I will always say (because it’s true) that the work performed at the Environmental Working Group, or EWG for short, is both important and good to the world.
I am the last person who will say anything bad about the lovely folks who work so hard, on volunteer money, to make the Skin Deep database available.
I DO, on the other hand, have just a wee bit of concern about it… it’s not the be-all, end-all.
The EWG has a huge database of ingredients found in personal care products, along with associated data about how toxic said ingredient is.
In practice, this sounds wonderful right? A database where you can easily look up any ingredient, and know if it’s bad for you.
It WOULD be wonderful, the only problem is…
… not all raw ingredients are made the same way …
… or refined the same way …
… or derived from the same source …
… or as refined or not as refined as the next one of the same generic name …
You need to understand why ingredients are labeled at all.
In the 1930′s, an eye brow color dye was imported, and sold that either made you go blind, or made you go blind.. then killed you.
The GOV said “None Of That Now” and they compiled a list of ingredients that might be dangerous. At the same time, they required products sold to list the ingredients.
In the years since, the GOV (FDA) created “generic names” for a litany of ingredients, and laws tell manufacturers that the “generic name” is the name to use on the label. They effectively “lumped” all variations of any single ingredient into… well.. a “lump”.
While this kept things simple, the lumping kept you from knowing a “well done” variation of an ingredient from a “horribly done, poorly refined, barely meets minimum requirements by law… maybe…” ingredients.
As a manufacturer, I am constantly peppered with invitations from plants overseas (China mainly) to try their version of “Raw Ingredient X”, and THEIR Sales Pitch to me is always the same…
… “We Can Make It Cheaper” … “We Can Save You Money” … “We Can Allow You More Profit” …
And they send me a “data sheet” with the email, and the ingredient BARELY meets the minimum requirements for import and use in the United States.
And I think to myself “Holy Cow! These people think I want cheaper… at the expense of exposing my customers, and myself, to unrefined ingredients… ” My truth is… I want BETTER, not cheaper. ”THIS is who’s driving the boat?? And influencing manufacturers in our country?”
Truth is, better refinement strips out the gunk that the FDA is trying to protect us from. They know that most “mica”, for instance, is mined.
They know that it is mined in places where heavier lead concentrations exist.
They KNOW that unscrupulous, greedy types are going to import the badly refined versions and use them… and that is why they list it at all.
But to lump all “mica’s” (theres over 60 variants, over 3 dozen ways of refinement + each could be mined from over 200 locations in the world) is like saying ” all children are rotten brats”.
I’ve met some rotten brats, but there are also very good children in the world… the kind you LIKE to have around. And I wonder… is being a “brat” of a child somehow the product of the child’s teachers / parents / social climate?
Maybe, but one thing is for sure, when a company comes up with “over the limits” bad stuff in their products… that is MOST CERTAINLY a product of THIER social climate… “cheaper = more money for us = let’s get away with what we can until we get caught”
I can make another guarantee… the cheaper the products price, the worse the condition of it’s starting raw ingredients… promise.
Anyhow, back to the point.
The EWG is doing a great job, but you can only take it at face value on most classes of ingredients, as it’s all “lumped together… and graded together ” … and really, these types of warnings mean something more along the lines of … “has the potential for XYZ issue”
I think it’s more important for YOU to decide “who’s social climate” you want to do business with, and which firms you want to support with your dollars?