I ordered a few books to help me become educated about the issues, the research and the agencies involved. It's scary to me how many of my assumptions have been wrong. For instance, one assumption is that there are federal agencies charged with overseeing these matters and they have laws they're following. Nope. There may be agencies charged with protection, but something else is going on. So, first on my list is Exposed: The Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Products and What's at Stake for American Power, by Mark Schapiro, an investigative journalist who reports for the Center for Investigative Reporting. I read the first couple of paragraphs and already I know this isn't going to be pleasant. But then, I didn't expect it to be. The next one is The Safe Shopper's Bible, a Consumer's Guide to Nontoxic Household Products, Cosmetics and Food. I glanced at the index and I have to say I was shocked that MSG wasn't there. How could that be? Perhaps after reading it, I'll know. On the surface it seems possible (if problematic) that they somehow missed it as a prevalent toxin. In their defense, I found this in the Author's Note in the front: "Anyone who knows of data that may alter the evaluation of the products and foods reviewed in this book is encouraged to make this information available to the authors by them, etc." This one is designed to help us figure out what to buy and what to avoid -- I guess that's pretty obvious. But along the way it educates. It lists the chemicals that are toxic and why they shouldn't be in the products we buy. Another not fun one. Next we have The Breast Cancer Prevention Program, the First Complete Survey of the Causes of Breast Cancer and the Steps you can Take to Reduce your Risks. These two books are by Samuel S. Epstein, M.D., and David Steinman. Dr. Epstein is also the author of The Politics of Cancer Revisited and many other books about the causes and prevention of cancer. He's been fighting the two big agencies (National Cancer Institute and the American Cancer Society) that are supposedly on our side, for some years now. He doesn't think much of them and is not shy about it. And last, but not least, I've got Not Just a Pretty Face: the Ugly Side of the Beauty Industry. This is the expose I hope everyone will read and heed. It's by Stacy Malkan. She is Communications Director of Health Care Without Harm and media strategist for the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a national coalition working to eliminate hazardous chemicals from personal care products. Stacy is a former journalist and newspaper publisher who lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. Description of the book from Amazon.com:

Lead in lipstick? 1,4 dioxane in baby soap? Coal tar in shampoo? How is this possible?

Simple. The $35 billion cosmetics industry is so powerful that they've kept themselves unregulated for decades.

Not one cosmetic product has to be approved by the US Food and Drug Administration before hitting the market. Incredible? Consider this:

  • The European Union has banned more than 1,100 chemicals from cosmetics. The United States has banned just 10.
  • Only 11% of chemicals used in cosmetics in the US have been assessed for health and safety – leaving a staggering 89% with unknown or undisclosed effects.
  • More than 70% of all personal care products may contain phthalates, which are linked to birth defects and infertility.
  • Many baby soaps are contaminated with the cancer-causing chemical 1,4 dioxane.

It's not just women who are affected by this chemists' brew. Shampoo, deodorant, face lotion and other products used daily by men, women and children contain hazardous chemicals that the industry claims are "within acceptable limits." But there's nothing acceptable about daily multiple exposures to carcinogenic chemicals — from products that are supposed to make us feel healthy and beautiful.

Not Just a Pretty Face delves deeply into the dark side of the beauty industry, and looks to hopeful solutions for a healthier future. This scathing investigation peels away less-than-lovely layers to expose an industry in dire need of an extreme makeover.

I'll keep you posted about what I read and any other books that make their way into my research project. I intend to be educated as well as self-righteous, so that when I go about on my high horse, I'll have something to say and it'll be the truth.

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