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Activists call for safer cosmetics during Portsmouth visit

by MICHAEL GOOT, Portsmouth Bureau ChiefFoster's Daily Democrat
June 24th, 2005

PORTSMOUTH, N.H.Activists have spent the week lobbying for cosmetics to be made without harmful chemicals linked to cancer and other diseases.

It was the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics' first week, and its supporters visited Solari Salon in Portsmouth to discuss efforts to urge cosmetic companies to phase out chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects, reproductive disorders and other ailments.

The campaign asks major cosmetic manufacturers, including L'Oreal, Estee Lauder and Procter & Gamble, to stop opposing safe cosmetics legislation and pledge to make safer products. Advocates say loopholes let the cosmetics industry use chemicals in personal care products without testing them for safety or monitoring their health effects.

The group delivered a letter of concern to the Portsmouth salon, which did not return a message left for comment. The salon uses Aveda products, whose parent company is Estee Lauder.

Among the chemicals the campaign targets are phthalates, hormone-disrupting chemicals that can be found lotions, perfume, hair care and nail polish. A recent Food and Drug Administration study showed as many as two thirds of products tested contain phthalates. Recent studies have linked phthalate levels in pregnant women to birth defects in male offspring.

The corporate Web site for The Estee Lauder Companies Inc. includes several sections focused on product safety, including statements on phthalates. The company wrote that its brands "are in full compliance" worldwide with European Union regulations banning two phthalates from its cosmetic products, including one often used in nail polishes.

"Recent statements that cosmetics contain ingredients that may be harmful to your health are both inaccurate and misleading," the company wrote. "All of our products are developed and continuously reviewed against the latest technological, scientific and ingredient safety standards around the world. They meet or exceed stringent global regulatory requirements."

But Activist Tove Stigum said Estee Lauder is fighting legislation that would provide safer cosmetics.

"I have three young children. I want to make sure the products I'm using on them aren't in any way contributing to illnesses in the future," she said. "Knowing what we know, it seems careless to be not taking all the information into consideration when people put products on their bodies."

Cindy Luppi, organizing director for Clean Water Action one of the coalition of environmental groups participating said the safety campaign is part of the organization's larger concern about human health.

"We are concerned about preventing harm to our health from toxic pollutants, whether they're in drinking water or in common household goods that we use every day," she said.

Activists are urging companies to sign an agreement called the Compact for Safe Cosmetics, which Luppi said more than 140 firms have signed. Regional franchises that have signed include The Body Shop and Burt's Bee Cosmetics.