EarthTalk: I’ve always suspected that
perfumes and colognes must not be too healthy simply because
of the way the smell of most of them bothers me. Am I correct?
Is there information available on this issue?
—Lucinda Barry, Minneapolis, MN
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics commissioned independent
laboratory tests that revealed 38 secret chemicals
in 17 leading fragrances. To protect trade secrets,
makers are allowed to withhold fragrance ingredients,
so consumers can’t rely on labels to know
what hazards may lurk inside that new bottle of
sweet smell of petrochemicals! The Environmental Working
Group (EWG) reports that, while many popular perfumes, colognes
and body sprays contain trace amounts of natural essences,
they also typically contain a dozen or more potentially
hazardous synthetic chemicals, some of which are derived
from petroleum. To protect trade secrets, makers are allowed
to withhold fragrance ingredients, so consumers can’t
rely on labels to know what hazards may lurk inside that
new bottle of perfume.
rose may be a rose,” reports EWG. “But that
rose-like fragrance in your perfume may be something else
entirely, concocted from any number of the fragrance industry’s
3,100 stock chemical ingredients, the blend of which is
almost always kept hidden from the consumer.”
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of over 100 groups
seeking transparency about chemicals in cosmetics, commissioned
independent laboratory tests that revealed 38 secret chemicals
in 17 leading fragrances. The top offenders?: American Eagle
Seventy Seven topped the list with 24, followed by Chanel
Coco with 18 and Britney Spears Curious and Giorgio Armani
Acqua Di Gio each with 17.
average fragrance product tested contained 14 secret chemicals
not listed on the label,” reports EWG, which analyzed
the Campaign’s data. “Among them are chemicals
associated with hormone disruption and allergic reactions,
and many substances that have not been assessed for safety
in personal care products.” EWG adds that some of
the undisclosed ingredients are chemicals “with troubling
hazardous properties or with a propensity to accumulate
in human tissues.” Examples include diethyl phthalate,
a chemical found in 97 percent of Americans and linked to
sperm damage in human epidemiological studies, and musk
ketone, which concentrates in human fat tissue and breast
explains that ingredients not in a product’s “hidden
fragrance mixture” must be listed on the label, so
makers disclose some chemicals but “lump others together
in the generic category of ‘fragrance’.”
EWG blames the U.S. government in part, pointing out that
the Food and Drug Administration “has not assessed
the safety of the vast majority” of secret chemicals
used in spray-on products such as fragrances. “Fragrance
secrecy is legal due to a giant loophole in the Federal
Fair Packaging and Labeling Act of 1973, which requires
companies to list cosmetics ingredients on the product labels
but explicitly exempts fragrance,” reports EWG. As
such, the cosmetics industry has kept the public in the
dark about fragrance ingredients, “even those that
present potential health risks or build up in people’s
more information, check out EWG’s May 2010 “Not
So Sexy” report, available on the group’s website.
Also, EWG’s SkinDeep database serves as an evolving
source of information on the ingredients (and their health
risks) in thousands of cosmetics and related products widely
available on store shelves.
for Safe Cosmetics; EWG’s
“Not So Sexy”; Skin
EarthTalk: In recent years the hotel industry
began to green up operations, but has it yet gone beyond
leaving out little cards to encourage you to re-use your
towels and linens?
—Mason Singer, St. Louis, MO
little cards urging you to reuse towels and linens
may seem like token environmentalism, but they actually
result in significant water and waste reductions.
The website Economically Sound reports that a 150-room
hotel can conserve 72,000 gallons of water and 480
gallons of laundry soap every year by placing the
cards in its guest rooms.
© Alan Levine/Flickr
Some hotels and
hotel chains take sustainability more seriously than others,
but the industry as a whole has certainly become greener
in recent years. Those little cards may seem like token
environmentalism, but they can actually result in significant
water, waste and cost reductions. The website Economically
Sound reports that a 150-room hotel can conserve 72,000
gallons of water and 480 gallons of laundry soap every year
by placing the cards in its guest rooms. The Marriott chain
reported saving as much as 17 percent in hot water and sewer
costs at its hotels thanks to implementation of its Linen
While many hotels
and chains print up their own cards, thousands more purchase
them from the Green Hotels Association, a non-profit launched
two decades ago to bring together hotels around the U.S.
and elsewhere that share a commitment to the environment
and sustainable use of natural resources. The organization’s
Catalog of Environmental Products for the Lodging Industry
contains a wide range of environmentally friendly energy-
and water-saving products. For example, 500 laminated copies
of the group’s best selling card (asking guests to
consider not having sheets changed every day) costs hoteliers
just $200. Another example is the toilet tank fill diverter,
which saves about 3/4 of a gallon of water per flush while
remaining invisible to guests. The little gadgets cost hotels
around $1 and as such pay for themselves in no time thanks
to reduced water bills. The catalog also features dispensers
that eliminate the waste of stocking every bathroom with
soap bars and little bottles of hair and skin care products.
promoting a greener hospitality industry is the World Travel
& Tourism Council (WTTC), which works to improve the
quality of tourism around the world. Under its Environment
Initiative, WTTC aims to solidify a global vision on how
the tourism industry can foster sustainable development.
It has been especially pro-active around the mitigation
of carbon emissions and last year, along with the International
Tourism Partnership (ITP) and 12 major hotel chains including
Hilton, Hyatt, Marriott and Starwood, launched the Hotel
Carbon Measurement Initiative, which aims to help hotels
reduce, measure and communicate their carbon footprints.
This is particularly relevant, says WTTC, for hotels’
corporate clients who want to quantify the carbon footprints
of their hotel stays, meetings and events.
trend is the Four Seasons’ 10 Million Trees Initiative.
The hotel chain is celebrating its 50th anniversary by planting
10 million trees across the 34 countries in which it operates
with the hope that the effort will help combat deforestation
and global warming and attract more customers concerned
about the state of the planet.
Beyond what the
major chains are doing, eco lodges run by or in partnership
with native people or tribes have popped up all over the
tropics and beyond; examples include Guludo Beach Lodge
in Mozambique, Africa and Posada Amazonas in the Peruvian
Amazon. Staying at such a place is a good way to ensure
that locals can benefit from tourism and not be tempted
to pillage their region’s natural resource base.
Hotels Association; WTTC;
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