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Is that mascara safe? Go online

by David GoldsteinKansas City Star
October 19th, 2005

Want to know what's in your face cream?

You can look it up in a new online database, along with more than 14,000 other cosmetics and personal care products, to find out whether the ingredients could be hazardous to your health.

The database is an expanded version of a project begun more than a year ago by the Environmental Working Group, a nonprofit, nonpartisan health research group. The updated version contains nearly double the number of searchable products.

"It's not comprehensive, but it's pretty exhaustive," said Anne Singer, a spokeswoman for the group. "It's the biggest, closest thing out there."

The database can be found at www.ewg.org/reports/skindeep.

By typing in a product and brand name, you can learn its safety score on a scale of one to five, with five the highest concern. Links will lead you to a list of its ingredients and which ones raise health concerns and have been issued warnings or restrictions.

Singer said the environmental group used nearly 40 databases operated by the government, industry, research institutions and others to check the toxicity of the ingredients.

"We try and give as much information as we can, but not be alarmist," she said.

Irene Malbin, a spokeswoman for the Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association, said the database was "filled with erroneous information and false conclusions intended to mislead consumers. Cosmetics continue to be one of the safest categories of products used by Americans each day."

The Food and Drug Association does not scrutinize the cosmetic business the way it conducts oversight of the food and drug industry. The industry does its own safety evaluations through an independent panel.