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For Immediate Release: May 21st, 2005
Contact:  Susan Roll, Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition
617-376-6222
sroll@mbcc.org


AVON CORPORATION VOTES DOWN RESOLUTION TO IMPROVE PRODUCT SAFETY

Company Feels Growing Concern by Consumers about Toxic Chemicals in Cosmetics

BOSTON--At Avon Corporation’s annual meeting in New York on May 5, shareholders asked the company to reformulate cosmetics products sold in the United States and other world markets to meet tougher European standards.

Other major cosmetics companies, including Estee Lauder and L’Oreal, have already agreed to this step. However, Avon shareholders voted 95 percent to 5 percent against the resolution.   The resolution, filed by Domini Social Investments, requested that the company reformulate, “in a reasonable time frame, all its products worldwide to be free of chemicals banned by the European Directive.” 

The resolution outlined concern by consumer groups that while cosmetics companies are required to meet European standards that ban approximately 1,200 ingredients from cosmetics sold in 25 European countries, products sold in markets outside of Europe continue  to contain many of these potentially harmful chemicals. The change in European formulations is being driven by the European Union Directive 2003/15/EC, which bans the sale of cosmetics containing ingredients that are known or suspected of causing cancer, genetic mutations or birth defects.

Two coalitions of women’s health organizations supported the resolution and, as shareholders, questioned the Company during the meeting on its lack of response to the European cosmetics directive.  Member groups from the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and the Follow the Money Alliance have attempted to establish a dialog with Avon executives for several years but Avon has yet to respond to these requests.

“We want Avon to live up to their self promotion as ‘the company for women’ and become as serious about women’s health as they are about their bottom line,” said Deborah Forter of the Massachusetts Breast Cancer Coalition, a member of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics. “Despite their stated concern about women’s health, their hypocrisy about product safety is disappointing.”

Forter said that five percent of Avon shareholders won a victory by garnering enough votes to see the resolution introduced again next year. 

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The Campaign for Safe Cosmeticsis a coalition of public health, educational, religious, labor, women’s, environmental and consumer groups. The goal of the Campaign is to protect the health of consumers and workers by requiring the health and beauty industry to phase out the use of chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other health problems and replace them with safer alternatives.

Follow the Money: An Alliance for Accountability in Breast Cancer advocates
for transparency and accountability in the raising and distribution of breast cancer funds.    

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EWG is a not-for-profit group that uses the power of information to protect human health and the environment by researching pollution in food, water, air and people.

Founding members of the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics include the Breast Cancer Fund, Friends of the Earth, Women's Voices for the Earth, Environmental Working Group, National Environmental Trust, National Black Environmental Justice Network, Health Care Without Harm and Commonweal.