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Reprinted with the kind permission of Edward E. Manassah, President & Publisher, The Louisville Courier-Journal.
Note: Below, updated information appears in red. -- barb 09/06/02
(502) 339-1282 Fax (502) 339-1134
8622 Blackpool Dr.
Louisville, KY 40222
James W. Coleman, Ph.D. President/CEO
Dear Madame / Sir:
Due to the public's interest in breast health and because key evidence presented during my two-hour interview for the newspaper article was excluded, the following is my fact response to The Courier Journal article of Oct 27th titled and subtitled "Controversial study gets public money, Cosmetics-cancer research called "absolute hogwash."
According to the article, Dr. Donald Miller, head of the University of Louisville's Brown Cancer Center and a professor at U of L's medical school, was unaware of any evidence that "cosmetics can cause breast cancer." The article also quoted Dr. Dan Kennedy, a surgery professor at the University of Kentucky School of Medicine and a board member of the American Cancer Society's six state mid-south division, as characterizing my research proposal on cosmetics and breast cancer as "absolute hogwash." *
Female cosmetologists, beauticians and hairdressers frequently handle hair dyes and organic solvents in nail care products, settings, and hair sprays. These cosmetics contain known carcinogens and women who work in these occupations consistently have a significantly high rate of breast cancer, based upon the results of studies published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute and other mainstream medical journals. Another study published in a mainstream medical journal revealed that beauticians had a high rate of breast cancer after only five years of on-the-job exposure to hair dyes. Like beauticians, women who are in professional, administrative and clerical positions had a significantly high rate of breast cancer. The amounts and frequency of use of cosmetics and other personal care products by these women are of interest for our study.
Two studies published in mainstream medical journals revealed that beauticians also had a significantly high death rate from breast cancer. These results suggest that exposure to certain hair dyes may cause the development of the more aggressive type of breast cancer.
It is of public interest to note that an environmental study conducted by the National Cancer Institute showed a positive correlation between human cancers and exposure to plants that manufactured cosmetics, perfumes and other toilet preparations.
Alcohol is the main ingredient in many perfumes and fragrances, according to the manufacturer's label on the containers. There is definitive scientific proof that alcohol is carcinogenic and that it can cause breast cancer in humans when ingested. According to the newspaper article, an unnamed spokeswoman for the National Cancer Institute (NCI) in Rockville, MD, a federal agency that funds and monitors cancer research, stated that she was not aware of any "studies that showed alcohol applied to the skin could cause cancer." However, as reported in an NCI publication, there is a causal link between cancer of the oral cavity and the "long-term use of mouthwashes high in alcohol content"-- indicating the effect of topical application rather than systemic exposure since mouthwashes are not swallowed by most people.
There is an abundance of scientific evidence showing that alcohol and other ingredients used in cosmetics can enter the bloodstream through the skin. It is noteworthy to mention that a review panel for the Cosmetics, Fragrances and Toiletries Association (CFTA), a trade association for the personal care products industry located in Washington, D.C. with about 600 member companies, lists alcohol as one of 22 cosmetic ingredients that is under current review for safety. [The CFTA's web page was updated with a new link after this letter was published on November 13, 2000 in The Courier-Journal, and the number of ingredients have increased from 22 to over 100. See: http://www.cir-safety.org/priorities.html ]
Coumarin, formerly the active ingredient in rat poison, is a carcinogenic ingredient used in the manufacturing of deodorants, shampoos, skin fresheners and perfumes that are in frequent use by many girls and women. In addition, formaldehyde and acetaldehyde are chemical ingredients in many nail care products (manufacturer's container label) that are in widespread use by many girls and women, and these chemicals are known to cause cancers in humans and experimental animals.
Finally, according to information posted on the web site of the CFTA, its review panel concluded in a final report that only 54% of the ingredients used in cosmetics are regarded as safe. [The CFTA's web page at http://www.cir-safety.org/general.html#conclusions was removed after this letter was published on November 13, 2000 in The Courier-Journal.]
Visit our web site at www.CancerResearchAmerica.org for more information on our proposed studies aimed at finding the major causes of breast cancer.
James W. Coleman, Ph.D.
* [According to Dr. Coleman, the above statements by Drs. Miller and Kennedy should be viewed in context: The respective institutions,›with which they are affiliated, all give free cosmetics to cancer patients. Return to editorial.]
No one has been able to disprove to me my belief that my body developed MCS (Multiple Chemical Sensitivity) because of my constant exposure to the highly volatile perfumes and other scented products, used by some management and several colleagues in my former workplace. I struggled for years to remain gainfully employed -- feeling that to last as long as I did in the workplace that caused my body's move into MCS, I was the one doing the accommodating. Once ostracized to an even more toxic office -- a great message to other staff not to complain about the fragrances adversely affecting one's health -- I developed a fast growing tumor that at first was diagnosed as an ovarian mass. The tumor developed between May 1997 and May 1998 -- I was ostracized in June 1997, but this story is another book. As my doctor informed me in May '98, the mass he found could well be cancer, and that even a CA125 test with a low number didn't mean I was home free.
Yes, I had that sinking feeling that the guillotine was about to drop! Both of my parents had had oral cancer. My dad lost his lower jaw, 2/3 of his tongue, his top rib and the glands in his neck to cancer. That radical surgery saved his life for an additional seven years, when he lost his battle for life to strokes. A few years later, my mother died from cancer of the larynx. Recently, my brother had surgery on his eye lid for basal cell carcinoma. However, I could not believe I had ovarian cancer and chose not to rush into surgery. For one thing, the pain I was living with was not in the area of my ovary, although I was told I could feel pain from ovarian cancer anywhere in my abdominal area. Certainly two sonograms and other symptoms, including swelling and back pain, pointed to the diagnosis being correct.
I took early retirement in October 1998, at great financial sacrifice, but it was better that I listened to my body's screaming at me to retire so I could breathe cleaner air. I was more fortunate than some of my former colleagues who did develop cancers. On the third sonogram, taken after Acupuncture treatments and within days of my retirement, it was seen that I had a benign pedunculated tumor, masking as an ovarian mass. I have chosen to live with it, rather than risk my life having surgery in a scented hospital. Since retirement, my health has improved through Chiropractic, Acupuncture and Chinese herbs . . . and being able to breathe cleaner air.
Sometimes, my first warning of polluted air is a sharp pain from my tumor . . . then my olfactory senses kick into gear. Interestingly enough -- at least to me -- is that my tumor picks up such pollutants as refineries, asphalt, fresh high-emitting VOC paints, and a variety of perfumes. IF your perfume can cause my tumor to alert me to your outgassing scent, what in the world is your perfume doing to your body? To the bodies of your children and other family members? To your friends? To your colleagues? To total strangers sharing public transit, a healthcare facility, a classroom, an auditorium, . . .?
To my thinking, based upon my years of research, there is no reason for any workplace, hospital or other healthcare facility including doctors' offices, schools, civic/government entities, transportation conveyances, places of worship, etc., to be scented by presonal care products or cleaning and maintenance products. There are safer alternatives. CLEAN has no scent.
What is too often bandied about as one's personal right to wear/use scented products flies in the face of the right of all other people to breathe cleaner air. "Other people" include children and adults who simply do not care for the scent chosen by another indiv idual, people of all ages living with asthma or chronic bronchitis, those living with eczema and other skin diseases including acne, those undergoing cancer treatments, those living with emphysema, with ADD, autism, those living with Parkinson's, those living with AIDS,... The list of people adversely affected by modern scented products is long. The list of inadequately tested chemicals in the industry's repertoire numbers between 3,000 and 5,000.
The First Amendment is a balancing amendment -- e.g., one does not have the right to scream "fire" in a crowded auditorium, when no danger exists, just for the sake of exercising one's "freedom of speech." These days, one cannot smoke just anywhere one chooses as an exercise of one's personal right. Fragrances leave the user to pollute the air for all and sundry, just as tobacco smoke does. The rates of people adversely affected by scented products soars. We CAN do something about it by making wiser purchases of safer, turly fragrance-free alternative products.
I cannot help but feel that IF our government agencies charged with protecting public health did ask questions and researched fragrances based upon the information now available through the Internet -- for example, the work done by Dr. Coleman et al. of Cancer Research Center of America, Inc. -- perhaps our government agencies would find the link between perfumes and other scented products and increasong cancer rates. Certainly cancer rates, like asthma rates, have been escalating during the past 30 years -- the same timeframe in which fragrances moved from being made largely with essences of plants and animals, to being largely synthesized from petrochemical derivatives.
Our government agencies will not act without an outcry by the public. IF you want safer products, do write to the Food and Drug Administration, referencing EHN's FDA Petition, Docket Number 99P-1340 -- http://www.ehnca.org/www/FDApetition/bkgrinfo.htm. Study the Analysis Summary -- http://ehnca.org/www/FDApetition/analysis.htm.
In viewing the Analysis Summary -- from a purchased analysis of one scent -- do you find yourself alarmed by the number of chemicals found about which is written: "The chemical, physical, and toxicological properties have not been thoroughly investigated"? Are you dismayed at the number of chemicals found that appear on the EPA's Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA) Inventory and on the Registry of Toxic Effects of Chemical Substances (RTECS)?
If YES, then please write to the FDA in support of their requiring their warning message on all fragrances released to market without substantiation of safety. The FDA alert would read: "WARNING: The safety of this product has not been determined." See "FDA Authority Over Cosmetics" http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-206.html
-- Barb Wilkie
To top of page.
2002: The 64-year old Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act
So where is the FDA and its regulation of the fragrance/cosmetic industry? Well, the way the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act was set up in 1938, there's not a lot the FDA can do. BUT, the one thing the FDA could do, it doesn't.
"WARNING: The safety of this product has not been determined."
See label of perfume analyzed for EHN's Citizens' Petition 99P-1340
The Petition information, including links to analyses and chemicals found, begins athttp://ehnca.org/www/FDApetition/bkgrinfo.htm. This petition may also be viewed from the site of Betty Bridges, RN and her Fragranced Products Information Network at http://www.fpinva.org.
I've no proof, of course, but chances are when I was working that management team, which was hell-bent on continuing its own use of highly-scented perfumes and other personal care products -- which of couse had to also extend to staff -- might have thought and acted otherwise had the FDA's warning been in place. And why do I believe that . . . beyond the fact that people may then get the idea that all these perfumes and other products with that innocuous-sounding word, "fragrance," were not necessarily safe to inhale or to apply to one's skin despite tests for dermatitis? Because I heard over and over again, "Barbara, IF these products were as unsafe as you claim, they would carry warning labels. Alcohol does. Cigarettes do." Yes. Indeed. And IF our FDA were serving public health and IF pigs could fly and IF . . . I'd still be gainfully employed and healthy.
Obviously, I had no answer for the recalcitrant management as to why the FDA did not follow their own regulations. Obviously -- to me then and now -- ALL fragrances should carry the FDA's message. And three years after Docket Number 99P-1340 was officially logged in by the FDA, I still don't know why fragrances don't carry warning signs. Well, yes I do, its the industry's multibillion dollar economy . . . but it is still hard to believe that the industry and the FDA think so little of the public's health and the public's right to know . . . Anyway, regarding my former workplace management's comment about ALCOHOL, had I known then what I know now, my response would have been: Visit Cancer Research Center of America's "Proposed Study" and read:
According to articles published in scientific papers, epidemiological studies have provided definitive evidence that women who consumed one 5-oz. glass of table wine per day increase their risk for breast cancer by 20-30 percent compared to nondrinkers. (cited by the National Cancer Institute in Cancer Rates and Risks, 4th. ed. 1996, page 62). Women who consume five or more drinks per day are considered heavy drinkers and their risk factor for breast cancer increased to about 60-70 percent. (cited by the National Cancer Institute in Cancer Rates and Risks, 4th. ed. 1996, page 62) The alcohol in a drink has been shown to be one of the causal agents of breast cancer. The alcohol content of table wine ranges from about 8-12 percent. This same type of alcohol is one of the main ingredients in many cosmetics, toiletries and other personal care products (beauty aid products) that are in widespread use by girls and women. The alcohol content in some of these products ranges from about 25 percent for perfumes and fragrances to about 48 percent for astringents. Unlike beers, table wines and distilled spirits, none of the alcoholic cosmetics and beauty aid products bear a warning on their labels about potential health risks. http://www.CancerResearchAmerica.org/study.html.
And had there been the FDA Petition in place, I could have directed management to EHN's page http://www.ehnca.org/www/FDApetition/eterbkpg.htm with a suggestion that they start reading. Carefully. Absorb the information. And then I might have suggested when reaching the information on alcohol, pay particular attention. Especially to these words:
"Prolonged skin contact causes drying and cracking of skin. May affect the nervous system. May affect liver, blood, reproductive system. ..." Source: JT Baker -- http://www.jtbaker.com/msds/englishhtml/A2028.htm
Who is being served?
The FDA cannot require pre-market testing, it does not test, it cannot recall unsafe products -- that is a voluntary action by the industry, manufacturers don't have to register, the FDA does not have a file of ingredients, and reports of fragrance-related injuries are simply voluntary actions taken by the industry.To top it all, the FDA does not enforce its own requirement for warning labels on cosmetics (fragrances) released to market without adequate testing. See "FDA Authority Over Cosmetics" http://vm.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-206.html.
EHN's General Links, page A, Articles on Halifax
EHN's General Links, page D, Doctors
FDA Petition, Product Label
From Letters appearing on EHN's site in support of Petition 99P-1340
What goes on the skin goes through the skin
And for a corroborating point of view, see . . . Cancer Prevention Coalition
Dr. Samuel Epstein
Personal Care Products: The Neways Story (2001)
by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.
EHN's homepage www.ehnca.org
perfume, fragrances -- The Environmental Health Network (EHN) [of California] is a 501 (c) (3) non profit agency and offers support and information for the chemically injured. Learn about the toxicity of fragrances from the work of Julia Kendall and Betty Bridges, RN, get The BEST of the Reactor, join EHN and receive The New Reactor. See what influence the Chemical Manufacturers have had against those of us with EI. The URL for this page is http://www.ehnca.org