing lotion on my face because the product dries my skin out. I rarely try other products because I simply assume that that’s the way all skin products work. It smells good and I like to think that I’m scrubbing all the dirt off with this naturally-based cleanser.
But no. I took a look at the relatively short list of ingredients: butylene glycol, citric acid, cocamidopropyl betaine, disodium EDTA, disodium lauroaphodiacetate, fragrance, glycerin, glycine soja (soybean) protein, PEG-16 soy sterol, PEG-6 caprylic/capric glycerides, polysorbate 20, sodium benzoate, sodium C14-C16 olefin sulfonate, sorbitol, water, xanthan gum. And the active ingredient is: salicylic adid (0.5%)- an acne medication that I don’t even need.
These long words mean nothing to me- but Aveeno took the time to translate glycine soja for me. Now I know that it’s natural– it has soy in it!. I searched on and was flabbergasted. My face wash has a toxicity level of 8 out of 10. Fortunately the first box of hazardous effects is not checked off: it is not carcinogenic. But every following box is marked; it may unleash developmental/reproductive problems, allergies/immunotoxicity, it should be cautiously used with other products in addition to other concerns. I decided to focus on the main ingredient: salicylic acid and fragrants, two ingredients that I do not need. I do not have acne and I’m sure that if the ingredients are natural, it should smell just fine Depending on my further findings, I may switch to another store brand or make my own face wash. Aveeno’s ultra-calming non-acne treatment face cleanser “only” has a toxic level of 4.

Fragrance is the first on the list of hazardous ingredients and has an 8 for its health concern with a 100% data gap. The website describes fragrance as causing “neurotoxicity, allergies/immunotoxicity, miscellaneous” (cosmetics). According to the Cancer Prevention Coalition, even though many accept frangrance as a toxic substance, its enjoyment outweighs the disadvantages. Some say that perfumes should be regulated like cigarettes.
Salicylic acid, the active ingredient in the face wash, received a 7/10 for its level of concern with a 68% data gap. The concerns are numerous: “neurotoxicity, persistence and bioaccumulations, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), multiple, additive exposure sources, enhanced skin absorption, use restrictions” (cosmetics). Apparently it is bioaccumulative in wildlife. This ingredient is banned from cosmetics in Japan and has restrictions placed on its use in Canada.
Aveeno is a Johnson and Johnson company located in Skillman, NJ. According the Aveeno’s website, “All AVEENO® High-Density PolyEthylene (HDPE) bottles and paper packaging are recyclable, and, where possible, we use a percentage of Post-Consumer Recycled Material (or PCR) when creating our products and in-store materials. When you purchase and recycle our products, you complete the circle. Together we can lessen the impact packaging has on our planet”. It praises itself with sustainability initiatives as a daughter of Johnson and Johnson, a company that has invested significantly in it green image and has one of the largest corporate solar surfaces in the nation. However, little information is posted on where the product was produced and who produced it. The ingredients, I assume, are from all over the country, which uses a massive amount of resources. Aveeno products can be found in every CVS and supermarket in the country. Do I want to support this?
I am sure that I do not need any of the ingredients in this foaming face cleanser to keep my skin clean. I wonder whether this face cleanser is reacting on my skin with the many other products that line my shelf. I tried to use milk and salt as a face wash this past Thanksgiving break. I realize that it comes down to comfort; making my own face wash every morning is a hassle and takes time. I could just pump my bottle of Aveeno twice and be set or I could consider my health and that of the planet and take a few more seconds to clean my face.


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Let’s Not Stick Cancer in Our Mouths

Who is this for, anyway (Dyhouse, 2010).

Breanna Marr, Published 23 November, 2010:

I can’t say that I’m surprised by the products on the list below, which catalogs my use of body works items from 5:00 PM on Wednesday to the following Friday at noon . I’ve fallen into a familiar body care routine while at Dickinson. I repeat the same ritualized processes day in and day out with little variation. When I get ready for a normal day, I do X, Y, and Z. When I need to spiff up a bit, I do X, Y, Z, Q, R, and L. But that’s the kicker, isn’t it? Do I really need Maybelline New York Define-A-Lash Mascara and L’Oreal Infallible Eyeliner to feel beautiful? To look sexy? And why do I need to look sexy, anyway? And just who do I need to look sexy for? On Thursday evening when I put on the bulk of my make-up, it was to give a panel discussion on Mountaintop removal. Why would it matter at that function if my eyelashes were extra full looking or not? If my lips were just that perfect shade of pink? I tell myself that I wear make up for me. I LIKE the way my eyes look when I’ve gone through my glamour repertoire. But are there subconscious impulses far less benign than my personal satisfaction driving me to line my eyes? Regardless, none of the products on the list are truly necessary, although a world without dental floss sounds like the antechamber to my own personal hell (I’m sort of fanatical about my oral hygiene). I initially thought that only the beauty products were unnecessary, but it occurred to me that toothpaste wasn’t growing in the Garden of Eden.  We use it not because we – human beings – would die without it but because society tells us that it’s good for us, that those of us who don’t use it are unclean. I’m not advocating that everyone stop brushing their teeth. Really, readers, please keep up the good brushing work. But people should know what they CAN and CANNOT live without.

Time Day Product Type Product Name Brand/Product Title
10:48 PM Tuesday Hygeine Dental Floss Crest Glide Whitening Plus Scope
10:49 PM Tuesday Hygeine Tooth Paste Crest Whitening Plus Scope Minty Fresh Striped
10:57 PM Tuesday Health Facial Moistruizer Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin
10:58 AM Tuesday Health Chapstick ChapStick Cherry Classic
9:30 AM Wednesday Hygeine Dental Floss Crest Glide Whitening Plus Scope
9:32 AM Wednesday Hygeine Tooth Paste Crest Whitening Plus Scope Minty Fresh Striped
11:12 AM Wednesday Health Chapstick ChapStick Cherry Classic
11:12 Wednesday Beauty Lipstick L’Oreal Colour Riche 560 Sausy Mauve Lipstick
11:13 AM Wednesday Beauty Eyeliner L’Oreal 16-Hour Infallible black/brown eyeliner
11:13 AM Wednesday Hygeine Deoderant Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Deoderant Invisible Solid
10:15 PM Wednesday Hygeine Dental Floss Crest Glide Whitening Plus Scope
10:16 PM Wednesday Hygeine Tooth Paste Crest Whitening Plus Scope Minty Fresh Striped
10:25 PM Wednesday Health Facial Moistruizer Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin
10:26 PM Wednesday Health Chapstick ChapStick Cherry Classic
9:30 AM Thursday Hygeine Dental Floss Crest Glide Whitening Plus Scope
9:32 AM Thursday Hygeine Tooth Paste Crest Whitening Plus Scope Minty Fresh Striped
9:45 Thursday Hygeine Shampoo Quantum Cleansing Shampoo
9:47 AM Thursday Hygeine Conditioner Quantum Moisturizing Conditioner
9:48 Thursday Beauty Facial Scrub St. Ives Fresh Skin Invigorating Abricot Scrub
9:55 AM Thursday Beauty Stay-in Conditioner Prive Formule aux Herbes Thermal Protection Detangling Spray
10:00 AM Thursday Health Facial Moistruizer Neutrogena Oil-Free Moisturizer for Sensitive Skin
10:01 AM Thursday Health Chapstick ChapStick Cherry Classic
10:30 AM Thursday Hygeine Deoderant Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Deoderant Invisible Solid
4:40 PM Thursday Hygeine Dental Floss Crest Glide Whitening Plus Scope
4:42 PM Thursday Hygeine Tooth Paste Crest Whitening Plus Scope Minty Fresh Striped
5:00 PM Thursday Health Chapstick ChapStick Cherry Classic
5:00 Thursday Beauty Lipstick L’Oreal Colour Riche 560 Sausy Mauve Lipstick
5:01 PM Thursday Beauty Coverup Neutrogena Healty Skin Pressed Powder Exclusive Antioxidant Blend 10 Fair
5:03 PM Thursday Beauty Blush Cover Girl Classic Colour Blush 590 Soft Mink
5:04 PM Thursday Beauty Eyeshadow L’Oreal Wear Infinite Eye Shadow 901 Frosted Icing
5:06 PM Thursday Beauty Eyeliner L’Oreal 16-Hour Infallible black/brown eyeliner
5:07 PM Thursday Beauty Mascara Maybelline New York Define-A-Lash Mascara Brownish Black
2:45 AM Friday Hygeine Dental Floss Crest Glide Whitening Plus Scope
2:47 AM Friday Hygeine Tooth Paste Crest Whitening Plus Scope Minty Fresh Striped
2:50 AM Friday Health Chapstick ChapStick Cherry Classic
10:30 AM Friday Hygeine Dental Floss Crest Glide Whitening Plus Scope
10:31 AM Friday Hygeine Tooth Paste Crest Whitening Plus Scope Minty Fresh Striped
10:35 AM Friday Health Chapstick ChapStick Cherry Classic
10:35 AM Friday Beauty Lipstick L’Oreal Colour Riche 560 Sausy Mauve Lipstick
10:36 AM Friday Hygeine Deoderant Dove Sensitive Skin Unscented Deoderant Invisible Solid

Yummy (elcivics).

If my circumstances were different, my list might not resemble the one I’ve compiled at all. If I came from a less well-off background, I doubt I’d be washing my hair with fancy salon-grade (whatever that means) Quantum shampoo and conditioner. I’d be using less expensive products from Wal-Mart, and I’d probably be using less generous amounts. I might not be able to afford any beauty products, period. In some countries, I might not be culturally conditioned to buy various hygienic “necessities.” If I lived in Ethiopia, for example, I might chew Zana, a stick with natural antimicrobial properties to clean my teeth rather than use Crest toothpaste.

And toothpaste brings me to another scary point… When I typed the name of my toothpaste into my list, I realized that it’s not just Crest with Scope. It’s Crest with Scope and “Whitening.” Whitening? WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? What is the whitening agent supposed to be? What will that do to me? If it bleaches teeth, then what else is it doing to my body? And then I remembered the warning on the back of box not to swallow any of the product. It even lists the phone number for poison control. Why am I putting something in my MOUTH that is POISONOUS?

To get to the bottom of this rather disturbing quandary, I did some snooping around on the internet. Just what, I wondered, is the REAL scoop behind the crisp, clean tube of CREST WHITENING PLUS SCOPE TOOTHPASTE MINTY FRESH STRIPED? The Cosmetics Database has tons of useful information on my toothpaste. As it turns out, this Procter & Gamble product is just as toxic as I feared. Rated a 5 out of 10 on the Cosmetics Database’s hazard scale, ingredients in the product have been linked to an extensive laundry list life-threatening potential consequences:  cancer, developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, bioaccumulation and persistence in the environment, organ system toxicity, irritation, occupational hazards, and biochemical or cellular changes (2010). Yes, you read that properly. Why don’t we all just brush our teeth like hygienic little Americans UNTIL OUR CELLS START MUTATING?

The list of ingredients of this particular toothpaste are as follows:

“Active Ingredients: Sodium Fluoride 0.243% ; Inactive Ingredients: Sorbitol; Water; Hydrated Silica; Tetrasodium Pyrophosphate; Flavor; Sodium Lauryl Sulfate; Disodium Pyrophosphate; Alcohol (0.7%); Xanthan Gum; Sodium Saccharin; Glycerin; Carbomer 956; Poloxamer 407; Polysorbate 80; Sodium Benzoate; Cetylpyridinium Chloride; Benzoic Acid; Titanium Dioxide; Blue 1; Yellow 5” (Cosmetics Database, 2010).

According to the Cosmetics Database, the ingredients that have been linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity are sodium saccharine, sodium lauryl sulfate, sodium benzoate, FD&C Yellow 5, polysorbate-80, glycerin, alcohol denatured, and sodium fluoride (2010). The ingredients linked to cancer are titanium dioxide (WHY IS THERE TITANIUM IN MY TOOTHPASTE?), sodium lauryl sulfate, sorbitol, sodium benzoate, polysorbate-80, glycerin, FD&C Yellow 5, alcohol denatured, hydrated silica, benzoic acid, FD&C Blue 1, sodium saccharine, and sodium fluoride (Cosmetics Database, 2010). That’s the bad news. The worse news is that there has been virtually NO research on the synergistic effects of these chemicals. Just what kind of havoc do they wreak on the human body when they combine with each other? Considering that I brush my teeth two to three times a day and for three minutes each brushing session, I’d say that I’m at a high rate of exposure.


Sodium Fluoride (Wikipedia, 2010).

Sodium fluoride seems to be the worst chemical by far. A 9 out of 10 on the Cosmetics Database’s hazard scale, it has been linked to all the negative health outcomes associated with this product. And do you know what’s funny? It’s completely unnecessary. If I switched brands to Tom’s of Maine Natural Antiplaque Plus Whitening Gel Toothpaste, Spearmint, I could swap my level 5 hazard toothpaste for a level 1 (Cosmetics Database, 2010). Sodium fluoride free, this toothpaste contains no suspected carcinogens or developmental toxins. And best of all, it’s apparently available at my local grocery store.

Information on the production of Crest Toothpaste was a bit less forthcoming. When I googled for the answer, a website informed me that Alaskan Snow Elves make the toothpaste with fairy dust. No joke.  I corresponded via e-mail with a man who worked with Procter & Gamble for several years about what he or any of his contacts knew about the making of Crest. All he could find is that certain key-ingredients are pre-processed in British Columbia and Brazil. One of the later stages of processing happens in Greensboro, NC, he told me. That was the extent of what he managed uncover.

I took what I knew to the EPA’s Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) program, and I managed to unearth some interesting details about the two Procter & Gamble plants in Greensboro. The plants release and/or store zinc compounds, nitrate compounds, nitric acid, phenol, and benzene. Benzene is a known carcinogen (EPA, Releases: Facilities Report, 2010). In 2009, one of the plants reported releasing 380 pounds of benzene into the air via fugitive emissions. They released unspecified amounts into streams, underground injection wells, various landfills, surface impoundments, and land treatments (EPA, Form R Reports, 2010). The plant released 28 more pounds of benzene than in 2008 (EPA, Form R Reports, 2010). In other words, the makers of Crest are pumping hundreds of pounds of carcinogens into the air, land, and water of Greensboro, NC, and they’re getting worse. Unfortunately, the TRI database cannot be used to find information on the facilities in Brazil or Canada, as the database only covers facilities inside the United States.

Even after all this extensive googling, chasing of long-time employees, and navigating of government websites, I still have unanswered questions. Just what are the workers being exposed to in Brazil? In Canada? Are the workers in Canada, Brazil, and North Carolina suffering ill-health caused by the chemicals used to give me minty fresh breath? Who is impacted by the packaging and shipping of Crest toothpaste? While I still have tons of unanswered questions, I know one thing for certain. Exposing workers and myself to neurotoxic, carcinogenic material is NOT the best way to clean my teeth. While it’s true that the government needs to take a more active role in actually keeping these products from hitting the market in the first place, I need to take responsibility for my own consumption. Ignorance is hardly an acceptable excuse for letting other people be exposed to toxic chemicals so that I can roll out of bed in the morning and foam up with Crest. If the Food and Drug Administration isn’t going to keep cancer causing agents off the store shelves, then I need to keep them off of my bathroom counter and out of my mouth.

Works Cited:

Cosmetics Database. 2010. Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep. Crest. Accessed: 23 November 2010.

Cosmetics Database. 2010. Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep. Tom’s of Maine. Accessed: 25 November 2010.

Dyhouse, Carol. 2010. Feminist Review. Glamour: Women, History, Feminism. Zed Books. Accessed 25 November 2010.

Elcivics. Accessed 25 November 2010.

EPA. 2010. TRI Explorer. Form R Reports. Accessed: 24 November 2010.

EPA. 2010. TRI Explorer. Releases: Facility Report. Accessed: 24 November 2010.

Wikipedia. 2010. Sodium Fluoride.  Accessed 25 November 2010.

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Toxicity Resources

Hi! Post any resources you’ve discovered here to help others on their toxicity research. A word for the wise: Don’t get too discouraged by your findings.


The End to My Cosmetics Addiction

The End to My Cosmetics Addiction

My daily routine prevents me from really thinking about the products I use.  I’m so used to waking up and slathering my face with (probably useless) products without even thinking about what is in those products or how they are affecting my health, the environment, and others around me.  Documenting my daily consumption of products allowed me to discover just how much I use multiple times a day, when normally I wouldn’t have given it any thought.  I am disappointed to say that compared to most women my age, I consume more products.  The worst part is that most of these products probably are doing me more harm than good.  Hardly any of my cosmetics are natural; however, the products are made out to be “safe” and “necessary” by the cosmetics industry.  Until I know the purpose of the products I use and the chemicals in these products, I plan on significantly cutting my use of cosmetics, or replacing them with a more natural option.

Below are two graphs of my daily cosmetic consumption from a normal Tuesday night to Friday morning.  The first graph shows my total product usage throughout the week; the next shows my day-to-day consumption.  The category “makeup” contains 5 different makeup products.  The products are in the order that I used them in the day.

As I documented every product that I used, a of total over 20 products, used 78 times over the course of four days, I really started to reevaluate my routine.  Products seemed less and less essential to me as I started to discover just how much I consume daily.  The one product that struck me as least important and overused was my Almay Oil-Free Eye Makeup Remover.  I soon realized that I only recognized two or three out of the 13 ingredients in the makeup remover.  This, of course, prompted research on what I put on my eyes every night before bed.

This product is made up of Poloxamer 184, Butylene glycol, Benzyl alcohol, Hexylene glycol, Phenoxyethanol, Citric acid, and some natural products including aloe leaf extract, camellia sinensis (green tea) leaf extract, cucumber, and fruit extract.  The most toxic of these ingredients is poloxamer 184.  This chemical is known to be a human immune system toxicant, shows persistence in humans, is toxic to non-reproductive organ systems, shows evidence of neurotoxicity in humans, and is alleged to be an environmental toxin.  Even through short-term inhalation or dermal exposure, poloxamer 184 causes reactive responses in humans.

Poloxamer 184 is not the only toxic substance in Almay eye makeup remover.  Benzyl alcohol, although found in many natural foods and oils such as apricots, cranberries, and cocoa, is known to be a possible carcinogen, along with causing neurotoxicity, organ system toxicity, and harmful reproductive effects.  Workplace exposure is also restricted due to toxicity and problems with occupational hazards.  This chemical is approved to be in cosmetics only in concentrations up to 5%.

Hexylene glycol and phenoxyethanol also show certain toxic affects with use in cosmetics.  This includes immunotoxicity, organ system toxicity, irritation, and some occupational hazards.  Although these chemicals are less toxic, high exposures are still harmful.  Paracelsus said “The dose makes the poison.”  No matter the toxicity of a chemical, a certain dose of any substance can be toxic.

This is especially true for the occupational workers making, packaging, and producing my Almay eye makeup remover pads.  Even though the chemicals they work with everyday are approved and restricted, at such high does as there are in a factory, the occupational hazards can be extremely toxic.  Almay eye makeup remover pads are produced in a large plant in Oxford, North Carolina.  At 1.1 million square feet, the plant can support over 2,500 workers.  The operating hours are 3 shifts per day, 5 days a week.  With such long hours and numerous shifts, the workers are exposed to an unbelievable amount of toxins every day.  There are 150 packaging lines produced in this factory, meaning that not only the toxins from Almay’s eye makeup remover, but the toxins from hundreds of cosmetics are affecting the workers daily.

Obviously the factory provides numerous economic benefits to Oxford, presenting the community with 2,500 job opportunities and large-scale production and transport of cosmetic materials.  However, at what cost is this community willing to intake toxins for production?  Based on the 2000 U.S. Census, Oxford is a predominantly low-income black community.  It is possible that Oxford is a prime example of environmental injustice.  Due to the low-income and dominant race of the community, the factory acts less responsible for the workers’ rights to a healthy work space, job, and community as a whole.  Such bad working conditions and toxic environments exhibit injustice through environmental racism, classism, and loss of rights to good health.

Discovering the means of production, ingredients, and toxins associated with Almay eye makeup remover pads was enough to make me drop the product.  By simply being educated on this topic I am now better able to understand cosmetics as a whole and put that understanding in to play when choosing the cosmetic products I use.  In my opinion, education is all it takes to make change and prevent such toxic casualties.  With further restrictions from the FDA, better education, and better marketing of the harmfulness of most cosmetic products, there is potential for a social shift in how society uses cosmetic products.  Through awareness of the products I use and cosmetics poisoning me, I have started to make simple changes in my daily routine to prevent my body from becoming a toxic waste dump.


Demetrakakes, P. (2006, February). Revlon expects big things from largest HBA plant; Revlon’s main       facility, in Oxford, N.C., carries the load for 70% of the company’s massive production. Retrieved   from:

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Body Works Reflection

           I have always been aware of the products I was using, but I never realized how superficial that knowledge was until I started keeping tabs on what I used and how often in a condensed time period. Although I think the brands and specific products themselves could be improved and replaced with local, natural, healthier ones, I feel that I don’t use superfluous amounts of anything. That is something that I was generally satisfied with. I may shower everyday, but I usually only use a very small amount of shampoo/ conditioner/ body wash because most are very condensed. I also only use very little makeup and lotion. However, the quality and type of the products I was using was what bothered me the most and I am now planning on investigating local, more natural products that would be healthier for me and the environment. I do worry that I am at risk from the chemicals in these products for how long I’ve been using them. But since there is nothing to be done about that now, I can only work on making better choices for the future. Comparing to others my age, using Dickinson as a sample, I probably fall somewhere in the middle between those like the Tree Kids who are very conscious about their choices and others who may care more about their physical appearance and use a larger amount of products. But compared to the rest of the world, I probably use much more than average, given my socio-economic background. This leads me to think about who my use and disposal of these products is affecting. I started wondering where the waste and pollution from the water and trash goes after it leaves my immediate environment. The people it affects are probably those not using products such as these and that is extremely environmentally unjust. This was a very interesting experience and has caused some serious self-reflection. I have slowly been making changes to what I have been putting in and on my body and I feel like this is a good next step.

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Cosmetics – reflection

In the past several years, I have considered the chemicals that are in my shampoos and other beauty products I use on a daily basis.  I started thinking about their implications during a philosophy course I took called, Animal Rights and Welfare.  During this class, we learned about animal testing, which really disturbed me.  I did not consider myself a big user of beauty products: I do not wear a lot of make-up and I do not use hair products besides shampoo and conditioner on a regular basis.  However, this exercise of tracking my beauty products over the last few day made me realize that I really did not consider all the products I actually use daily.  For instance, I did not consider deodorant and chapstick as part of my consumption, but I use those products more than once a day!

In terms of what other women use, I am always amazed how many different kinds of products there are on the shelves at the grocery store.  There are products for all hair types, all skin types, and styling types.  There is such a plethora of choices…that it is hard to choose!  In fact, the colors and the  “NEW!” signs make me want to buy more than I would ever use, and I find that a problem because I do not necessarily have the money to spend on miscellaneous items.  In addition, these items are not necessary when you look at their simple, original functions – to keep you clean.  But do I need all the extra additives that are potentially storing in my body and causing negative consequences? I don’t think so… My awareness of these dangers should be enough stop me from using these all these dangerous products…right?

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