A few months ago, I noticed a rash of Facebook postings about the Environmental Working Group‘s Skin Deep Comestic rating website. The people posting (mostly female, and and mostly mothers, expecting mothers or hoping to someday be mothers) were FREAKING out over the information on this website and the threat that all these common products posed to their kids. Now, let me first say that I completely understand a maternal/paternal instinct to protect your children from harm. I get that. Hell, I want to protect your children from harm and I don’t even know them. BUT, after looking over this website, I’m convinced that it’s a load of crap and if you want to protect your kids from harm, your efforts are better spent elsewhere.
The EWG database has its own Facebook page, with 21,429 likes as I write this. They are constantly posting updates with stories on which product now has carcinogens in it and what is dangerous. Let me say that I have no doubt that there are products out there that contain ingredients that are REALLY bad for you. Cigarettes come to mind because well, there is a lot of GREAT data out there on why they will kill you. However, my beef with the EWG website is that it has a LOT of SHITTY data that basically tells you nothing at all. Let’s explore with a little trip down logic lane.
Say I log into Facebook, everyone is FREAKING OUT over this site and all the crap in their products that is going to give everyone cancer and die. Even people who are already dead. This stuff will kill you, bring you back to life and then kill you again. So I go to the website and since I’m concerned, I start to check out some of the products I use. We’ll start with my cleanser, LAB Series for Men Multi Action Facewash. I’d recommend right-clicking on that link so you can follow along.
According to EWG, this product has a score of “3” and its health concern is “moderate.” Okay…the site has a scale and it goes like this. 0-2 is low hazard (like splashing water on your face. 3-6 is moderate hazard (using my cleanser). 7-10 is high hazard (like using bleach on your face). However, I’m making these comparisons up because EWG doesn’t really indicate what these scores mean. 0-10 is completely arbitrary and in terms of scales, I don’t even think that they put much though into it, as in, I don’t trust that a 6 score, is twice as hazardous as a 3 score. It tells me NOTHING.
Oh, but maybe the “Health Concern” score will tell me something. Apparently, the “Health Concern” for this product is also moderate. What the hell does that mean? Well, if you hold your cursor over the score, this gem of text comes up:
reflects combined hazards of all product ingredients. actual health risks from product use, if any, will depend on the amounts of the ingredients absorbed into the body and individual vulnerability to health problems
So…again. I’ve learned nothing from this site. On a scale of 1-10, my product’s health risks (IF ANY) are equal to a 3, which is moderate. Well, at least it’s not hazardous. However, my biggest beef with this site is another scale called the “Data Score Key.”
As it’s name suggests, this indicates the amount of data that EWG uses to create their scores. They word it as: