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Do product hazards vary by the group the product is marketed to?

Hormone disruption. Reproductive damage. Cancer.

These are the health effects suspected -- but not proven -- to be caused by certain hazardous ingredients in everyday personal care products, according to a new report by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. These potential health effects are troubling, but perhaps even more disquieting is the safety differential between personal care products marketed toward African-American women and those marketed to the general public.

For a major project called "Skin Deep," the EWG collected and analyzed 64,000 cosmetics and personal care items, about 1,177 of which were marketed toward African-American women. After testing each product, they assigned each one a rating on a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 meaning the product carried a low hazard risk and 10 being considered highly hazardous. 

The researchers found that, while highly hazardous products were marketed equally to African-Americans and other women, there were substantially fewer low-hazard products available to African-American women. Of cosmetics and personal care products generally, around 40 percent were rated a 1, but among those marketed to African-American women, only 25 percent got the best rating.

Lye-based hair relaxers were among the more hazardous products, as you might expect. Lye is still an ingredient in many hair relaxers and dyes marketed to black women because it breaks down the hair shaft. Unfortunately, no-lye relaxers weren't necessarily any safer, as they sometimes contained other hazardous ingredients that can cause chemical burns. Other chemical straighteners have been linked to baldness and an increased risk of uterine growths.

It's impossible to say at this point why the availability of the safest products differs between racial marketing groups. When bad products are on the market but haven't caused substantial injuries yet, personal injury lawyers don't have much to do but watch for problems.

The potential benefits of the Skin Deep database are nevertheless clear. "When consumers become educated," said one of the report's co-authors, "they can demand companies change their formulation, or they can choose other companies to purchase from. People can demand companies prioritize their safety." 

  1. "Committed To My Cause"

    I was struck by a car while cycling and severely, almost fatally injured. A team of excellent medical professionals performed complicated and extensive surgical and medical procedures as part of a successful effort to restore my health....
    -Jeff D.

  2. "Could not have made a better choice"

    We found Mark [Mathys] through the web after an auto accident in October 2011. While selecting someone you don't know to represent you can be a gamble, we could not have made a better choice....
    - Dave

  3. "Very satisfied"

    Mark [Mathys] is very professional. He responds almost immediately, via email, to any question, comment or concern I have and if he is not able to respond right away, he will let me know. I have been very satisfied with Mark so far and I am happy to be his client.
    -Jennifer

  4. "Easy to talk to"

    Mr. Mathys and Mr. Schneid were very professional and easy to talk to. Prior to working with them, my wife and I had no real experience with the legal system beyond a house closing, yet Mr. Mathys and Mr. Schneid explained the whole process to us very well. I knew that whenever I had a concern about our case or the legal system in general I could call their office or send an email and receive answers the same day... -Larry

  5. "Provided very wise advice"

    I've dealt with attorneys on a variety of issues, almost all of them since leaving college and entering the workplace. Mr. Mathys was the first attorney I had any real experience with, and I was impressed then and remain so. He provided very wise advice and always kept me informed. In the end, he delivered a favorable result. I recommend him highly.
    - Tyler D.

  6. "In-depth knowledge of the law"

    Mark [Schneid] is an excellent and skilled attorney and demonstrated in-depth knowledge of the law when he helped settle my dog bite lawsuit resulting from a traumatic incident. He explained what was needed of me and how I should handle the situation in a professional manner.
    - Karen K.

  7. "They went to bat for me"

    Not long ago I was involved in a car accident where I was hit by a gravel truck at an intersection. After I called Mathys & Schneid, even though I didn't have a very large case, they made me feel like I was one of their most important cases. They went to bat for me with the trucking company's insurance and got me a settlement. I would definitely recommend them to my family and friends. -Dan H.

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