Conventional wisdom holds that seeing "natural" and “organic" on product labels somehow means the companies selling those goods are using better, safer ingredients. However, these words often offer a false promise to consumers and the planet.
For instance, "natural," which is a relatively broad word, has no concrete, recognized definition in the industry, and it isn’t currently regulated. The federal agencies that oversee the sale and advertising of cosmetics, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), still have not formally defined this term as it applies to cosmetic products.
Despite this, cosmetic makers often tout natural ingredients, implying that they are less polluting and therefore better for the environment. On the contrary, the “natural" ingredients in personal and skin care products often contribute to pollution, habitat destruction, and climate change.
Take palm oil, for example. This widely used vegetable oil is present in more than half of all packaged products sold in the United States and 70 percent of cosmetics, including shampoo and conditioner, makeup, skin care products, toothpaste, and sunscreen. Companies use palm oil in these products for its many desirable properties, including vitamin E content, texture-boosting fatty acids, and natural alcohols …
Earlier this month, HBO Max aired an important series about toxic ingredients in cosmetic products. The series also examined the professional beauty industry and the health effects to workers exposed to toxic ingredients.
Toxic ingredients are found in cosmetics and other personal care products. The toxic chemicals used in them have been linked to a wide range of health problems, including ovarian cancer, breast cancer, early-onset puberty, fibroids and endometriosis, miscarriage, poor maternal and infant health outcomes, diabetes and obesity, and more. As I noted in Not So Pretty, "There is a loophole in federal regulation that allows industry to use almost any ingredient and label it as 'fragrance.'"
Women’s History Month isn’t just a time to recognize achievements made throughout the decades to advance women’s rights and demand equity. It’s also an opportunity to celebrate women making history today, the ones in our unwritten history books.
For example, U.S. Supreme Court Justice nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson, if confirmed, will be the first Black woman to serve on the nation’s highest court. Judge Jackson, a former clerk for retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, graduated from Harvard Law School and served as a federal district and appellate court judge in Washington, D.C. Before serving as a judge, she worked for two years as a federal public defender, a vitally important role and an experience that few judges share. Indeed, she would be the first Supreme Court justice to ever have held such a position.
Shalanda Baker, a Member Scholar on leave …
This op-ed was originally published by The Hill.
Recently, Congress passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act, which will block enforcement of arbitration requirements for workers alleging sexual harassment or assault. Arbitration is the process of handling disputes outside of the court system — forced arbitration prohibits workers from suing their employer altogether.
This is an important outcome for the #MeToo movement and has the potential to reach many workers and employment claims, depending on how broadly or narrowly it is interpreted.
In a fair and just country, corporations are held accountable in the courts if their irresponsible behavior harms people. However, like many policies, the communities most impacted by forced arbitration are historically marginalized groups. Indeed, forced arbitration has a disproportionate impact on low-income Americans and Black and brown women when they are the victims of discrimination. Their abuse goes beyond the …
UPDATE: On February 10, the Senate passed the Ending Forced Arbitration of Sexual Assault and Sexual Harassment Act (H.R. 4445), sending it to President Joe Biden for his signature. Read my brief statement on the importance of this legislation.
A few years ago, Roschelle Powers took a routine trip to visit her mom, Roberta, at her nursing home in Birmingham, Alabama. When Roschelle opened the door, she found her mother vomiting, disoriented — and clutching a handful of pills. Roberta’s son, Larry, visited a few days later and found his mom alone and unresponsive. She died soon after – with 20 times the recommended dose of her diabetes medication in her blood.
The Powerses …
This op-ed was originally published in Maryland Matters.
Although vaccination rates continue to rise and coverage on COVID-19 is fading away from prominent news dashboards, our rates are still higher than in summer 2020. While we still adapt to living and working with COVID-19, we must prepare for future public health emergencies so we do not lose another year figuring out our response.
While many provisions of the Maryland Essential Workers’ Protection Act (MEWPA) expired when Gov. Larry Hogan ended Maryland’s state of emergency, one important, future-looking provision remained. Under the law, the Maryland Department of Health is required to develop a template catastrophic health emergency preparedness plan.
The statutory requirement is supposed to provide a plan we can reach for if we are faced with future pandemics. We need to have the best practices, plans and lessons learned compiled and prepared for the next disaster …
A recent Maryland law requires the state's Commissioner of Labor and Industry, in consultation with its Occupational Safety and Health Advisory Board, to develop and adopt regulations that require employers to protect employees from heat-related illness caused by heat stress. Those standards are due by October 2022.
The law also requires the state to hold four public meetings to collect input from residents. This month, the Maryland Occupational Safety and Health Division (MOSH) scheduled those meetings, and I testified at the September 20 session.
As I stated during the hearing, CPR is pleased that Maryland will issue a standard requiring employers to protect workers from heat-related illnesses this session. I and other advocates urged MOSH to address the dangers of working in the heat and the immediate need for the standard.
As noted in my testimony, farmworkers are predominantly Black and brown, and many are from Indigenous …
Labor Day got its start in the late 19th Century, when labor activists pushed for a federal holiday to recognize the many contributions workers make to America’s strength, prosperity, and wellbeing.
In addition to our usual picnics and barbeques, we should spend this day uplifting laborers who work in conditions in dire need of regulation — including those exposed to extreme heat or who work in hot environments.
Physical activity makes it difficult for the body to cool itself down, especially as temperatures and humidity rise. The effects can be dangerous, ranging from dizziness, nausea, cramps, exhaustion, and vomiting to faster heart rates and deadly heatstroke. Exposure to extreme heat can also exacerbate preexisting respiratory and heart conditions.
People who work in hot conditions are in special danger. Indeed, heat killed 815 workers on the job between 1992 and 2017 and seriously injured 70,000 more, according …
In February, Georgia Rep. Hank Johnson, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, reintroduced the FAIR Act. The legislation would protect workers and consumers by eliminating restrictive "forced arbitration" clauses in employment and consumer contracts. The bill would also allow consumers and workers to agree to arbitration after a dispute occurs if doing so is in their best interests. A companion measure has been introduced in the Senate.
Arbitration — a process where third parties resolve legal disputes out of court — is a standard precondition to most, if not all, nonunion employment and consumer contracts. It's considered "forced" because few consumers and workers are aware that they are agreeing to mandatory arbitration when they sign contracts. In most contracts, arbitration is imposed on a take-it-or-leave-it basis before any dispute even occurs; refusing to sign is rarely a realistic option because other sellers …