I’m overwhelmed

Good Guide vs. EWG?

I have been a loyal user of EWG for a couple of years and then heard about your site. I was thrilled to read other opinions, but am confused given the difference in ratings. Often, it is a HUGE difference. (Sunblocks for example that are high on the toxicity scale for them, are very low for you and rate as nearly a 10 on your site.) This leaves me--a concerned user who is trying to do the right thing for my family, our health, and the environment--VERY confused. Any advice for me or explanations as to how to merge the two very different data?
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  • Here is an overview of the major differences between GoodGuide ratings and EWG ratings for personal care products:
    1) GoodGuide ratings cover the health, environmental and social impacts of a product and its producing company. EWG SkinDeep ratings address the health impacts only. A GoodGuide personal care product score is comprised of the product’s health score, the company’s environmental score, and the company’s social score. If you want to do a side-by-side comparison with an EWG rating, you should use GoodGuide’s Health score only. Otherwise, environmental and social attributes used by GoodGuide but not considered in the EWG system will throw your comparison off. A GoodGuide summary score adjusts the health-only component up or down depending on whether the producing company performs well or poorly on environmental and social indicators.
    2) The scales used by GoodGuide and EWG are inverted: in GoodGuide, poor products score 0 and good products score 10; in EWG, poor products score 10 and good products score 0.
    3) Looking at just Health scores, GoodGuide and EWG use different methodologies to rate products. Both systems manage extensive amounts of information about the health hazards posed by ingredients, but use different methods for aggregating that information into a summary score for a product. GoodGuide’ s methodology is explained at http://www.goodguide.com/about/health...; EWG’s methodology is explained at http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com/abou.... These methodologies differ in how they aggregate available hazard information to assign a hazard level to any given ingredient and how they assign a summary score to a product considering all its ingredients.
    4) When making judgments about the hazard posed by ingredients, GoodGuide and EWG take different approaches to how they weigh available scientific and regulatory information. GoodGuide places considerable emphasis on scientific consensus (giving more weight to hazard findings made by authoritative agencies) and makes use of various findings that define acceptable levels of exposure to potentially hazardous ingredients (e.g., that products containing less than X% of ingredient Y are safe.) EWG makes more frequent use of research findings that have not achieved consensus in the scientific community and is generally skeptical that regulatory or other acceptable use guidelines are sufficiently protective of human health.
    5) A combination of these factors explain the differences you find between GoodGuide and EWG ratings for sunscreen products:
    a. Different attributes considered in health ratings: EWG ratings include consideration of the level of UVA and UVB protection a product offers; GoodGuide ratings currently do not.
    b. Different approach to regulatory agency data: GoodGuide’s scoring system does not lower the score of a product if an active sunscreen ingredient is present at or below the level the Food and Drug Administration has defined as “generally recognized as safe.” The EWG system is based on adding the hazard scores for various ingredients in a product, and does not adjust these scores based on whether product concentrations are above or below applicable thresholds.
    6) In summary:
    a. EWG’s approach screens products based primarily on the presence of hazardous ingredients. It will help you avoid products that contain hazardous ingredients at any level, but it will screen out a very large proportion of products currently available on the market (only 40 of 500 sunscreens get a green rating from EWG).
    b. GoodGuide’s approach moves from hazard screening to a more risk-based approach, where we try to take into account level of exposure to hazardous ingredients. Whether a chemical hazard actually presents a health risk depends on the dose that a consumer receives. Because manufacturers do not disclose data on the exposures resulting from use of their products, we rely on compliance with applicable regulatory standards as an indicator of safe/unsafe exposures. Our rating will help you avoid products that contain hazardous ingredients above allowable levels, as well as consider other important factors like the environmental or social reputation of the manufacturer.
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  • EWG recognizes Cocamide DEA as a harmful chemical and GoodGuide does not. From what I read above, I assume it is because GoodGuide does not find sufficient scientific data to prove that Cocamide DEA is harmful, whereas for EWG the presence of the controversy in itself is enough to see Cocamide DEA harmful. Is that true? The product that I looked at was Method Gel Hand Soap. From what I can see, it is not the amount of chemical that makes GoodGuide let Cocamide DEA off the hook but the chemical itself is harmful to Good Guide.
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  • Pedro Santos Vieira (VP, Ratings and Sustainability) December 10, 2012 18:20
    Hi Irina,
    You're correct, in that this ingredient does not currently impact the product ratings.
    We currently don't have enough information about concentration of ingredients in products to include that in all our ratings, but we do that on an individual basis whenever the manufacturer is willing to disclose that info to us.
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  • L'Oreal Paris Visible Lift Serum Absolute Advaced Age-Reversing Makeup has mathylparaben. Why does it have 10 in health?
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  • The rating for this product is incorrect because we have an incomplete ingredient list for it, that does not include problematic ingredients like methyl paraben. We have looked into our catalogue of L'Oreal products and this is one of 11 Loreal products that had incomplete ingredients - we will temporarily remove ratings for all these products while we acquire complete ingredient lists and re-rate using that data.
    Thanks for pointing out the error.
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  • To the staff of GoodGuide: I really appreciate your honesty and transparency. As a user, it gives me more confidence in your organization.

    For any agency/organization to keep up with any industry segment and the volume of ever-changing products out there is daunting. It will take all of us to share what we know and find.
    Thank you.
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  • I am going back to my question about Cocamide DEA. Could you please clarify something for me? The presence of Cocamide DEA did not impact the rating of Method Gel Hand Soap because you do not recognize that Cocamide DEA is harmful or because its concentration level was very low? What about the fact that Cocamide DEA might be contaminated with Nitrosamines?
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  • There are several questions here, I will try to answer them in turn:
    1) In the GoodGuide ingredient rating system, Cocamide DEA is not considered to be of health concern because there are no data indicating that the chemical itself is a potential problem. See
    http://www.goodguide.com/ingredients/...

    2) As you point out, however, cocamide DEA can be contaminated with trace amounts of n-nitrosamines, some of which are of concern because of potential carcinogenicity. The data about this potential contamination potential is 10-20 years old, and information about whether products on the market exhibit this contamination is unavailable. In the GoodGuide rating system, we do not penalize products because a "no concern" ingredient might be contaminated with an ingredient of concern, unless there are data documenting recent contamination. We do this because we have designed our system to focus primarily on documentable health hazards, not hypothetical ones. Penalizing all products that contain any ingredient that might have a contamination problem results in lower scores across the board and does not really improve the decision guidance we are attempting to provide to consumers.
    For some ingredients with documented, current contamination problems, we do tag the chemical as controversial, so that consumers with very low risk preferences can exclude them from their shopping list. However, we have not done that for cocamide DEA.

    3) In the EWG system, in contrast, the rating of an ingredient that may have contamination issues is lowered. EWG has published a good explanation of why they are concerned about contaminants in personal care products and a list of common ingredients that might be contaminated by impurities
    http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/2007/02/0...
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