Why not...

My last of twenty-seven years in the secondary classroom, my baby just now in college, a government and economy looking like something out of Duck Soup, a pituitary tumor, chronic migraines... Hell, why not write a blog?

(My students are now gone. I'm now a civilian and really no longer a "lame duck." I hope the readers of Mama Duck will come to my new blog for some new writing and new directions. My new blog is at: Writing Isle to Isle.)

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Shopping Stinks

This morning my husband and I marveled at the viral YouTube video, The Waffle Riot, showing Walmart shoppers climbing over each other while showing ample ass crack in an appliance-grabbing frenzy. (I had earlier posted the video, but it appears to no longer be working...hmm. Is Walmart offended?) Anyway, I guess I’m un-American. I don’t get it. Not only would I never hang out for a bargain at a box store, I don’t like to shop. Period. I don’t like the crowds. I don’t like having to cruise row after row of cars, only to in the final moments of actually finding a vacant slot for mine, have to battle for it like Mad Max with some frantic guy in an SUV. The poor bastard, of course, is on his way to fulfill a jewelry-store fantasy planted in his head by a Jared commercial, but the diamonds he’ll buy his wife are no doubt dripping in Congolese blood. I don’t like the plastic bags, or plastic smiles on the salespeople, or plastic sales prices. I don’t like having to stand in a long line to give some corporation my money.

The worst part of shopping for me is the fragrance. Well, calling the stench in malls “fragrance” is like calling midriff tops on middle-aged women “fashion.” Trying to shop in a mall for a migraineur is a process of breath-holding zigzags through pungent clouds of synthetic compounds pumped out of stores like Abercrombie and Fitch. Of course, like radiation, these chemicals don’t stop at their doors. They fallout into the public course ways landing on jackets, hair, and purchases; the benzene derivaties, aldehydes, and other toxins and neuro-sensitizers—many known carcinogens are inhaled by hapless shoppers like me looking for jeans that fit. Nine-five percent of the chemicals used in fragrances are derived from petroleum. Breathe in that middle-eastern oil, shoppers.

These odors not only trigger migraines, but possibly cause cancer, birth defects, central nervous system disorders and allergic reactions—these are all pretty serious allegations. But of course, we have known about these health risks for a long time, or at least our government has. In a study brought before the US House of Representatives in the 1980s in a report --Neurotoxins: At Home and the Workplace, Report by the Committee on Science & Technology, U.S. House of Representatives, Sept. 16, 1986 (Report 99-827)—it was clear that the soup of chemicals used in the various fragrances used to cover the normal odors of life posed health risks. But government opted for "self-regulation" to “protect” consumers from these dangers. After all, fragrance companies are the experts on fragrance. Why should bureaucrats get involved?

Even though both the FDA and EPA have the power to regulate these toxins, government has handed our health and safety over to industry associations like the International Fragrance Association and the Personal Care Products Council aka the Cosmetic, Toiletry, and Fragrance Association (CTFA). Of course, just like the rest of the government regulatory structure, the entries and exits to these private guardians of public consumer health are strictly guarded by revolving doors. Take John Bailey, PhD, the former head of FDA’s cosmetics branch. Guess what lucrative digs he’s in: yep—Vice President of the Personal Care Products Council. Bailey and his friends at the Personal Care Products Council are busy lobbying for over 600 companies in Washington, D.C. to promote “science-based legislation." And on goes the iron-fragrance triangle.

“Science-based legislation.” What could be wrong with that, right? Well, since the cosmetics industry “self regulates” in order to protect their precious ingredients (we could tell you what’s in our fragrance, but we’d then have to kill you), it’s their science we must rely upon. That’s kind of like relying upon BP’s scientists to tell us if the Gulf is safe for manatees, or relying upon PG & E to assess the levels of hexavalent chromium in Hinkley, California. Lobbying organizations, both international and national tell consumers they’ve set “safety standards” and have strict “code of practices” while ensuring their member manufacturers that their trade secrets are kept in the vault. That, of course, prevents governments from moving toward labeling or demanding a knowledge of ingredients that would be required to do independent research for the protection of public health. My favorite PR piece on the Personal Care Products Council website is a “petition” that consumers can click on that reads as follows:

I strongly support the Safe Cosmetics Alliance and am eager to sign this petition. It supports science-based legislation that will modernize and strengthen FDA oversight of personal care products.

I love the personal care products that I use - from my daily moisturizer to bath soap to shaving cream - and want to ensure that they continue to meet the highest safety standards. That's why I support the work of the Safe Cosmetics Alliance and legislation that will modernize the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act in ways that will enhance cosmetics regulation and further empower scientists at the FDA. I fully support the Alliance's efforts to enhance FDA oversight and give the Agency the information and flexibility it needs to continue to ensure product safety and safeguard my health. Therefore, I join the members and employees of the Independent Cosmetic Manufacturers and Distributors, the Professional Beauty Association, the Direct Selling Association, the Personal Care Products Council, and consumers of cosmetics and personal care products in encouraging you to support science-based legislation.

Unfucking believable. You really do have to hand it to the public relations/lobbying world. Somewhere in the fragrance is a whiff of Frank Luntz. In the meantime, malls have become veritable chemical zones. Last summer I needed to run into an Apple store in one of our local malls. I knew the closest exit to the store, I walked directly to the Apple store, purchased the item for my daughter’s computer, and left immediately. I wasn’t in the store five minutes. Unfortunately it’s in the same wing of the mall as Abercrombie and Fitch. I didn’t even walk by that store. When I returned to the truck, my husband, who had been waiting there for me said, “God, you reek! You’ve got to get that sweatshirt off or you’re going to have a migraine.” I shelled off the sweatshirt and stored it in a cubby in the bed of the truck. It was too late. The odor was in my hair, in my jeans, in my skin even. We rolled down the windows and I helplessly felt the pain come on.

Yes, shopping stinks. Literally. But so too does the reason it stinks. And that stench can be followed all the way to Washington, D.C.

Want to read more about the issue? Here are some links:
Environmental Health Network Petition Summary Analysis
Campaign for Safe Cosmetics

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