Monday, February 3, 2014

Corporations' 'Trade Secrets' Trump Public Health

New database created to let consumers know if personal care products contain carcinogens, but 'trade secrets' claim lets companies skirt transparency

Andrea Germanos
(Photo: Retoxx/cc/flickr)
Corporate power seems to be thwarting the public's right to know if the personal care products they use contain potentially harmful ingredients.

Selsun Blue is one of the products that lists trade secret for an ingredient. As a result of the California Safe Cosmetics Act, the California Department of Public Health (CDPH) earlier this month rolled out a searchable database through which consumers could see if their personal care products contain carcinogens or reproductive toxins.

Yet an analysis of the database conducted by Women’s Voices for the Earth, an organization working to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm public health and communities, revealed this week that 22 companies are requesting trade secret status for nearly 1,500 products, exploiting a loophole that allows them to keep the ingredients hidden from consumers.

Consumers searching the database may see "trade secret" listed for an ingredient instead of a chemical, thereby preventing full disclosure.

One egregious example the analysis found was make-up and fragrance maker Shiseido, which claimed trade secret status on ingredients in almost 400 of their products. Indeed, if a user searches "trade secret" on the database, pages upon pages of Shiseido products appear.

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