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Margie Kelly
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Cosmetics Popular With Latinas Linked to Cancer, Other Serious Health Problems

Bill Requiring Cosmetics Companies to Report Use of Hazardous Chemicals Would Protect Salon Workers

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: August 10, 2005
Contacts: Genevieve Roja, Kevin Donegan, Breast Cancer Fund, (415) 346-8223; Brenda Salgado, Pauli Ojea, Breast Cancer Action (415) 243-9301 (Spanish speakers)

SAN FRANCISCO—Several cosmetics products that are popular with Latina consumers have been found to contain ingredients linked to cancer and other serious health problems, according to an analysis of cosmetics ingredients.

While the presence of such ingredients does not prove that any individual product causes cancer or other diseases, their use in multiple products applied directly to the skin is cause for concern, health and environmental advocates say.

A recent study of beauty products by the Washington-based Environmental Working Group, called "Skin Deep," revealed that several products commonly used by Latinas contained ingredients linked to cancer. The worst offender was L'Oreal's Feria Colour Strands QuickShimmer Highlights in the Chestnut Changes C60 color. The product scored 9.3 out of 10 on the report’s safety scale, with 10 being of highest concern. The hair dye contains five ingredients that pose cancer risks—two that are linked with breast cancer—and 21 ingredients that have not been assessed for safety by the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR), an industry-funded safety panel.

Many communities of color, however, are unaware of hazardous ingredients in cosmetic and personal care products that are linked to cancer, genetic mutations and reproductive harm.

"Our urban communities are blanketed daily by industrial and chemical exposures," said Assemblywoman Cindy Montanez (D-San Fernando). "Toxic chemicals in cosmetics and personal care products, which we apply directly to our bodies, is the last thing we should have to worry about."

Latino purchasing power is currently estimated at about $700 billion per year and is projected to reach $1 trillion by 2007, according to industry estimates. Industry data also show that Latinas spend an average of 27 percent more on cosmetics and 43 percent more on fragrances than consumers in general.

Other beauty and body care products popular among Latinas that raised concerns about links to cancer and reproductive health problems in the Skin Deep report include:

• Vaseline Intensive Care Lotion, Aloe & Naturals, which scored 9.4 and contains seven ingredients that pose cancer risks;

• Revlon ColorStay Overtime Liquid Lipcolor, Ultimate Wine, which scored 7.6. One ingredient is linked to cancer and other health problems and two ingredients are endocrine (hormone) disrupters that have been found in breast tumors; and

• OPI Classic Shades Nail Lacquer OPI Red, which scored 8.7, contains two ingredients linked to cancer and two ingredients linked to birth defects and other reproductive health concerns.

Cancer is of particular concern for Latinas. According to the American Cancer Society, breast cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer and is the leading cause of cancer death among Hispanic women.

In California, a bill to require cosmetics companies to disclose their use of certain dangerous ingredients to the state Department of Health Services is currently before the Legislature. The California Safe Cosmetics Act of 2005 (SB 484) already has passed the Senate, the Assembly Health Committee, and will soon go before the full Assembly.

Authored by Sen. Carole Migden (D-San Francisco) and co-sponsored by the Breast Cancer Fund, a San-Francisco based environmental health organization, as well as Breast Cancer Action and the National Environmental Trust, SB 484 would also allow the state to develop health and safety standards based on their investigations and give the state authority to regulate dangerous exposures in occupational settings such as hair and nail salons.

"As a Latina and a future mother, I have a right to know if carcinogens and reproductive toxins are in my cosmetics," said Brenda Salgado, program manager at Breast Cancer Action. "Disclosing this information will help protect people in the beauty industry who handle these chemicals every day. Preventing disease is not only common sense, it's smart public policy." 

Nationwide, Latina-owned businesses—many of which are hair, nail and skin care salons—numbered almost 35 percent of the approximately two million Hispanic-owned businesses registered, according to the Small Business Administration and the Center for Women’s Business Research. The California Occupational Mortality Study (COMS) found that the breast cancer rate among cosmetologists was almost double that of the general population. A 2001 University of Southern California study found that nearly 20 percent of cancers in Los Angeles County may be attributed to the use of permanent hair dyes that contain cancer-causing coal tar—five times the risk of the general population.

One-third of all products contain one or more ingredients classified as possible human carcinogens, according to the EWG study. And 89 percent of ingredients in products have not been assessed for safety, the group reported.

Contrary to what many consumers may believe, the FDA does not review or regulate cosmetics products or ingredients for safety before they are sold to the public and has no legal authority to require safety assessments of cosmetics.

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