In the book A World Without Cancer, Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo notes that about half of all cancers today can actually be prevented. One way consumers can lower their risk of developing cancer is by reducing their exposure to chemicals linked to the disease -- including BPA, parabens, and formaldehyde.
Recently, Motley Fool health-care analyst Max Macaluso sat down with Dr. Cuomo to discuss which chemicals consumers should be on the watch for, and the companies, including Johnson & Johnson (NYSE:JNJ), that are committed to removing these chemicals from their products.
The relevant video segment can be found between 3:56 and 7:44.
Max Macaluso: Let's shift the discussion from diet to environmental factors that you alluded to in a previous question.
Dr. Margaret I. Cuomo: Yes, environment; very important. In fact, the United Nations just issued a report last week that the World Health Organization was involved in, as well, in which it said that there are so many of the so-called "endocrine disrupting chemicals," such as BPA, which are in our plastic water bottles, other beverages, also food containers, the lining of the cans of food, soup -- a can of soup, a can of beans -- etc. Even a cashier receipt can have BPA.
Macaluso: Oh, really?
Cuomo: Yes. Parabens -- parabens are in everything from facial wash to shampoo, toothpaste -- these are endocrine disrupting chemicals. What does that mean?
That means they modify the development of hormones in our body. They affect our endocrine system, which has been linked to cancers of the breast, prostate, thyroid, and others. Also linked to obesity and diabetes, and they even drew a link to autism.
For all those reasons, we want to rid our products, our personal care products at the very least, of these harmful chemicals, so there is good news on that note.
Macaluso: In your book you talk a lot about BPA and all the things in consumer packaging. I understand that Johnson & Johnson is leading the charge in making a commitment to rid their products of these chemicals. Can you speak a little bit about that?
Cuomo: Yes. I applaud Johnson & Johnson. They are the first major consumer products company in the United States to voluntarily commit to removing all harmful chemicals from their personal care products by the year 2015.
They just made this announcement this past summer, 2012. That includes Aveeno, Clean & Clear, Neutrogena. Those are all part of the Johnson & Johnson family. As I say, I applaud them for this action. It is very responsible.
I would like to see other major companies, like Procter & Gamble (NYSE:PG) and Colgate (NYSE:CL) and L'Oreal follow the good example of Johnson & Johnson. Why should consumers be at risk for washing their face or brushing their teeth?
Macaluso: Excellent point. Going along with that, are there any other companies -- like companies focused on organic products or specific foods -- that you might applaud?
Cuomo: Yes. I am happy to share with you, in terms of being BPA-free in all of their food packaging materials, the Hain Celestial Group (NASDAQ:HAIN). First of all, they're the market leader in organic products, I've learned, and they include products such as Arrowhead Mills, Health Valley, Earth's Best baby food, Walnut Acres juices, DeBoles pasta, Imagine sauces and soups.
They have made a commitment to BPA-free in all of their food packaging, cans, etc., and they also are very conscious in terms of sustainability for their packaging materials; so big applause for Hain Celestial Group.
Also, Whole Foods (NASDAQ:WFM) 365 brands, many of their brands are BPA free, Trader Joe's, and Eden Foods are some that come to mind.
Macaluso: Is there anything that consumers can do, or do we just have to wait for these companies to change their practices?
Cuomo: What you can do as an educated consumer is to read the labels. Certainly, if you don't see "BPA free," you have to question, "Does this packaging material contain BPA?"
In terms of your personal care products, read the labels. If you see anything with "paraben" in it -- that means methylparaben, butylparaben -- anything that has that phrase -- paraben -- avoid it completely. Also another word, difficult to pronounce, phthalates, another endocrine disruptor.
Basically, Max, anything you can't pronounce you would be wise to stay away from it.
Macaluso: Yeah, I think that's a good rule of thumb.