Last week, I started a new internship with the Oregon Environmental Council: communications and social media strategy for their "What's In My Makeup Bag?!" project. In collaboration with Metro, OEC surveyed over a thousand Portland State University students to gather information about common uses of personal care products for college age females. Now, they are launching a media campaign to share the results. Why conduct such a seemingly inconsequential survey, one may ask? Well!
1. As of now, personal care products (that people apply to their skin/lips/eyes/hair weekly, monthly, and daily) are not required to be reviewed or approved by the FDA. Product labels are not required to have a full disclosure of ingredients, and of the 10,500 various ingredients in cosmetics, only eleven to thirteen percent have been officially investigated by the personal care product industry's official Cosmetic Ingredient Review as to health effects.
2. Many personal products contain chemicals that have been shown to cause dermatitis, reproductive system/fertility problems, endocrine system disruption, early occurrence of puberty in girls, liver and kidney damage, and cancer. Plus, almost all toxins have been indicated in affecting a developing fetus while in the womb.
3. Women use twice as many personal care products as men do, and studies reveal that women of reproductive age are the most vulnerable to the negative effects of said toxins.
With this in mind, the results of the survey are markedly relevant, especially since next week, the Safe Cosmetics Act is being reintroduced into Congress. The Act would authorize the FDA to prohibit the use of carcinogens and reproductive and developmental toxins, recall products that do not to meet safety standards, and require full disclosure of each ingredient in every product. I was actually shocked to learn that no such law is currently in place, and I am relatively certain that many women my age will be surprised to learn about the issue as well. A recent study revealed that the average woman applies 515 chemicals to her skin daily, without considering the possible implications.
Thus, the objectives of the "What's In My Makeup Bag?!" campaign are:
1. To educate women about this issue.
2. To empower them to make personal changes by providing information and practical alternatives.
3. To engage the at-risk population in creating policy change, specifically the Safe Cosmetics Act.
My role in this whole process is creating a social media strategy that promotes all of these goals. I'll be posting about it on Facebook, tweeting my little heart out on Twitter, blogging about it through the OEC website, designing a press release with the survey results, you name it- any way to get the word out (it helps that Jessica Alba is speaking up in support of the act!). I am really looking forward to this project. I think it's a major step towards my goal of actually utilizing my skills to make a positive difference. Stay tuned!