Reading the labels on cosmetic and hygiene products may seem like a waste of time, but it could just save your life.
Last week, a Missouri court ordered pharmaceutical giant Johnson and Johnson to award $72 million to the family of Jacqueline Fox, a woman who died last fall of ovarian cancer which may have been caused by her use of Johnson and Johnson’s baby powder and other products containing talc.
The circumstances of Fox’s death and the alleged cause of her ovarian cancer has Americans worried not only about the ingredients in the products they use, but also about what information companies are withholding from them. The main concern at the heart of this issue is about responsibility. It is our responsibility as consumers to be aware of what ingredients are in products we consume, but it is also the responsibility of manufacturers to not betray trust and consciously omit information about ingredients that could be potentially life threatening.
According to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, a major deciding factor for jurors in the Fox case were intercompany memos that were presented at the trial. One memo from the pharmaceutical company’s medical consultant equated omitting the dangers of “hygienic” talc use and ovarian cancer to the link between cigarettes and cancer, which is essentially “denying the obvious in the face of all evidence to the contrary.”
Fox’s case, in the least, raises awareness of being cautious of what goes into our cosmetics products. Carcinogenic and potentially dangerous ingredients are used in every day cosmetics. Talcum, the ingredient used most commonly in baby powder and was the contributing ingredient in the Fox suit, has been associated with an increased risk of ovarian cancer. Formaldehyde and formaldehyde releasing parabens are used to deter microbes from growing in water based products and are proven to cause cancer. These chemicals are also used in items such as nail polish, body wash and hair gel.
Although it is our responsibility as consumers to educate ourselves about the products used on our bodies, companies should do right by their customers and provide accurate and complete information. A simple warning label or news release could reduce the number of people affected by the ingredients in their products, and although it may hurt their bottom line, it would be the most ethical decision. So, next time you stroll into the drugstore in need of a new conditioner, body wash or toothpaste, don’t forget to check the label.