In Support of AB 2823
Revision of the California Organic Food Act

Letter by Barb Wilkie

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Email address for Assembly Member Strom-Martin is

Fax number: 916/319-2101

Aug. 19, 2002

Assembly Member Strom-Martin
P.O. Box 942849
Sacramento, CA 94249-0001

Dear Assembly Member Strom-Martin:

As a resident of California, who uses organic foods, shampoos and other consumer products, I am in strong support of your bill, AB 2823. I am so pleased to learn that you realize that the word "ORGANIC" is threatened -- at least as consumers and manufacturers of ORGANIC products have come to believe in it -- and have therefore authored this bill to revise the California Organic Food Act to conform to the National Organic Program.

I firmly believe the consumer has a right to have a word like "ORGANIC" mean something. Organic guidelines exist for the food industry and should also exist for cosmetics and personal care products. It is good for the consumer and it's also good for the organic industry . . . The truly organic industry.

Because the chemicals of skin and hair care products enter the body of user and non-user, through absorption and inhalation, I believe standards should be set pertaining to ORGANIC cosmetics and personal care products. I further believe it serves no good purpose to consumers -- nor to manufacturers of truly organic products -- to incorporate the word "organic" into a corporate name or advertising as an eye-catching gimmick. If the product does not qualify as organic, that is misleading! If ORGANIC on the label is nothing more than a word to entrap consumers who are interested in finding healthier products for themselves and family members, it will invalidate all we've come to expect from our foods and goods sporting the "ORGANIC" label.

As I've come to learn, Proctor & Gamble has chosen to fight AB 2823 because it (P&G) wants to keep using it's phrase, "a totally organic experience." To my mind, their advertising clearly implies that they want to use THE "O-word," but they can't really state on the label the one they act out in their TV advertisements -- and organic is close. But, I dare say, I'd like it to be viewed as NOT "close enough for government work." Orgasmic in an advertisement does not make for ORGANIC in the bottle.

Let's define that catchy phrase, "a totally organic experience," according to American Heritage Dictionary:

    Totally: "Entirely; wholly; completely."

    Organic: "... Using or produced with fertilizers of animal or vegetable matter, using no synthetic fertilizers or pesticides. b. Free from chemical injections or additives ..."

    Experience: "Personal knowledge derived from participation or observation."

I think it's time for that advertising campaign to go . . . UNLESS it becomes a truth, not a gimmick.

Early Sunday morning, I donned my respirator and checked out the ingredients section of all the "Clairol Herbal Essence" shampoos and conditioners I found at my local drugstore -- including the familiar older version in the green bottle. I also checked the "Fruit Fusions" labels. In all cases, I saw "FRAGRANCE" listed on the label. That in and of itself is a clue to me that the product has fragrance synthesized from petrochemicals added to it.

Synthetic fragrances are manufactured with anywhere from tens to hundreds of chemicals from the industry's repertoire of between 3,000 and 5,000 inadequately-tested chemicals. Fragrance chemicals include known or suspected carcinogens, neurotoxins, teratogens, irritants and sensitizers. Analyses have clearly indicated that the public, astute doctors and even our US Food and Drug Administration, do not know enough about the chemicals used to manufacture scents. Nor has there been adequate testing done on these products for inhalation, for long-term use, for systemic effects, as they target organs and store in adipose (fatty) tissue, as they bio-accumulate, . . . Nor have they been studied for their harmful effects upon non-users. Fragrance chemicals are found in breast tissue and in mother's milk. Phthalates, a common fragrance ingredient, are a current cause for concern regarding their effects on developing male infants. Phthalates also make the scent linger longer, causing any number of people to suffer adverse reactions to our modern synthetic scents -- including those in shampoos and conditioners.

There's much more to the "totally organic experience" of the Herbal Essence products than just that word, "FRAGRANCE." And certainly more than any act in a TV commercial. It's what's in the bottle that counts.

The Family Size, 25.4 oz bottle, has a front label claiming: "Over 99% Natural and plant derived with Chamomile, Aloe Vera and Passion Flower in mountain spring water." That sounds great! However, a check of the back label leaves a canny consumer to believe otherwise. To my mind, it also points out just how MISLEADING the use of words like "Organic" and "Natural" can be to the unwary consumer.

On that family-sized bottle, I found the following ingredients listed -- a few of which I assume would pose no problem for me. (There maybe be translation errors in the following, but I tried to keep a clear head while copying this information. Stores are not healthy places for the already fragrance-sensitized person.)

Water - Sodium Laureth Sulfate - Sodium Lauryl Sulfate - Cocamidoprophyl Betane - Aloe Barbadensis Extract - Chamomile (Anthemis Nobilis) Extract - Passion Flower (Passifloral Incarnata) Extract - Cocamide Mea - Dihydroxyprophyl PEG-5 - Linoleommonium Chloride - Fragrance - Citric Acid - Propylene Glycol - Sodium Chloride - DMDM Hydantoin - Iodopropynl Bulycarbamate - FD&C Yellow No. 5 - D&C Orange No. 4 - Ext D&C Violet No. 2 *

Just because chemicals have been used in products over a period of time, does not mean they are safe to use. I think our soaring rates of "UNEXPLAINED" asthma, cancers, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Autism, ADD, MCS, et al., should give rise to looking closely at the ingredients in our personal care products. We tend to use these products daily, and certainly we are subjected daily to those used by others. We haven't a clue about their long-term health effects following accumulation in the body, nor their synergistic effects. There should be a standard set to regulate the use of the word "Organic." ORGANIC is not a word to use flippantly.

We all are stakeholders when it comes to breathing.


Barbara Wilkie

(I am writing as a private individual, a consumer, but I serve the Environmental Health Network -- -- as the President of the Board of Directors.)


* Additional information regarding some listed ingredients --

  • CIR (Cosmetic Ingredient Review)
    SLS (Sodium Lauryl Sulfate), Sodium Laureth Sulfate and Ammonium Laureth
    Sulfate, Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS) and Ammonium Lauryl Sulfate
    - a PDF file
    The industry. -- barb

  • ASK E [E-Magazine]
    Safe Shampoos, Synthetic Oil and the Imperiled Economy
    The Latest on Chemical Cleansers, Auto Emissions and Environmental Regulation

    Compiled by Ben Chadwick
    "Have you heard about the ingredient in shampoos and bath washes called
    Sodium Lauryl Sulfate or Sodium Laureth Sulfate?"

  • Pharmaceuticals and Personal Care Products in the Environment:
    Agents of Subtle Change?

    Environmental Health Perspectives Volume 107, Supplement 6, December 1999
    Excerpted from the full article:
    "... Personal Care Products in the Environment ...
    "...Personal care products differ from pharmaceuticals in that large amounts can be directly introduced to the environment. For example, these products can be released directly into recreational waters or volatilized into the air (e.g., musks). Because of this direct release they can bypass possible degradation in POTWs. Also, in contrast to pharmaceuticals, less is known about the effects of this broad and diverse class of chemicals on nontarget organisms, especially aquatic organisms.**[emphasis added] Data are also limited on the unexpected effects on humans. For example, common sunscreen ingredients, 2-phenylbenzimidazole-5-sulfonic acid and 2-phenylbenzimidazole, can effect DNA breakage when exposed to UV-B (94).

    The quantities of personal care products produced commercially can be very large. For example, in Germany alone the combined annual output for eight separate categories has been estimated (95) at 559,000 tons for 1993 (Table 3). A few examples are given below of common personal care products that are ubiquitous pollutants and that may possess substantial bioactivity. ..."

    **I dare say, "less is known about the effects of this broad and diverse class of chemicals on" people . . . especially nontarget people -- those who suffer adverse events at the seond- and third-hand levels of exposure!!! -- barb

  • Safe2Use

    • Caution
      "90% of all commercial soap shampoos use a detergent called sodium dodecylsulfate
      (SDS) or sodium laureth sulfate (SLES) and/or sodium laurel sulfate (SLS) that can be
      retained in tissues up to 5 days even after a single drop."

    • Hidden hazards in body care products Sodium lauryl sulfate,
      a known toxin, lurks in most shampoos.

      Reprinted from Spectrum, The Wholistic News Magazine
      (July/August 1994 Issue, Page 37, Reprinted with permission)

  • Sodium Lauryl Sulfate in Shampoos: The Real Story
    By David Steinman, from Healthy Living

  • Warning: What Your Shampoo's Label Won't Tell You...
    by Harry Terhanian
    Taken from the Summer/Fall 1999 issue of Making Scents Magazine

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