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Young advocates for safe cosmetics

Posted on Feb 18, 2014
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LaChic"Dear Retail Stores, Listen up!" urges 11-year-old Sophie Alcindor. After learning about the dangers of toxic ingredients in cosmetics and personal care products at her after school program, Sophie decided to take action. In a letter addressed to major retailers, she expressed her desire for change:

"We all get it that you want to make money, but are [sic] this neck to neck competition really worth it. Can customers walk in and feel safe without having to feast valuable hours just to find good and safe products....Stop having dangerous products in your stores.  If you would listen to the scientists or chemists telling you they are bad then maybe you would have more customers. Create a safe environment for the customers."

Last month, AHT coordinator and Clean Water Action’s Massachusetts Director, Elizabeth Saunders, led workshops aimed at educating young women about toxic ingredients found in the very products they use at home. The workshops were organized in partnership with La Chic Mentoring Plus, an after-school mentoring program that strives to help girls and young women gain confidence through academic support and public speaking lessons. Recently, La Chic received a grant from the Toxics Use Reduction Institute (TURI) at UMass Lowell to educate girls about toxic chemicals in beauty products and raise awareness about safer alternatives and methods.

During the workshop, the girls explored the variety and number of personal care products they use on a daily basis, scrutinized ingredient labels in search of toxic chemicals, and investigated some of the risks associated with hazardous ingredients.  The workshops proved to be very engaging and eye-opening for the girls in the program.

As part of the session, students were introduced to a list of particularly dangerous chemicals common in personal care products, and used the online EWG SkinDeep® database to see whether the products they use at home contain any of these ingredients. Shocked to find many of their products listed with high hazard scores, they expressed their concern by writing advocacy letters to nearby retailers, which they agreed should take responsibility for the public’s protection. A letter written by a group of 11-13 year-olds reads:

"Dear CVS, We believe that some of the personal care products (soap, lotion, etc) that you sell at your store are harming people and animals… For example, Colgate toothpaste has sodium laureth sulfate that releases contaminants that can eventually cause cancer. We at La Chic suggest that you look deeper and buy and sell safer products that do not contain harmful chemicals."

AHT hopes that these young women's concerns will be heard and will prompt change that ensures the health and safety of consumers.