August 22 2014

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GoodGuide: The New Way To Shop Smart


As consumers become ever more aware that what they put onto their body goes into their body, the issue of difficult-to-decipher ingredient labels on personal care products has been drawing increasing concern. Because federal law doesn’t require makers of household products to list all ingredients used (or what they do), there are a lot of unknowns as to what you’re actually slathering or spritzing on your skin—which is precisely what compelled Dara O’Rourke, a professor of environmental and labor policy at the University of California, Berkeley, to get pro-active. According to a recent article in The New York Times, Mr. O’Rourke was applying sunscreen to his daughter’s face, realized he didn’t know what was in the lotion, and decided to analyze a few of the ingredients at his office, only to discover that the product contained a carcinogen activated by sunlight as well as an endocrine disruptor and two skin irritants. So, he did what any devoted parent with a science background and an altruistic mind might: He started GoodGuide, a Web site like the Environmental Working Group’s Skin Deep, that has compiled data on over 75,000 products, providing each with a score of 1 to10 based on its health, environmental, and social impacts. Information behind the scores, like whether an ingredient produces toxic waste or whether the company in question has women and racial minorities in executive positions, is also available through successive clicks. The site launched in September and has an iPhone application as well, so if you should ever find yourself at the drugstore perplexed by something listed on the side of your favorite shampoo, you can simply enter the product name into your phone and get the insider info. The next version of the iPhone will apparently make getting scores as simple as scanning bar codes. Savvy consumers, 1; shady pharmaceutical manufacturing companies, 0.

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