Posted by: jeremeswen | July 13, 2010

That Cologne Stinks!

Hi, I am Jeremiah S. Swen, a Liberian, interning with the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church. I am assigned with the National Council of Churches in Washington, D.C. At my placement, I am working with the Environmental Health Program. Ok, welcome to this blog.

fragrance bottlesThe Campaign for Safe Cosmetics and Environmental Working Group just released a new report entitled Not So Sexy: The Health Risks of Secret Chemicals in Fragrance. The report highlights some hidden and sometimes toxic ingredients associated with cosmetics products. Thirty-eight secret ingredients in 17 name brands were revealed through laboratory tests. Some of the offenders include American Eagle, Abercrombie and Fitch, Hannah Montana Secret Celebrity, and Jennifer Lopez J. Lo Glo.

Due to loopholes in current federal cosmetics law, manufacturers are able to withhold some ingredients as confidential business information. They are also able to include all of these ingredients under one word: fragrance. These chemicals do not need to undergo rigorous safety inspection by the Food and Drug Administration.
This is the situation that we are faced with, and it creates a weak checks and balance system which can contribute harm to human health later in life. For instance, household cleaners and body care products contain a huge percentage of chemicals associated with hormone disruption (Schlumpf 2004). These can have effects like early childhood puberty in girls. The Campaign’s study also found 24 chemical sensitizers capable of triggering allergic reactions (European Commission Scientific Committee on Cosmetic Products and Non-Food products (EC) 1999). Some of the chemicals mentioned also have the capacity to create hazardous properties or contain the propensity accumulate in human tissues.


Genesis 1:26 “Then God said, “Let us make human in our own image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth”.

Made in God’s image and likeness, we have a unique intimacy with God.  When we unknowingly put unregulated chemicals onto our body, we can harm our bodies that were created in the image of the divine. We are called to care for our bodies as temples to the Holy Spirit- pure and sacred (II Corinthians 6:19-20). In our actions and deeds we should acknowledge our Creator through mindful practices that promote health and wholeness.


We need safe cosmetics legislation with an aim of curtailing toxic chemicals from cosmetics products. Already businesses are taking leadership on this issue. The Natural Product Association (NPA) announced on June 22, 2010 that starting September 1, 2010 only natural fragrances will be certified and synthetic substances will not be certified. In a similar vein, Whole Foods also announced on June 23rd that any “organic” personal care product that is not certified organic by the USDA or ANSI will be removed from the shelves by July 2011.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics also developed a Business Compact for Safe Cosmetics. Companies are pledging to ensure that their products meet EU guidelines for cosmetics safety as they recently pass legislation to regulate chemicals in personal care products.

Gradually our efforts as consumers and people of faith and conscience are bringing positive changes to the market and policies. We invite women of faith to add their name to a growing petition of women of faith across the country to ensure that cosmetics are safe. Click here to learn more.

Being aware is our obligation, but living pure lives in body and in spirit is our call.


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