Toxics

Toxics

Whether you’re washing your hair, watching a movie on your couch, cleaning your house, or opening a can of food, the last thing you want to think about is toxic chemicals. Neither do we.

That’s why we’re working to get cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting chemicals out of the products Canadians use every day in their homes andworkplaces. Since 2005,we have educated the public, tested products and people, and have worked with government and industry to remove chemicals of concern from products—including successfully advocating for the ban of BPA from baby bottles in Canada.

Efforts by organizations like ours, and by concerned consumers, are paying off. This past year there has been a positive shift in North America: in September, for example, Walmart U.S. announced its commitment to reducing or eliminating 10 chemicals in the products it sells, and for suppliers to fully disclose the ingredients in their products by January 2015.

You may remember our report The Trouble with Triclosan, released in 2012, which raised the alarm about this hormone-disrupting, anti-bacterial chemical. Since we started calling for a ban on triclosan, Environment Canada declared it to be toxic to the environment. A sign of progress. And, earlier in 2014, the State of Minnesota announced its ban of triclosan from most consumer products, due to health and environmental concerns. By 2017, products containing triclosan will not be permitted to be sold in the state. It still remains in hundreds of products on store shelves. We want that to change.

With this shift in mind, ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE investigated the chemical policies of the five largest cosmetics companies in Canada to see which ones are making progress to eliminate toxic chemicals from their products. Our report: Taking Stock: How the Cosmetics Industry Ranks on Toxic Chemicals showed that while some are taking meaningful action, others still lag behind.

For this report, we ranked Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Unilever, Estée Lauder and L’Oréal on their targets for eliminating harmful ingredients, how they are addressing concerns about chemicals in their products, and ingredient disclosure on their product labels.

As expected, most of the companies can improve significantly. Since the release of the report, we have been meeting with leaders in the industry to help make their products safer and their policies stronger.

We are also helping salon workers in Toronto give their workplaces a much-needed makeover when it comes to toxics. Hair stylists, makeup artists and estheticians are particularly vulnerable to toxic exposures in the workplace. Thanks to the support of Live Green Toronto, we made outreach to hair and esthetics schools, to share knowledge about how chemicals in various cosmetics products affect the health of salon workers, the health of clients, and the greater environment. Whether you’re a client or an employee, we believe every time you leave a salon you should be Just Beautiful.

Finally, we’ve been giving individuals the knowledge and tools necessary to reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals and help make a difference. We’ve hosted a number of community workshops in Toronto, Ottawa and Halifax, where participants learn how to identify potential environmental carcinogens in their homes, what they can do to protect their health, and how they can take action.

Next Steps:
ENVIRONMENTAL DEFENCE will continue our work to have five toxic chemicals linked to negative human health impacts like cancer, removed from consumer products: phthalates, parabens, formaldehyde, flame retardants and triclosan. We will do this by educating consumers about chemicals in the products they buy so they can choose safer, non-toxic options and by working directly with companies and with those seeking to protect the health of Canadians.

Back to the 2014 Annual Report