House of Representatives voted to remove warning labels from foods
If the National Uniformity for Food Act goes through the Senate, any concerns we may have about arsenic in our drinking water, mercury in our tuna fish or other toxins would be unanswered by reading product labels.
The House has approved a bill that would take away local governments' and states' power to require food safety food labels. This would also prevent citizens from passing local and state laws requiring labeling of bovine growth hormone, and other genetically engineered products.
Also unknown would be whether your meat was injected with carbon monoxide, to extend its bright red color for several months on the shelf. Carbon monoxide of course is the poison that is deadly if your garage door happens to be closed while your car's engine is running. Yet it is now widely used to impart a long lasting bright red color to meat that will last for months, even after non-injected meat that is several months old turns brown and slimy from oxidation.
Attorneys General from 37 states are warning that important consumer warnings would be eviscerated by this bill. The attorneys general wrote, "This bill would strip state governments of the ability to protect their residents through state laws and regulations relating to the safety of food and food packaging."
The obvious target, they wrote, is California's Proposition 65, a law passed by voters requiring companies to warn the public of potentially dangerous toxins in food. As a result of this law, the State of California has filed lawsuits seeking a number of warnings, including the mercury content of fish and the lead content of Mexican candy.
In favor of the bill, the food industry wants consistent warnings across state lines allegedly to reduce the cost of making many different labels. The industry has garnered broad support in the House, where a majority co-sponsored the bill.
Opposing the bill, Rep. Henry Waxman of California said, "This legislation is a dangerous giveaway to special interests and ignores the enormous benefits of strong state consumer protection laws."
Lawmakers debated the bill on March 2, and it passed the House on March 16, with 94% of Republicans voting for the bill, and 64% of Democrats voting against. However, it is expected to stall in the Senate, because no senator has ever introduced similar legislation.
To write your Senator on this or any other matter, click this link and refer to the National Uniformity for Food Act. Or simply go to the webpage of the Organic Consumers Association and sign their form letter.
Cause for Concern: Carcinogens in Bath Products
More than one-third of all personal care products contain at least one ingredient linked to cancer, according to the non-partisan, non-profit Environmental Working Group (EWG).
The biggest problem is that the cosmetics industry has always stayed under the radar of regulation. The Food and Drug Administration has no mandate to safety-test cosmetics. The extent of the FDA policy in the area is that "manufacturers may use any ingredient or raw material, except for color additives and a few prohibited substances, to market a product without a government review or approval."
There is a self-policing Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) panel, which is an industry-funded panel of seven scientists and physicians. They study potentially hazardous ingredients and make non-binding recommendations. Yet only 11% of the 10,500 ingredients in cosmetics have been evaluated for safety according to the EWG.
As far as actual cause and effect, little is known, and suspected connections are very difficult to prove. Cancer rates continue to rise, yet of the nearly 4,000,000 synthetic chemicals in our environment, less than one percent of these are well-known. The sheer numbers and proximity of these chemicals defy any attempt to sort out the good from the bad.
Bath products, soaps and cosmetics are particularly troublesome, because we absorb more toxins from what we breathe and what contacts our skin than even by eating and drinking.
Here are some things we do know about common bath products:
Parabens (Methylparaben, propylparaben, etc.) are the most common preservatives for personal care products in the U.S. They are in shampoos, soaps, toothpastes, deodorants, and eye, ear and nose drops, among many other products. (They are also present in such prepared foods as mayonnaise, mustard, jams and jellies, salad dressings, soft drinks, baked goods and candy.) Water is the only ingredient used more frequently. Whether parabens are harmful or not is a tough question and it all depends on whom you ask. Intense industry pressure in the United States has accomplished the predictable whitewash from paid "researchers." However, scientists in other countries have found that parabens affect the body much the same way as estrogens. In males and females this can cause diminished muscle mass and extra fat storing, as well as gynecomastia (breast growth) in males. Some studies have found intact parabens in human breast tumors, as well as contributing factors from parabens in the growth of the tumors. (Routledge, et al. 1998)
The following study is from the Journal of Toxicology:
Division of Cell and Molecular Biology, School of Animal and Microbial Sciences, University of Reading, Reading RG6 6AJ, UK. firstname.lastname@example.org
Parabens are used as preservatives in many thousands of cosmetic, food and pharmaceutical products to which the human population is exposed. Although recent reports of the oestrogenic properties of parabens have challenged current concepts of their toxicity in these consumer products, the question remains as to whether any of the parabens can accumulate intact in the body from the long-term, low-dose levels to which humans are exposed. Initial studies reported here show that parabens can be extracted from human breast tissue and detected by thin-layer chromatography. More detailed studies enabled identification and measurement of mean concentrations of individual parabens in samples of 20 human breast tumours by high-pressure liquid chromatography followed by tandem mass spectrometry. The mean concentration of parabens in these 20 human breast tumours was found to be 20.6 +/- 4.2 ng x g(-1) tissue. Comparison of individual parabens showed that methylparaben was present at the highest level (with a mean value of 12.8 +/- 2.2 ng x g(-1) tissue) and represents 62% of the total paraben recovered in the extractions. These studies demonstrate that parabens can be found intact in the human breast and this should open the way technically for more detailed information to be obtained on body burdens of parabens and in particular whether body burdens are different in cancer from those in normal tissues. Copyright 2004 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.
Ethyl alcohol is another ingredient used as a solvent in large proportion in many personal care products. It does not only serve to mix other ingredients during manufacture, but is also a solvent when it hits your skin. Its drying effect makes its presence in such products as "moisturizing" skin lotions something of a Trojan Horse. The result is you get drier than when you started, and are tempted to keep reapplying, and keep buying, the "moisturizing" lotion.
Our advice is to stay away from new molecules as much as possible, simply as a general principle to avoid unnecessary cancer risks.
Deodorant - Did you know that instead of commercial deodorant, you can have a completely effective, all-day deodorant, that will stay with you through the gym, a mile-run and more for the price of baking soda?
Bring a small container of baking soda to your bathroom sink. Take a pinch of baking soda in one hand. Drop several drops of water on it. The proportion doesn't matter at all. Rub your hands together, then rub each hand lightly on the opposite underarm. You will be amazed at how effective baking soda is as a deodorant. It can be irritating right after shaving though, so try to separate the two by using baking soda on different days than shaving or different times of the day.
Shampoo - At almost any health food store you will find Dr. Bronner's Pure Castile Soap. This is at least a clean non-chemical soap that you can use for both shampoo and body wash. If you want to enrich it for a hair-growth stimulating mixture, pour half rosemary oil into the shampoo, and shake lightly just to combine. Because rosemary oil can be expensive, I make my own. Rosemary is sold at many nurseries and neighborhood plant shops. Once you get your rosemary bush to a robust size, you can prune it lightly. Stuff a glass jar full with the rinsed rosemary cuttings, and pour in extra virgin olive oil to cover. Now put it in a dark place, and forget about it for six weeks. At the end you will have a lovely rosemary oil infusion, which you can then add to the Dr. Bronner's liquid soap.
Soaps - Dr. Bronner also makes hard soaps with no synthetic ingredients, available at health food stores. So does Hugo Saavedra, founder of Beautiful Soap and Co.. He uses no alcohols, animal products or petroleum products.
Toothpastes - We like Tom's of Maine, because this well-known and well-respected company, not only lists all ingredients on its labels, all fairly minimally changed from their natural sources, but they take the trouble to explain the purpose of each ingredient as well on their labels. For this decency and respect shown toward the consumer, we admire Tom's very much.
Skin softener - During the winter, the nostrils can get dry and rigid. To correct this, keep a teaspoon or so of olive oil in a tiny container in the bathroom. When the nostrils get dry and itchy, gently rub some olive oil inside each one.
Why is this list so short? Well, when you get down to it, there is little else that is really needed than this. Sure, shaving cream, moisturizing lotion, and other preparations are at times useful. In general, we have found that when these products are needed, much more benign ingredients are found in those products in health food stores rather than in supermarkets and pharmacies.