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Leading Scientists, Health Professionals Urge SC Johnson to Eliminate Toxic Galaxolide From Products

Leading Scientists, Health Professionals Urge SC Johnson to Eliminate Toxic Galaxolide From Products

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Oct 12 2016 – Today, national women’s health non-profit, Women’s Voices for the Earth (WVE), released an open-letter signed by leading national scientists, academics, and health professionals urging S.C. Johnson & Son (SCJ) to remove the fragrance chemical, Galaxolide, from its products.

The letter follows the release of a GreenScreen® for Safer Chemicals assessment of Galaxolide, commissioned by WVE, confirming this fragrance chemical is highly toxic to aquatic life, persistent, bioaccumulative and should be avoided. Chemicals that display these qualities are often referred to as PBTs (persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic). Commonly recognized PBTs include lead, mercury, pesticides, dioxins and PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls).

“The signers of this letter, top scientists in the fields of natural and environmental health sciences, are very troubled about the environmental impacts of continued use of Galaxolide,” said Erin Switalski, Executive Director of Women’s Voices for the Earth. “WVE has repeatedly called on SCJ to eliminate Galaxolide from their products, and it’s important the company knows other national leaders echo our concerns.”

Galaxolide is widely used by SC Johnson & Son and can be found in 80 scented products including their Glade, Windex, Pledge, Shout and Scrubbing Bubbles brands. SCJ is just one of six manufacturers named by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that is using Galaxolide in products in the United States at a high production volume (over 25,000 lbs. per year).

“SC Johnson defends their use of this fragrance chemical, even in light of the continuous studies clearly showing Galaxolide pollution is ubiquitous,” said WVE’s Director of Science and Research, Alexandra Scranton. “It lingers and builds up in the bodies of animals and people. It is detected in our environment nearly everywhere testing has been conducted.”

For example, a 2015 study of the sludge of 40 wastewater treatment plants across the United States detected Galaxolide in 100% of samples taken,[1] while 100% of drinking water samples from a water treatment plant contained Galaxolide.[2] As recently as September 2016, a report released by NRDC, Silent Spring Institute and George Washington University, found Galaxolide in 100% of indoor dust samples tested.[3] Chemical contamination from this synthetic musk are not limited to the outside environment. In one study, Galaxolide was found in the blood plasma of 91% of the study participants.[4] In another study focused on new mothers Galaxolide was present in 97% of breast milk samples.[5]

“These are alarming numbers and only confirm how persistent and widespread this chemical is in our everyday lives,” said Scranton. “This is particularly worrisome due to the fact that there is almost no research that directly examines the impacts of Galaxolide exposure on human health.”

“The continued use of persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic chemicals (PBTs) such as Galaxolide is simply not a sustainable way forward for the health of our planet and its people,” said Steven Gilbert, PhD, DABT, Director and Founder of the Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders (INND) and signatory to the WVE letter. “The data shows that Galaxolide contamination is already ubiquitous, and the only way to reverse that situation is to eliminate its use today.”

Raising Concerns About Unpublished Safety Data

Scientists and health professionals call particular attention to SC Johnson’s safety assessment of Galaxolide, which includes safety data on the chemical provided to SC Johnson by the Research Institute for Fragrance Materials (RIFM). RIFM is the research arm of the industry association that is funded by and represents fragrance manufacturers, the International Fragrance Research Association (IFRA).

The letter highlights that in 2002 SCJ prioritized Galaxolide for further investigation when the EPA’s PBT Profiler tool found the chemical exceeds the agency’s criteria for persistence, bioaccumulation, and toxicity. SCJ requested additional studies on this synthetic musk from RIFM. Based on the data provided by the fragrance industry’s research arm, SCJ concluded Galaxolide was safe to use in their products.

“SC Johnson relied on unpublished, industry-generated data to claim that Galaxolide is not persistent. Publically available data, including US EPA modeling data, and a third-party generated GreenScreen assessment show Galaxolide to be persistent. Environmental research also shows Galaxolide to be ubiquitous in our environment.” said Ann Blake, Ph.D., an independent public health and environment consultant and signatory to WVE’s scientist letter.

“This is a big problem,” said Scranton. “We are highly concerned that unpublished industry data is being used to make a determination with such significant consequences.”

As originally stated in the 2015 report, Unpacking the Fragrance Industry, the vast majority of the scientific studies on fragrance materials are generated by major fragrance manufacturers or the fragrance trade association’s own laboratories.  Largely, these studies have never been published or peer-reviewed, and are not publicly available.

“As a company that speaks openly about their commitment to transparency,” said Switalski, “we ask that SC Johnson make chemical safety data available to the public.”

In addition to scientists, academics, and health professionals that have signed the open-letter to SC Johnson, WVE has collected over 20,000 petition signatures from consumers concerned about the environmental and human health impacts of Galaxolide in SCJ’s products.

“The impacts of Galaxolide use will be experienced for generations to come,” said Scranton. “As a leader among major cleaning product companies for fragrance disclosure, and a company that prides itself on product safety and transparency, we hope SC Johnson will recognize it can help significantly reduce Galaxolide’s environmental contamination by committing to eliminate this fragrance chemical from its products.”’


View Key Questions on Galaxolide and SC Johnson.

Media Contact:

Alexandra Scranton, Director of Science and Research at Women’s Voices for the Earth
alexs@womensvoices.org; 406-543-3747
Beth Conway, Communications Manager at Women’s Voices for the Earth
Steven Gilbert, PhD, DABT, Director and Founder of the Institute of Neurotoxicology & Neurological Disorders (INND)
sgilbert@innd.org; 206-605-6536

About Women’s Voices for the Earth
Since 2007, Women’s Voices for the Earth has run a sustained campaign to promote full ingredient disclosure in the cleaning products industry. Their fragrance campaign work includes reports Secret Scents and What’s That Smell? and, most recently, Unpacking the Fragrance Industry: Policy Failures, the Trade Secret Myth and Public Health, an investigative report calling attention to the failures of the industry’s self-regulating safety policy.

Founded in 1995, Women’s Voices for the Earth amplifies women’s voices to eliminate the toxic chemicals that harm our health and communities. With thousands of members across the United States, WVE changes corporate practices, holds government accountable, and works to ensure a toxic-free future for all. www.womensvoices.org.


[1]Sun P, Casteel K, Dai H, Wehmeyer KR, Kiel B, and Federle T.  (2014) Distributions of polycyclic musk fragrance in wastewater treatment plant (WWTP) effluents and sludges in the United States. Science of the Total Environment 493, pp:1073-1078. 2014.

[2]Wombacher WD and Hornbuckle KC.  (2009) Synthetic Musk Fragrances in a Conventional Drinking Water Treatment Plant with Lime Softening.  J Environ Eng (New York). 2009 November 1; 135(11): 1192

[3]Mitro, S.D., R.E. Dodson, V. Singla, G. Adamkiewicz, A.F. Elmi, M. K. Tilly, A.R. Zota. (2016) “Consumer product chemicals in indoor dust: a quantitative meta-analysis of U.S. studies.” Environmental Science & Technology.  50 (19), pp 10661–10672.  2016.

[4]Hutter H. et.al. (2009) Synthetic musks in blood of healthy young adults: Relationship to cosmetics use.  Science of the Total Environment. Vol. 47, pp: 4821-4825.  2009.

[5]Reiner JL, Wong CM, Arcaro KF and Kannan K. (2007) Synthetic Musk Fragrances in Human Milk from the United States.  Environmental Science and Technology.  Vol. 41, No. 11, pp: 3815-3820. 2007

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