Midwinter, 2014, well into the 21st century. The ills of the previous century are following us into the future.

In 1935, DuPont changed the way Americans viewed the role of business in society by launching their “Better Things for Better Living … Through Chemistry” advertising campaign. According to DuPont’s advertising director, the goal was not to promote a product but to pacify fear of bigness in business, which industry claimed was based on emotion rather than rationale.

Three chemistry-intensive generations passed. Now, trustworthy organizations report this serious health concern: reproductive disorders, early puberty in our daughters and asthma are caused by chemicals called phthalates.

These chemicals are in products we’ve trusted for years: lotions, shampoos and other personal care products, particularly ones with “fragrance” in the ingredient list.

In my bathroom, I have Johnson & Johnson’s Shower to Shower body powder. The front of the bottle advertises lavender; the ingredient list says “fragrance.” Johnson & Johnson’s Purell hand sanitizer lists “fragrance” as an ingredient. Colgate-Palmolive’s Irish Spring bar soap lists “fragrance.” The soap smell is strong, the box is unopened.

Have I been exposing myself and my family to phthalates by buying these products? I cannot know the answer; manufacturers aren’t required to disclose their use of phthalates.


Big business, the fear of which industry deemed irrational in the 1930s, has become “too big to fail,” “too big to regulate” and “too big to be held accountable.” Without an honest, complete ingredient list on products, we cannot rationally decide what to bring home.

Contact your legislators. Insist on strong regulation that protects our kids and us from the terrible illnesses toxic phthalates can cause. Let 2014 be the year manufacturers are required to disclose honest information naming phthalates if they are present in their products.

Betty Allen


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