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Chemistry, Materials & Packaging
Documentary Causing a STINK! Over Chemicals in Products

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.