Do you ever get involved in a blog discussion? Does anyone ever disagree with the point being made by the blog owner? Can you be sure that the comments being posted are what was actually written by the contributor?
The answer to question 1 may be “yes”. The answer to question 2 may be “sometimes”. The answer to question 3 may not be so straightforward – you may never have even considered that there could be some form of censorship involved, but beware, you may not be seeing the full picture.
As an example, I have copied below some excerpts from a blog owned by Stacy Malkan, author of “Not Just A Pretty Face”. I have removed the original article, which was a commentary on the PCPC response to the proposed Safe Cosmetics Act, and most of the posts that are not relevant to the point I wish to make. If, however, you see THIS as censorship, please feel free to visit the actual blog by clicking on this link.
I have left many posts in here because there is some connection with my point, but I appreciate that this is a very lengthy document, although I have been very kind, because the full blog runs to over 20 pages of text! If you wish to cut out the minor posts, the more directly relevant posts are highlighted in bold for you. These are my highlights; not those in the original blog. Please note that some posts say that they are waiting moderation – they were never published.
Just in case you don’t have the stamina to follow this all the way through to the end, I will summarise the situation here:
Stacy Malkan set out the requirements she demanded for data to make cosmetics safe – studies made available to the public and a review by independent government scientists. In the first post of mine that she failed to publish, I explained that, in the EU, many independent studies had been carried out (she was willing to accept studies from major manufacturers, so this is even better), and had been reviewed by a group of independent scientists (the Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety) on behalf of the European Commission. It is not unreasonable to expect that this should be acceptable to Stacy, as this significantly exceeded her demands. I then suggested that, because the SCCS had done all she asked and produced a report that stated that methylparaben and ethylparaben are considered safe for use in cosmetics, she accept that parabens may be safely used in cosmetics. This obviously presented Stacy with a dilemma. Her demands had been more than met, but such is her embedded antipathy for “chemicals”, especially parabens, that rather than tackle the issue, she avoids posting the comments. Double standards, perhaps, or just confused?
When I challenged her comparison of the funding between the Environmental Working Group and the PCPC, again, my posts never made the page. I must have been right!
You may also note that another contributor was blocked from posting internet links – perhaps because they led to information that undermined the arguments Stacy was trying to make?
This is not the first time that I have experienced censorship from Ms. Malkan. In an earlier blog on the same site, she claimed (repeating a quote from her book) that she had taken a number of products at random from a supermarket shelf and counted 26 different parabens present. I tried to explain that there are only 5 parabens commonly used in cosmetics, with a further 4 or 5 used very rarely, so it was impossible for her to have found 26 different parabens if only a dozen or so actually exist. My explanation that it was a very different claim to find 26 occurrences of (the same few) parabens, than to find 26 different ones did not get published – because I had caught her trying to manipulate numbers to make the consumer worried unnecessarily.
I believe that, if you start a public discussion, you should have the courage to post anything that is not rude or abusive. Having said that, Stacy really did dig herself into a hole over the SCCS Opinion on parabens. I think this perfectly exemplifies the inconsistencies of the lobbyists who are totally against the use of synthetic chemicals. They neither fully understand the science, nor know what they really want because, in the instance of parabens, they don’t want it when they get it! And parabens exist in nature!
Cindy, my point was that the bill doesn’t outright ban chemicals based on lists – it sets up a process for FDA to review the best available science and make determinations about what’s safe to use in cosmetics. You will see that the section you reference is called “use of authoritative information” — yes I do happen to think it’s a good idea to use scientific information that has already been compiled by authoritative bodies as part of the decision making process.
Hmm I find it interesting that I am unable to place any more links within my last post to you giving you plenty of science, but unfortunately I am no longer allowed it seems….Odd!
Too bad since those that follow this blog will not have the actual science provided to them about what I state.
ah well C’est la vie! Cheers Stacy!
- Dene Says:
July 29th, 2010 at 12:34 am
I don’t have the time to add my usual lengthy diatribe, but shouldn’t the prime purpose of the legislation be to ensure consumer safety in a manner that is achievable without overburdening ANY business, irrespective of size, avoiding unnecessary demands and without needlessly removing ingredients that are acceptably low risk?
The differentiation between “big” companies and small ones is a false one, because the products should be acceptably safe irrespective of the size of the manufacturing company. Moreover, the much maligned “big” companies spend millions of dollars and use expert toxicologists to assess the safety of their products – far more than smaller companies are able to do. The value of their brands to these companies is so massive that they dare not take the risks that they are being accused of by the chemophobes; losing brand value by using provenly dangerous formulations is not an option for them. The whole basis of “that video” is wrong.
You cannot talk about safe chemicals, because there is no such thing as a safe chemical (natural or synthetic). I could easily design a study on any given substance that would demonstrate a hazard, given the right (wrong) route of exposure and a high enough concentration. Given the criteria used by the supporters of this bill, I can forsee the possibility of such studies being designed and carried out simply to get a competitor’s product banned.
There has to be a sensible, risk-based approach – the Precautionary Principle is so grossly misused (almost completely ignoring risk) that no legislation should ever be based on this premise.
You named the problem exactly. Sure it is possible to design a study to demonstrate hazard, likewise it is possible to design a study to demonstrate safety — it is quite easy, especially given the fact that there are no required safety assessments and no standards for these assessments, to manipulate the exposure or hazard calculations to rig the equation to show “safe levels.” I’ve heard it straight from the risk assessors that this happens all the time.
Plus, most of these studies conducted by the big companies are geared to look at short term health effects, not long term effects like cancer risk to children from repeated exposure over time to the chemicals in children’s products.
So no, I don’t think it is sensible or reasonable that we’re supposed to trust the companies to do their own science with no review. If they are spending millions on risk assessments, those studies should be publicly available and they should be reviewed by independent government scientists. The Safe Cosmetics Act will make that happen, and the fees from the large corporations will fund the FDA to do the job it is supposed to be doing. If you think such fees would be a problem for the big companies, I ask you to look at how much they are paying the Personal Care Products Council for the purpose of lobbying against regulations (and if you are so interested in people’s salaries, Lisa, you might want to check out the million-dollar salaries going to the top brass over there).
This following post was never published:
I am not quite sure how to interpret the fact that you responded to all my points, but addressed me as “Lisa” – twice! Perhaps you know something I don’t?
It amazes me how you are so good at casting a cloud of suspicion over everything and everyone that fails to agree with you. Why should companies spend millions of dollars of their money on studies and risk assessments that everyone else can then share without spending a penny? Do you give away your book for free? No! (Correct me if I am wrong on this one). I fail to see the difference in these two scenarios.
In the EU, these types of studies (the majority of which are NOT conducted by “the big companies”, but by academic researchers) ARE publicly available in reputable, peer-reviewed journals, AND are assessed by independent scientists employed by the EU Commission, so that should meet the demands you have just made. But when I tell you that those same independent scientists who meet your demands have stated that methylparaben and ethylparaben are safe for use in cosmetics at concentrations up to 0.8% in total, you will dispute their findings, I suspect. Again, please correct me if I am wrong. However, I strongly suspect that I am right and I can say, therefore, that you only want to play with YOUR ball in this game, and by the rules that you make up as you go along. You can’t have it both ways, Stacy, but you appear to believe that you can. If you reply to this post, would you mind calling me “Dene”, because I only respond to “Lisa” at the weekends?
This post also was never published:
I have just realised that I failed to address the comments about the funding of the PCPC. This is not really a valid comparison – ie the funding of the PCPC with the funding of the EWG. The PCPC exists to lobby for and promote the interests of the Personal Care Industry – there is no secret to this. Most civilized countries have industry organisations set up similarly – just like many, many other trade associations. This is how industry operates, and I see nothing wrong with that. The amount paid to the employees of the PCPC is entirely a matter for its governing body. However, the EWG purports to be a not-for-profit organisation, and it solicits donations by various means on this basis. It is listed as a 51(b), or 51(c) organisation, or similar – forgive me, I am not expert in the finer points of US company law. What I do know from reading articles that question the way EWG operate is that it is not supposed to operate as a lobbying group, but that it clearly does lobby, and extensively so, having awarded itself the sum of around $400,000 from its received donations for this purpose. How this works, I don’t pretend to understand.
However, the main point I was trying to make about the EWG and the juicy salaries enjoyed by its top people, is that there is a substantial vested interest as a result – they do not do their job purely for altruistic reasons. Now someone earlier suggested that vested interest was a tired and redundant argument, and I tend to agree with that statement, but I also believe that whilst Alex and his cohorts at EWG continue to use this weapon, it is entirely reasonable to reveal the hypocrisy involved by disclosing the true nature of their own interest. I don’t think this is unreasonable.
Dene, sorry for calling you Lisa (and Lisa sorry for confusing you with Dene). Dene, we can’t continue to go around in circles with the same arguments on this blog. I will respond to and post comments from others shortly.
- Dene Says:
July 29th, 2010 at 2:11 pm
Stacy, the posts of mine that you have just failed to publish were not circular arguments; they were new points that actually presented you with a new dilemma that you were unable to answer without compromising your entire stance. I challenge you to show the courage to permit me to engage in open debate with you, rather than you act as a censor, and publish those two comments! (and this one!).
The thing is, I don’t have time to sit around all day engaging in debate with you. I will respond to some of those new critiques at a later time. Thank you,
- Dene Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
July 29th, 2010 at 11:52 pm
Sorry to be so persistent, Stacy, but I don’t see the connection between you not having the time to engage in debate, and you failing to post my comments which, presumably, it is possible to do with a very quick click of a mouse – you had the time to post my third comment of the day, after all. Maybe you don’t have the time to comment immediately yourself, but is this a reason to deny the other readers and contributors to this blog the same privilege?
- Dene Says:
July 30th, 2010 at 12:45 pm
The company I work for represents many of the major (and quite a few minor) suppliers of ingredients for cosmetics. If ANY customer requests toxicity data for one of the suppliers ingredients, it is supplied, if it exists. The data is NOT secret, so this bill will make absolutely no difference to that situation. I fail to understand why you would think that any supplier would spend money on safety testing and then not share the information with customers. Why would they spend the money in the first place if they are going to lock up this information in a secret vault?
I think you will find that very little data exists exclusively in the domain of the big companies. The only likely advantage for gaining new data is if the FDA requests specific studies in order to make a better assessment of the safety of specific ingredients.
I believe that some form of bill to regulate cosmetics is a good idea, but not this one – it is unworkable in its present form, for many reasons that you will discover once the lobbying process begins (I don’t want to spoil your fun just yet!)
Talking of the CFSC, I wonder how many participants you will get involved in your teleconference. Not many, I suspect, because I am picking up information that suggests that many of the signatory companies listed are no longer even in business, and of those that still trade there are several (at least) who are trying to get their names removed – and with some difficulty, I might add. I know of one specific company that has made FIVE separate requests to have the company name removed from the Compact Signers list. Apparently, the fifth request also included a legal document threatening action if the request continued to be ignored. This request actually generated a response! Sounds to me like the CFSC isn’t so popular as some may think. Continuing to list defunct signatories, and making it extremely difficult to disassociate disaffected signatories sounds to me as though there is some desperation to make the list look longer than it really is! I wonder why . . .
With regard to Dene’s comments above, would you please read http://bit.ly/9SxrBN and respond, either here or there? I hope that you will see that you are causing the very small companies you claim to advocate for burdensome requirements that will truly put many of us out of business. Surely you are aware of the unintended consequences of the CPSIA legislation, that put thousands of ethical toy manufacturers and retailers out of business. I look forward to your response, and I mean that sincerely.
Dene, that’s good to hear. Perhaps you can supply me with studies showing whether workers are exposed or environmental contamination occurs from the use of ethylene oxide (a known breast carcinogen) during the ethoxylation process of cosmetic chemicals. I’d like to see if the industry has any data about how much phthalates are absorbed into the body from fragrance — or if it is only Harvard University that has done such studies (and found that a single application of cologne dramatically increases the body burden of phthalates). Come to think of it, when the Cosmetics Ingredients Review Panel reviewed diethyl phthalate, they were calculating the exposure numbers on the back of a napkin. Not a risk assessment that inspires much confidence!
I wonder if L’Oreal has consumer reports about allergic reactions and deaths from PPD exposure, and whether they are conducting long-term health studies of workers who are exposed to hair dye chemicals every day. I heard about the PPD problem not from L’Oreal or the FDA but from people who have been severely affected by exposure, including a reporter whose doctor advised her never to use PPD hair dyes under any circumstances. This reporter was quite pissed off, by the way, to go to the Personal Care Products website and see PPD is described as safe with no problems.
Ok, it’s all safe, we trust you.
To your point about suppliers, many small business owners have told me they have a hard time obtaining information from suppliers such as a full list of fragrance chemicals, and that their own product testing contradicts what suppliers have promised them about contamination issues. Perhaps your company avoids these problems, and if so that’s great, but the problem is that companies are making very different safety decisions in an environment with no safety standards.
Yes I agree, regulations are a good idea, and we will get there one way or another.
Marcia, I will be posting my response online yes.
- Dene Says: Your comment is awaiting moderation.
July 31st, 2010 at 4:19 am
Whilst I remain disappointed that you still haven’t posted two of my earlier comments, or responded to them (due to time constraints?), it is good that you have found the time to post my latest comment, and those of other contributors.
I was not trying to claim that ALL data exists, nor that ALL suppliers and manufacturers are perfect, but you over-exaggerate the situation in order to make the proposed sound sound more useful than it actually is!
I do not see any relevance whatsoever in your comments about the manufacturing processes that utilise ethylene oxide, or the safety of the workers involved in these processes – the exposures are very different to the miniscule exposure resulting from the use of cosmetics. Nonetheless, I will respond to your comment about EO being an environmental contaminant. I find this unlikely, as EO is an extremely reactive substance, and I would expect any environmental presence to be transient and brief.
The subject of work place exposures is a different matter to what I have been discussing, and this is often used to scare ordinary consumers. Work place exposures need to be addressed differently to the use of cosmetics as it is a relatively extreme exposure. Why place restrictions on cosmetics based on these extreme exposures, when they can, and should, be legislated for separately?
I am unable to comment on what data L’Oreal have, or don’t have, but I can speculate just as easily as you do! Most (large) companies keep records of proven adverse reactions to their products, but let’s separate out deaths from allergic reactions. You make this claim, but do you have any evidence of deaths that are unequivocally attributed to PPD exposure from cosmetics? I suspect not, and your statement was intended to scare. I am not intending to belittle the effects on people who have genuinely had an allergic response to ANY cosmetic ingredient, but you massively overstate the frequency with which this happens – it is a small percentage of the population, and whole original purpose of ingredient labelling was precisely to enable consumers to avoid products containing ingredients to which they were allergic. I fully support any efforts to enforce ingredient listing, but for intended ingredients; not for unintended impurities.
You, and so many other commentators, talk about phthalates as though they are a single entity, despite the use of the plural. “Phthalates” covers a huge number of different substances, with a huge range of degrees of toxicity. This is misleading, and simply leads to a kneejerk response at the mere mention of the word, because your misinformation suggests that ALL phthalates are highly toxic – they are not.
I am not surprised that some people have a hard time getting a full list of ingredients of fragrances -they are often highly complex mixtures and may not be fully chemically characterised. Sounds like botanical extracts but, for some inexplicable reason, this does not provoke the same concerns. Oh, I forgot – if it’s natural, it must be safe!
I accept that there are some unscrupulous ingredient suppliers out there, in the same way in which I accept that there are some unscrupulous cosmetics manufacturers (and they come in all sizes, before you assume that this can only possibly refer to your béte noir – the big corporations).
The world will never be perfect, but we can make it better. I just think that you go the wrong way about it!