What about products imported from other countries that are claimed to be “all natural,” “organic,” “biodynamic,” or even “certified organic”? Though recently there has been an influx of such products, there is no official organic standard anywhere in the world that was originally written to include personal care products and that mirrors the rules for foods. To capitalize on consumers' growing interest in organic agriculture and healthier lifestyles, various European industry groups have created their own standards for “organic” and “natural” personal care products. These standards permit the use of synthetic preservatives and synthetic oleochemicals (i.e., human-made, highly processed detergents and emollients); some companies go so far as to incorrectly label certain ingredients as “natural,” even though these ingredients would never be permitted in a food product certified organic.
        Currently, various US industry-based groups are working on creating for personal care products organic standards that are different from those used for foods. But why do we need additional standards when we already have the USDA's National Organic Program? Apparently, makers of synthetic personal
care products find the standard for organic food too restrictive. The industry's standards for “organic” personal care products, presumably being created with little or no consumer input, are likely to include a wide range of synthetic oleochemicals, preservatives, and other human-made ingredients not permissible in USDA-regulated organic food products. The possible resulting multiple “organic” standards will do nothing to help the customer.
        Why is it necessary for organic body care merchandise to be held to a high standard? Think about drug patches. It is now known that substances are readily absorbed by the skin. Furthermore, when your skin is wet, such as during a bath or shower, it can absorb five times as much as it can when dry. Studies have shown that skin absorption and inhalation, not ingestion, are the primary routes by which chemical pollutants enter the body. Because chemicals can be so easily absorbed by the skin, and because they then enter the bloodstream directly without the opportunity to be broken down by digestion, it makes sense to have not a lower but a higher standard for organic body care products.

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            mothering   |  MARCH • APRIL 2006