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Greenwashing at the Kiddie Hair Salon

by Organicmania — last modified Feb 01, 2008 10:15 PM

Today was a milestone day – I finally got Baby Boo his first real haircut, since far too many people were calling him "her." So by rights, I should be thinking about that happy milestone. But instead, I left the salon steaming mad about one of the most egregious examples of greenwashing I’ve come across – an “all natural, organic hair care for children” line of lice treatment products called Fairy Tales Hair Care for Children.

Today was a milestone day – I finally got Baby Boo his first real haircut, since far too many people were calling him "her." So by rights, I should be thinking about that happy milestone. But instead, I left the salon steaming mad about one of the most egregious examples of greenwashing I’ve come across – an “all natural, organic hair care for children” line of lice treatment products called Fairy Tales Hair Care for Children.

I happen to really be in the market for an organic lice treatment – in fact I even included it in a post called “Humor Me Not: The Top 10 Organic and Eco-Friendly Products Moms Really Need.”

But skeptic that I am, the first two things I do when I see anything labeled “natural” or “organic” is to check the ingredients list and to look for a USDA organic certification label. Despite the “organic” claims, I didn’t see a USDA label on the Fairy Tales bottles, but I did see a long list of non-organic ingredients including major no-nos like parabens and fragrance.

According to the Environmental Working Group, "parabens can disrupt the hormone (endocrine) system, and were found in the breast cancer tumors of 19 of 20 women studied." And the EWG reports that fragrance should be avoided in children’s products because of allergens that may contain neurotoxic or hormone-disrupting chemicals. (You can learn more about fragrance through this informative EWG video clip).

Although the FDA allows low levels of many chemicals in personal care products, there is increasing concern about the impact of low doses of chemicals on our bodies. You can read an excellent EWG commentary on this here. And even conservative business publications like The Wall Street Journal – hardly a tool of the environmental lobby - have published research questioning the safety of personal care chemicals. In fact, it was the Wall Street Journal's multi-part series about this issue that inspired me to reduce my family’s use of household cleaning and personal care products with unnecessary chemical ingredients.

The ten chemicals listed in the Fairy Tale Rosemary Repel® shampoo ingredients make these “organic” marketing claims seem audacious. I checked the ingredient list against the Environmental Working Group’s SkinDeep database of personal care products and discovered that six of these chemicals are considered moderate risks to health by the EWG. Just click on the links to read the EWG’s reports on cocamidopropyl betaine, lauramide DEA, methylparaben, propylparaben, polyquaternium-10 and quaternium-15, all ingredients in this so-called "organic shampoo."

In fact, the label doesn't list any actual organic ingredients. Yes, it’s true the shampoo contains natural ingredients like jojoba seed oil, rosemary leaf oil, anise oil, tea tree oil, and anise oil, but as the Executive Director of the Organic Consumers Association says on the OCA website, "Organic consumers expect their organic personal care to be free of synthetic foaming agents and preservatives, and companies should not just add token organic ingredients on top of such synthetics to make organic product claims. Consumers should look for the "USDA Organic" seal on products if they want to be certain they are truly organic.”

Moreover, the National Institutes of Health announced a year ago that consumers should exercise caution when using personal care products with tea tree oil (and lavender) because they may cause breast growth in boys.

So dear readers, please look for the USDA Organic seal and READ LABELS on personal care products, especially those marketed to children or used by women during childbearing years. Of course, it’s hard to attentively read a label when you have kids in tow at the kiddie hair salon – which is yet another reason I find this particular case of kiddie greenwashing so annoying.

My advice? Take the money you might have spent on this ill-conceived product and donate it instead to the non-profit Environmental Working Group, so they can keep on producing and publicizing this important health research. Click here to donate. And if you're a Facebook member, go here to donate $10, which will enable the EWG to add another product to the Skindeep database.

-- Lynn

Copyright 2008, OrganicMania

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