Students advocate against cancer-causing chemicals in “Pink” products

Nail polish and other consumer products can lead to cancer, according to a student-run organization that wants better regulation on consumer products.

Choice U.S.A., the organization, set up a table in front of the Liberal Arts building 5 on Tuesday to gather signatures for a petition aimed to update the Toxic Substance Control Act of 1976.

Choice U.S.A. Director Jessica Ross said that the petition will be “hand delivered” to Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) in the hope that she will support an upcoming bill aimed at placing stricter regulations on products containing cancer-causing chemicals.

Although consumers are encouraged to buy pink or pink ribbon products to help the breast cancer cause, Ross said that many of these products have cancer-causing chemicals that actually contradict the fight for cancer. She referred to the companies that do this as “pinkwashers.”

“Companies don’t have to prove that their products are safe,” she said. “[They] are fooling so many people.”

Ross said that these pinkwasher companies use the pink ribbon logo for commercial gain rather than to help the cause to fight cancer.

According to Ross, only 5 percent of the money raised in pink ribbon product sales is used for cancer prevention.  The rest goes toward breast cancer awareness, which, Ross said, is already well known.

On Tuesday, Choice U.S.A. gathered about 200 signatures, Ross said, but the group was not required to gather a specific number of signatures.

Ross said that an online petition, also against pinkwashing and cancer-causing chemical use in products, has gathered more than 18,000 signatures.

Ross also said that OPI Products Inc., a company she labeled a pinkwasher, produces nail polish that is not regulated strictly enough.

However, OPI Chemist Paul Bryson said that most of these claims are a “whole lot of garbage.”

Bryson said that claims made by organizations like Choice U.S.A. are inaccurate because they neglect that the amount of cancer-causing chemicals in OPI’s products are “immeasurably small,” too small to be lethal.

Formaldehyde, one of the chemicals opposed by Choice U.S.A., is used in nail polish as a cross-linking agent that stiffens fingernail protein, according to Bryson. He also said that one would have to drink a large amount of nail polish for the chemicals to be lethal.

“I would have to drink five bottles of nail polish a day,” Bryson said.

Despite the minimal amount of cancer-causing chemicals in these products, Ross said the presence of such chemicals is still a cause for concern.

Ross said that anyone one can check on what kind of cancer-causing chemicals, if any, their products contain.

“I just want people to be critical of what they buy,” Ross said.

Some students who signed the petition said they were hoping to make a difference.

“I think [this petition] will change the way companies will produce their products,” freshman finance major Joshua Cason said.

Biology major Vanessa Alvarez said that she’s concerned if everyday products are harmful. She also said that she liked seeing organizations advocating for a good cause.

“If we start small, it will make a difference in the future,” she said.

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