Home > health, motherhood, my bod > Another bloody thing to worry about

Another bloody thing to worry about

There was a story some days ago on NPR. It was about a group that is campaigning for safer cosmetics. I rolled my eyes when I heard the intro — I don’t wear make up and I’ll admit to being a little snobby about that fact. I’ll admit, sheepishly, to thinking something like, “Well, of course plastering fake color on your face isn’t good for you. Duh!” (I wish I could find the link…. Anyone?)

Then I listened to the story. Turns out they mean “anything you put on your body” when they say cosmetics. Including things you put on your kids’ bodies. And turns out they have some very legit gripes. Like lead in most lipsticks. And known carcinogens in hand lotion. And known fertility disruptors in deodorant.

Well, shit. Then they started talking about the stuff we put on our kids.

There’s a database. I went and looked up some of the things we use. Now, I’m pretty crunchy and have a very spare “beauty regimine.” The Child is similarly spared much of the crap that we load onto kids. (Plus, she still hates showers and baths so she doesn’t get frequent doses.) But there was some scary stuff in that db. A&D Diaper Rash Ointment, which I use on The Child every time I change a diaper, got a 4 out of 10 for risk factors. We’re switching to Bag Balm (0 out of 10).

Dove Beauty Bar, which we wash her with, got a 5.  I don’t remember what our Aveeno lotion got, but it was uncomfortably high.

What pisses me off is that, according to the story at least, Europe has much stricter standards for costmetics and most of these companies have safe (or rather, safer) version that they sell overseas. It’s just that it’s cheaper to sell the unsafe stuff so we Americans with our Reagan-omics government and impotent FDA get poisoned.

I know that republicans are big on “personal responsibility” but it seems to me that I, as one human being, can only do so much. I can try to be the most educated, up-to-date consumer, to buy organic food, to avoid lead paint, to use only the safest products, but we live in a world where the companies obfuscate, cheat, obscure, and  outright lie. And the government protects them.

And there’s nothing I can do to prevent big companies from dumping toxins into our air, water, and earth.

Often, a variety of people tell me I jsut need to lighten up. I hate people who say that. Seriously, I want to hit them in the face with a frying pan, repeatedly. They say, “A little (fill-in-the-blank) won’t hurt her.” Well, even assuming that they are right — and I don’t assume that! — a lot will. And a lot of little bits, accumulated over a lifetime, will hurt her. We know so little about how everything is interconnected, but we’re discovering more and more each damned day and I’m trying so hard to make sure that she doesn’t get poisoned.

There are so many other things I should be worried about, so many totally unpreventable things I should dedicate my energy to. But instead I have to spend my time searching databases for the safest soap to wash my kid because the fucking government is too toothless to say “don’t put poison in soap!” to companies. And because my moronic parents and grandparents voted this toothless stupid ass government into existence.

Another thing that people say is, “Well, you survived it.” Yeah, and my generation has record rates of obesity and fertility issues. Sperm counts are on the decline and autism is on the rise. (Well, that’s debatable, but ….) Asthma is at epidemic levels. Just because we survived this long doesn’t mean we’ll continue to survive, as a species, if we keep doing this to ourselves.

There’s a book, Having Faith. I’ve put it on my mental list of “books every person in the U.S. should read,”( along with Omnivore’s Dilemma and Edge of Disaster). The author, Sandra Steingraber,  is an ecologist and she writes about how the environment interacts with her baby, in utero and during nursing. It’s one of the most amazing and, in some ways, chilling books I’ve ever read. She writes about how dioxins accumulate in breast milk, how the placenta pumps heavy metals into a fetus, how various awful things cross the placental barrier. (Do not read this if you are pregnant. Do read it if you intend to become pregnant.)

One of the things she talks about is how the individual can not avoid all the poisons that we are soaking in. It must be an action undertaken by the government. By all  governments. But, of course, the problem is so daunting, so complex, so intractable, that probably no one finished reading this long, rambling, nigh hysterical post that’s got way too many italics. And there’s no easy or simple solution.

I don’t know what to do, other than to continue to obsess and  struggle and be considered freaky, fringy, weird, and hysterical by my friends and family. But… they are poisoning my kid! I don’t know how I’m supposed to sit down and shut up about that.

Categories: health, motherhood, my bod
  1. Juliet Bravo
    November 12, 2007 at 2:53 pm

    I checked out this site, and I dislike its methodology. Apparently, the way that it scores products is as follows: it takes the list of ingredients in the product and assigns each ingredient a risk factor. Then it assigns a risk factor based on all of the ingredients together. This is _not_ scientifically sound. Chemicals do not exist in isolation, they interact with each other in different ways.

    In addition, it assigns high risk factors where it does not have information. For example, the FDA allows certain chemicals to be listed as “fragrence.” This is done to keep fragrence formulations a secret, since they are not protectable as intellectual property unless they are trade secrets. This database assigns “fragrence” a score of 8 out of 10 (a high hazard) because it doesn’t know what the chemical is.

    Now, you can argue that the FDA does not regulate products in a safe way (and I would agree) but lists like this do not help you evaluate a particular product. What they should be doing is trying to change the system itself so that we have real information and assurance that the products we use will be safe.

  2. jamanda
    November 12, 2007 at 7:49 pm

    If I hadn’t just read the press release about the all the fucking lead in the lipstick, I might be as scientifically calm as you. But between that and all the recalls (the GHB-like-stuff in the beads in Australia, for instance), I don’t really have a problem with assigning a high risk factor to ‘unknown’ compounds. Certainly there’s some historical reasons to do so.

    You do have a point though. It’s not the most scientifically rigorous site. But it’s offering more information that I can get anywhere else (without a biochemistry degree, anyway). And as such, I’m going to assume the worst and work to limit my family’s exposure.

  3. November 13, 2007 at 8:46 pm

    It is scary and chilling to realize what the government allows in our cosmetics and personal care products (not to mention in our food supply). Even choosing organic beauty products wont help you. I have been trying to switch most of my personal care products for myself and my daughter to anything we can find in the kitchen. If that doesn’t work I want to move to a tropical island.

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