As a consumer advocate who has investigated the safety of thousands of products over the past fifteen years, I’ve heard too many accounts of people, often children, felled by dangerous products. Every day we use products that we think are safe—we assume the product has been tested and any dangerous ingredients labeled. The truth is, products are not always safe and manufacturers don’t have to tell us so. (The warning statement on the no-pest strip makes no mention of these health risks: bone marrow damage and aplastic anemia, as reported in 1980 in Clinical Research; immune system suppression, as determined by the World Health Organization in 1986; and cancer and birth defects, as reported by Shirley A. Briggs and the Rachel Carson Council in Basic Guide to Pesticides [Hemisphere, 1992].)
Cosmetic products are notorious. Hair dyes with suspected cancer-causing ingredients are not required to carry warning labels. Products often list fragrances, which can contain up to 600 different compounds, many carcinogenic or otherwise toxic, but the label only says they contain a "fragrance". And while cosmetic makers are required to list ingredients, they are not required to conduct pre-market safety tests.
"Even if the [Food and Drug Administration] suspects that serious adverse health effects are caused by a cosmetic product, they can’t require the manufacturer to provide test data to prove the product safety", says Oregon Senator Ron Wyden.
It should be said that products with even very toxic ingredients are not likely to kill you—or even cause illness—with one-time or short-term use. But when so many different products on the market contain toxic ingredients, come claim that they may endanger the health of immunologically vulnerable people who use them regularly. If you or your children frequently use such products, the risks climb. Guarding yourself is simple: the less you breathe, eat, or absorb a toxic chemical, the less chance there is that it can harm your health. I recommend that people act on the side of safety and simply not use—or radically reduce their use of—products whose ingredients are proven to be dangerous, or even suspected of being dangerous based on the available research.
In 1995, with the help of consumer advocate Ralph Nader andSamuel Epstein, M.D., the coauthor of my book The Safe Shopper’s Bible (Macmillan, 1995), I compiled a list of those products that I personally choose to avoid or use sparingly.
Please continue to chemicals in Pet products