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NYU Student Adds DIY Warning Labels to Secret Deodorant

An NYU student is putting homemade warning labels on sticks of Secret deodorant to draw attention to their ingredients.

Alarmed that Secret deodorant and antiperspirant products contained various potentially harmful ingredients, Jessica Assaf, a student at New York University, has put her own warning labels on 100 sticks of them in downtown Manhattan.

The labels read "Warning Toxic Hazard. Ingredients in this product have been linked to cancer, neurotoxicity, and reproductive toxicity."

In an email, Assaf explained that she targeted Secret in particular because it's so popular among young women, and they probably don't know about the potential health risks.

According to the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Report, ingredients in the deodorants are linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity, neurotoxicity, immunotoxicity, and organ system toxicity. Specifically, Secret Deodorant contains Butane, a chemical linked to allergies, immunotoxicity, and organ system toxicity, and 18% Aluminum Chlorohydrate, which is linked to developmental and reproductive toxicity and neurotoxicity. The product also contains Dimethicone, a silicone emollient, which coats the skin not allowing toxins out. It may promote tumors and accumulate in the liver and lymph nodes.

If you actually look at the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep Report, you'll see that there's a veritable universe of different kinds of Secret deodorants and antiperspirants. Some get pretty good scores and some get much worse scores. It's not entirely clear to me that Assaf put her labels on the worst varieties of Secret, but perhaps her aim was just to call out the brand writ large. At any rate, getting companies to be more transparent about the health risks of the products they make is a laudable aim.

Assaf says she will "continue targeting products one by one until companies are forced to reformulate or the FDA decides to begin regulating the $50 billion cosmetic industry." If you work at a Duane Reade or CVS in Manhattan, get ready for some sticker-removing shifts.

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