Last week I was invited to watch a film called The Big Stink.  It was being sponsored by Weleda and was hosted by the Womens’ Environmental Network.  Not knowing much about WEN or the Chemical industry I was delighted to attend the screening, held at Amnesty International HQ.  I set up a Weleda information point with another colleague and immediately got chatting to some like-minded souls who were equally passionate about the amount of toxins that are placed within beauty and wellbeing products and the detrimental effect this can have on our health. The Film: The film was an investigative piece that told the story of a father, Jon Whelan,  who had lost his wife to cancer.  She had challenged ingredients in food during her illness, and once widowed, Jon resolved to continue her fight.  This was exacerbated by the purchase of a pair of children’s pyjamas which were so overpoweringly laden with toxic chemicals that he decided to take on the chemical industry about the amount of carcinogenic ingredients in everyday items.  The story, sadly, is not a happy one. Toxic products have been exposed, but it appears that the US is the dumping ground for products that are not good enough for the Chinese or EU market. Why should you be worried about this?

  • Brexit means that the UK is soon to be governed by different legislation regarding manufacturing of goods and not regulated by the EU which has much tighter laws on toxicity.
  • Toxic Chemicals on  and in everyday products (furniture, clothing, food, etc) can create cancers, skin, gut as well as auto-immune illnesses.

I learnt some fascinating information. Did you know that furniture today is only covered in non-flammable coatings as the tabacco industry refused to change ingredients in cigarettes to allow a self-extinguishing cigarette. Frightening isn’t it that a deal between the tabacco industry and chemical industry can change the face of what is deemed ‘safe’ in society, purely driven by profit. After the movie there was a panel discussion in which Jayn Sterland, MD of Weleda UK and Nat Van Zee a holistic beauty therapist spoke about their concerns for the UK market. The UK has poor legislation that means that a process called ‘Greenwashing’ is commonplace.  Health and Beauty products can be labelled ‘natural’, ‘organic’ even if only 1% of their ingredients are natural or organic.  When you delve deeper into the ingredients it is frightening what people are placing on their skin.  In a world where 1 in 8 people has cancer nowadays we must start taking responsibility for challenging what goes on us.  It is up to us to educate our children and young people and make it acceptable for everyone to raise concerns about corporations including ingredients only for financial benefits. I am most concerned about the sanitary health industry or what WEN labels, Environmenstrual products.  Tampons, made from bleached wood pulp are highly carcinogenic, as are towels that are bleached just to look white.  The impact of chlorinated products placed near women’s reproductive systems is a feminist issue. WEN had some great books and resources on display and I would recommend you visit their website if you want to learn more. My call to action points are the following:

  • Read ingredients on everything!  If it’s long and complicated  to say then chances are it’s toxic.
  • Women, try a menstrual cup or natural towels.
  • Consider how natural a product actually is.  Is it certified by Natrue?  Demeter?  Soil Association?