The Science of Sustainability

Is There Something Dangerous Lurking In Your Purse?

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Could the cosmetics in your purse be harmful to your health? Image from Wikimedia Commons. / CC BY-NC 3.0

Each October, within Breast Cancer Awareness Month, my friends and I get into a flurry organizing and putting on Beats for Boobs. Beats for Boobs is an annual fundraiser started by my friend Juliana Cochnar after finding out her mother was diagnosed with Breast Cancer. The Beats for Boobs mission is to educate the community on breast cancer through a collaborative celebration of art, fashion, food and music.

This year the fundraiser welcomed 1200 people through its doors and raised over $20,000 for local Breast Cancer organizations. The theme this year was Green is the new Pink. The education team, which I have been a member of for three years, now, was tasked with educating the public on ways to prevent breast cancer. We set up a prize wheel and gave everyone a chance to win; all they had to do was answer a question about Breast Cancer correctly.

Some of the questions posed were:

Question: Synthetic Chemicals can accumulate in body fat and remain in breast tissue for decades- some that can cause mammary tumors.

TRUE/FALSE

Answer: TRUE

Question: 80,000 chemicals have been registered for use in the United States in the last 40 years, yet _________ of them have been fully tested for their effects on our health.

10%
25%
50%
5%

Answer: 10%

Question: No more than _______ women who have Breast Cancer have a genetic history of the disease.

1:5
1:3
1:8
1:10

Answer: 1:10

Question: Which of the everyday products below can contain chemicals linked to breast cancer?

Shampoo
Deodorant
Face Cream and Make-Up
Sunscreen
All of the above

Answer: All of the above

Most of the night, I was stationed at the What’s in Your Purse Table, which used the Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database Website to access the hazard of everyday products. “Now in its fourth year and third major update… Skin Deep database provides you with easy-to-navigate safety ratings for nearly a quarter of all products on the market — 52,099 products with 8,799 ingredients. At about one million page views per month, Skin Deep is the world's largest and most popular product safety guide. The database rates items on a 1 to 10 scale – 0-2 is low hazard, 3-6 is a moderate hazard, 7-10 is a high hazard. After the fundraiser, I became very well acquainted with the Skin Deep website. I went through every cosmetic item in my house and as a girl with a love of make-up that meant quite a few items! Most of the items I was using on my face were a moderate to high hazard rating. The toothpaste I used had a rating of 7. The eyeliner I used on a daily basis had a rating of 9 and the lip-gloss I wore nearly everyday had a rating of 6. At the end of my research, I had found out that my mineral make-up was low hazard but my eye shadows, sunscreen, soap and toothpaste had to go. I got rid of a full shopping bag of products that all rated 5 and above. I called my mom and told her what I found out. I am bringing over my laptop and we are going through her bathroom and toiletries next week.

Each year, on the education committee for Beats for Boobs we try to make the education fun and accessible so we can instill ways to prevent Breast Cancer. The Skin Deep website was an excellent resource to do just that. Only one person was able to get something out of it this year but I am hoping that with this blog and a new approach next year, that number will continue to rise.

This blog is in honor to my Aunt who is surviving Breast Cancer.

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Cat

About the Author ()

Cathleen (Cat) is the former Special Projects Manager at California Academy of Sciences and worked in the public programs division. Before working at the Academy, Cat got her start as an intern at Lindsay Wildlife Museum for four years and worked with animals ranging from snakes and hawks to foxes and bobcats. She has a deep curiosity about the natural world and native California wildlife.