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Documentary Causing a STINK! Over Chemicals in Products

Image Credit: STINK! on Vimeo

A new documentary is racking up awards across the United States, exposing the dangers hidden in the products found on store shelves. Director Jon Whelan stumbled across the issue of undisclosed chemicals when he noticed a foul smell from a pair of pajamas he purchased for his daughter. The film, aptly titled STINK!, follows his journey to uncover the source of products’ odors and what “fragrance” on a label really means.

Manufacturers and retailers in the U.S. have no obligation to reveal chemicals used in their products, even if those chemicals can cause cancer, birth defects, and reproductive damage, according to the film. Whelan confronts retailers, corporate executives, and members of Congress to reveal the secrets of the chemical industry.

“I used to be ignorant about the Cancer Loophole. I thought that if a product was on the shelf in a store, that meant it was safe. I naively believed that if a product contained dangerous, toxic ingredients, ingredients that could cause cancer, that product would be banned,” Whelan wrote in his director’s statement.

“By keeping the ingredients secret, companies are taking away our ability to make informed choices. In other words, we don’t even have the right to choose whether we want to be exposed to a carcinogen.”

Many carcinogens and harmful chemicals are hidden on the label by listing “fragrance” as an ingredient. Whelan refers to this as the Fragrance Loophole. While Europe has banned nearly 1,400 chemicals for inclusion in products while only 10 are restricted in the U.S. The film is trying to spur a consumer movement to draw attention to products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient by posting photos on social media and spreading the word using #SecretsStink.

STINK! opened in New York on Black Friday November 27th and opens in Los Angeles on December 4th.

The 90-minute film will be screening in Los Angeles on Friday, December 4 at Laemmle Music Hall. Before the 7:00pm showing, there will be a panel discussion featuring executives from Beauty Counter, Thrive Market, the Breast Cancer Fund, and Women's Voice for the Earth. The question and answer period will be moderated by Mommy Greenest Founder, Rachel Lincoln Sarnoff. The movie is currently touring the 50 states.


Hannah Furlong is an Editorial Assistant for Sustainable Brands, based in Canada. She is researching the circular economy as a Master's student in Sustainability Management at the University of Waterloo and holds a Bachelor's in Environment and Business Co-op. Hannah… [Read more about Hannah Furlong]


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