Archive for April, 2009


Bee-ware of Frankin-scents!

Bee-ware of Frankin-scents!

Fragrance can be composed of dozens if not hundreds of chemicals, which are not disclosed on the label–a dirty little secret supported by the US Government. Think of Fragrance as a Frankin-scent monster lurking in your shampoo. You may be thinking: how can that be? The FDA rules only require the word “Fragrance” on the label even though Fragrances are actually a huge cocktail of numerous chemical components. Many of these chemicals come with some very negative baggage. For example, the benzene family of chemicals tends to have a sweetish aroma that is very popular among perfumers. The benzenes are petroleum-based, so they’re cheap, easy to come by and a known cause of leukemia. Again, the guiding factor is CHEAP!!! Not health. And the government turns a blind eye to this game.

One of the most alarming, and most common chemicals found in Synthetic Fragrances is phthalates, which have been scientifically linked to a number of degenerative diseases. The scientific journal Environmental Health Perspectives has published a study finding that women of reproductive age (20-40 years) were found to have significantly higher blood levels of monobutyl phthalate than other age/gender groups. Phthalates have been found to be a reproductive and developmental toxicant in rodents. * This is largely attributed to the vast array of phthalates in skin care and cosmetics that women in this age bracket expose themselves to daily. Synthetics Fragrances are cheap and essential oils are expensive which is why so many companies choose to use a synthetic Fragrance instead of the much healthier essential oil alternative. They are addicted to cheap. Avoid products that list “fragrance”, “perfume” or “parfum” as ingredients. This should alert you that the manufacturer is only interested in profit because he is using cheap and toxic ingredients.

Phthalates are plastics used as industrial plasticizers to impart flexibility and resilience to plastic, among other uses. Recent studies have discovered that phthalates can interfere with the normal sexual development of a fetus or infant. Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is most often used as a fragrance ingredient in perfume, cologne, deodorant, soap, shampoo, lotion, and other personal care products (Environmental Working Group 2003; Wolff 2007). Exposure to diethyl phthalate occurs through direct use of products containing this chemical, as well as through inhalation of contaminated air (Centers for Disease Control (CDC) 2005).

In September 2000, scientists from the CDC conducted the first accurate measurements of human phthalate exposures, and reported finding phthalates in every one of 289 people tested.

Phthalates have recently been banned from toys in California, which is great, but how about personal care products, laundry detergents, household products, air fresheners? Phthalates are now everywhere thanks to the ubiquitous use of Fragrance.

Epp-Bee-Log: We can all limit our exposure to Fragrances. Just read labels and look for the “F” word. Even if you see some non toxic words like “natural” connected to it, do not be deceived. No mater which way the label says Fragrance you now know it is a trick word that is meant to hide the truth. Manufacturers that use Fragrance are not the exception in personal care product manufacturing. Almost all manufacturers use these chemical Fragrances. Driven by cheap ingredients the use of Fragrances is actually the norm. My tip of the day is don’t let the Frankin-scent Monster into your home.

*Source: Environmental Health Perspectives: Levels of Seven Urinary Phthalate Metabolites in a Human Reference Population www.ehponline.org/members/2000/108p972-982blount/blount-full.html


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Central Park First Earth Day ©Richie Gerber

Central Park First Earth Day ©Richie Gerber

Julie and I go back to the first Earth Day celebration in Central Park in the early 1970’s. Since 1980, Earth Day was always a major event at our Natural Foods Stores, Bread of Life. In 1992 we gave away over 600 Laurel Oak Trees to customers and local municipalities, which proved to be a big local media event. We have always expressed our concern regarding the environment.

That first Earth Day celebration was an event by the counter culture to focus people’s attention on the challenges facing Mother Earth. We are truly amazed that this counter culture event has crossed over to become a yearly mainstream ritual. Maybe it is not so amazing. Since Earth Day has become such a huge global media frenzy some individuals, companies and organizations have learned how to game the event to position themselves as upstanding stewards of the environment when in reality they are huge polluters as well as massive hypocrites.

Back in the 60’s we had words like “co-opted” and “sell out” for people who were using counter culture ideas for personal gain. Don’t get me wrong; I am not against profit or personal gain. I am against hypocrites who are only in it for the money.

What I mean by the hypocrites are companies who produce the most toxic substances in mass quantities but use the media to project an image of being extremely green and environmentally friendly. You can see any number of these ads on TV and in newspapers or magazines. In the ads they praise themselves for their exemplary environmental stewardship, when in fact we all know they are involved in huge amounts of pollution. They produce products that are detrimental to the environment as well as use negative manufacturing practices that pollute.

Last night I had a dream about how one of these companies, let’s call it TOXIC INC., might go about doing a snow job to cover up their polluting ways. Welcome to my nightmare, here it is:

TOXIC INC. hires a Madison Avenue PR and ad company to produce a major image changing campaign. Please note that 99% of TOXIC’s business has a negative impact on the environment. They want to convey an Earth friendly corporate image to the public while continuing its detrimental business practices. In order to do this they must downplay the toxic 99% of their business and focus on the less than 1% of their business that is Earth friendly.  Let’s call the Madison Avenue PR company SnowJob PR Inc. They first need to create an Earth friendly project to promote. TOXIC decides that since they are destroying large tracts of land in remote areas they will put sod over the depleted areas once they are done destroying them. We must remember that neither the TOXIC INC. executives nor the SnowJob PR guys really know or care about the environmental issues involved as long as they can promote and exaggerate their green initiative. They are only interested in presenting a new clean and green look for TOXIC INC.

So here is the plan. Since this is for such a worthy cause they commission the world-renowned environmental installation artist, GreenGo, to create a huge installation. GreenGo creates a work, which will wrap the entire continent of Antarctica in green polypropylene floating fabric for six days. GreenGo picked Antarctica to highlight global warming as well, in order to get more bang for the buck since it is such a hot issue. Speaking of more bang for the buck TOXIC INC pays to have celebrities endorse the art installation as well as hail TOXIC for its wonderful environmental commitment.

The project is a major hit. The media is all over it. Two hundred celebrities fly to the opening ceremony in 200 private jets, not commercial airlines in order not to inconvenience them and make the experience an easy in and out. Thousand of volunteers prep the material for distribution from airplanes. The entire project is executed flawlessly. The event is in the news for weeks. People all over the world are now raving about TOXIC INC and their commitment to the environment. GreenGo is once again hailed as the great environmental installation artist of our time. Even SnowJob PR  is acknowledged as THE cutting edge Madison Avenue PR Company. Meanwhile TOXIC INC continues to pollute the environment in 99% of its business but has created a false image of being grand environmental stewards.

In order to give some balance one can argue that the 1% green program is the first step in the right direction, which I agree with. When we are talking about huge companies changing even a little on such a massive scale it does have a positive impact. We need to help corporate America increase that 1% to a much higher percentage as soon as possible.

Epp-BEE-Log: I know this is crazy stuff but that’s how dreams are. Some things do ring true though. There are many large polluters who manipulate the media and public opinion in order to convey a false image of being environmentally friendly. My dream for this Earth Day is that more and more people see through this hypocrisy and demand an increased proactive approach to environmental issues from corporations or else my dream will turn into a nightmare. Goodnight. Sweet dreams.






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lavender-fragrance-pic6A few years ago, when I started my personal care company, BeeCeuticals Organics, I contacted several manufacturers to produce products according to my specs. I was interested in using only natural and organic ingredients. Our discussions about the ingredients were going well until the subject of scent came up. Scents play an important role in skin care products by working together with the other ingredients. As I learned later on, scents can be harmful too; it all depends on the source.

When one of these manufacturers began to explain what he did to enhance the aroma of his products I almost jumped out of my organic skin! Let’s call him Dirty Larry. I wanted the aroma of Lavender in one of my facial creams. Dirty Larry was happy, he said that Lavender, which he called Lavender Type Fragrance, was readily available and cheap to use in manufacturing. But, wait a second, I said to myself: what did he mean by Lavender Type Fragrance?

He described to me how the practice of using Fragrances is accepted in the cosmetic industry.  And then he specifically defined what he meant by Lavender Type Fragrance by showing me the list of chemicals that, when mixed together smell like Lavender. Following you can read it for yourself:

Ingredients: 4-(40Hydroxyphenyl)-2-butanone, 3-hodroxy-2-methyl-4-pyrone, 4-hydroxy-3-methylbenzaldehyde, a-Ionone, Methyl Sulfide, 2,5-Dimethyl-N(2-pyrazinyl)pyrrole


I was stunned!! What happened to using the essence of Lavender flowers? For two decades I owned Natural Food stores and was aware of Essential Oils being used for their scents and therapeutic qualities.  As it turns out, Essential Oils are a lot more costly than cheap Fragrances and not the scent of choice for most personal care companies. Of course I did not do business with Dirty Larry, but I did learn a lot about how most cosmetic companies operate. Here are some of the facts I learned about the stench of Fragrance:

Many companies including so-called “natural” companies use synthetic Fragrances, especially some of the biggest names and widely used brands. Many even put “natural Fragrance ” in their ingredient list. THER IS NO SUCH THING as a “natural Fragrance “! This is a lie. A natural scent is imparted to a product only by essential oils and would read on the label as “essential oil of…” If you see the word “Fragrance”, you know that product contains nasty chemicals as shown in the above example of Lavender.

Fragrance oils and perfumes are blends of synthetic chemicals that give a distinct aroma to a product. These chemicals do not have to be accounted for in the ingredients list individually. A perfume can consist of a hundred different synthetic chemicals and be listed as “Fragrance” even on a so-called “natural” product. This is so deceptive. One little “F” word can actually represent a hundred different synthetic chemicals!

A few things you should know about “Fragrance”:

·        A fragrance can contain upwards of 150 undisclosed chemicals and yet only be labeled as “fragrance” in the ingredient listing. Companies are allowed to keep the ingredients in a fragrance a secret and claim it is proprietary information.

·        Recent studies have found nearly 100 Volatile Organic Compounds(VOC’s) at high levels in products containing fragrance. Some of those VOC’s include acetaldehyde, chloromethane, and 1,4 dioxane which has been linked to cancer!

·        One of the most alarming and most common chemicals found were phthalates, which have been scientifically linked to a number of degenerative diseases

·        Fragrances are unregulated

·        According to the American Academy of Dermatologists most allergic reactions from skin care products are due to synthetic fragrances. I remember customers coming to my stores with masks on their face or calling in orders that they would pick up outside the store so they did not come in contact with people wearing perfume.


In a laboratory analysis, one popular perfume was found to contain more than forty chemicals classified as hazardous to the liver, and yet the FDA still does not require perfume manufacturers to warn consumers about the toxic chemicals found in these products.

Epp-BEE-Log: This is such a stinky subject. Remember when you see the word FRAGRANCE on a label it can be hiding many unlisted synthetic and toxic chemicals. We must all say NO to personal care products that say FRAGRANCE.



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sheep-lanolinBy Richie Gerber


There’s a dirty little secret lurking in your “all-natural” lip balm as well as other balms. It’s called Lanolin. Touted for its moisturizing properties, lanolin has been included in a number of body and skin care products over the years. Some companies even go far enough to brag about it on the front of the bottle. However, while lanolin is considered to be a “natural” product since it is not technically a petrochemical, there is controversy as to exactly how it is gathered.


So What is Lanolin?

Lanolin is a wax from a sebaceous gland in sheepskin. In ancient times they discovered that this wax is moisturizing on the skin and good for softening leather as well. It really is a very effective moisturizer, which is absorbed efficiently on the skin. The ancients knew this and we old time health foodies know it as well. Another great quality of Lanolin is it is a wonderful transporter of other materials, which are mixed with it. So if you add some Calendula to it you would see the Lanolin and Calendula absorbed rapidly.


Sounds Great So What’s The Problem?

Currently, Lanolin is removed from the wool with chemical scouring. In conventional wool production, the wool is dipped in pesticides to kill any mites and parasites, and then it is chemically scoured to remove the lanolin. It is then put through a centrifuge, and then it undergoes a distillation process, which yields the finished lanolin. Conventional lanolin that you would find in your “all-natural” lip and body balm has been through this chemical cocktail processing. Current regulations call for it to contain less than 40 parts per million (ppm) of pesticide residue in order to be applied topically, but who is watching? The Organic Monitoring Research institute admits that it is not clear who is monitoring this 40 ppm of pesticide residue for compliance. You and I both know the answer: NOBODY!!! As of today, there are no International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) standards for lanolin production.  It is a free-for-all and nobody is paying attention to the safety of the finished product.


Lanolin is exposed to a number of pesticides when the wool is dipped. A few of them are: Organochlorine, organophosphate, pyrethroid. Residues of these toxic pesticides in lanolin are well documented. Sheep also ingest low levels of dieldrin. Studies show that the pesticides bind to the lanolin due to its waxy consistency rather than to the wool fiber itself. The pesticides become concentrated in the lanolin. As I said before Lanolin is a great and effective transporter of other materials. So you can be sure that the pesticide laden Lanolin transports all the pesticides into your body in a most efficient way. This is really scary stuff. Imagine finding an excellent carrier of pesticides and adding it to your body and lip balms. Not only do you absorb these toxic substances through your skin you also ingest them in your lip balm.

Because lanolin is a wax it degrades slowly and the pesticides residues are slow to degrade as well. So it is like a time-release dose of toxins. To extract the lanolin from the wool, processers use Methyl chloride as a solvent. There are numerous studies to the toxic effects of this chemical.  Who wants any of that in their body or lip balm?


A strange but true fact, lanolin is currently allowed in Organic Agriculture and has been at the center of some heated debates. Should lanolin be allowed to be used on the teats of organically raised cows?  This would introduce pesticide residue on milking cows and cows feeding calves. This pesticide residue would contaminate the organic milk and milk products. How can you call the milk organic after it has been exposed to these toxic substances? Beats me.

Ep-BEE-Log: Are they trying to pull the wool over our eyes? The debate is still ongoing, but for me it is a no brainer. The use of pesticide laced Lanolin should be outlawed and they should stop trying to fool us by putting this Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing!!!

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