This year I attended the Natural Product Expo West trade show in Anaheim, California. This massive trade show exhibits every kind of natural and organic product imaginable from food, supplements, personal care, healthcare and pet products.

What I like about this trade show is that their educational seminars are free. When I thumbed through my Natural Product Expo Guide and saw a seminar for Safe Ingredients for Natural Personal Care I new it was a must attend. One of the emerging controversies in the organic and natural product world are the chemicals found in personal care products. Studies are now finding that the chemicals found in everyday products like shampoo, makeup, creams and nail polish can possibly be linked to breast cancer and other human diseases.

The speakers on this seminar’s panel were: Jane Houilhan, Vice President of Research Environmental Working Group, Jeanne Rizzo, RN, Executive Director, The Breast Cancer Fund, Mark Rossi, Health Care Without Harm, Morris Shriftman, Senior VP Marketing, Avalon Natural Products.

A heated discussion amongst the audience and the panelists arose surrounding the replacement for parabens in personal products. If you are not familiar with parabens, they are a synthetic chemical that cosmetic and food companies use to preserve the shelf life of their products. Recently parabens have been linked to breast cancer. New studies are demonstrating that whole parabens can be found intact in breast tissue and are an endocrine disruptor, which is a scary thought. Synthetic chemicals such as parabens like fat and collect in fatty tissue, i.e. breast tissue, which the body can not eliminate. Studies have not shown that parabens cause breast cancer, but there is a link between the two.

One could conclude that the Natural Product Expo West organizers made a mistake when they chose to have one retail company as panelist member amongst three non-profit groups. Yes Avalon Natural Products have replaced parabens with another preservative in their products, but what is it? The answer to this question is exactly what enraged audience members when Avalon wouldn’t immediately divulge the information.

The audience members consisted of many cosmetic company business owners and executives. When Avalon did not fess up to the answer to the above question, the audience did not take too well to this. Many interpreted Avalon’s presentation a clear plug for the company. After numerous tough questions were thrown at Avalon’s representative a man from Avalon Natural Products stood up and identified himself as the company’s President (when I checked their website, they list Stacey Kelly-Egide as the company’s President. For obvious reasons this can not be the same person because of gender. Maybe it was Stacy’s husband Mark Egide who is the co-founder with Stacey?). He finally revealed the replacement they are using and where to get it. However, because of the noise and disruption of the audience members I did not catch the name of the new ingredient. Another audience member then stood up and revealed his knowledge about the replacement ingredient and said it was another chemical and that it didn’t work to keep a product emulsified and stated, “Avalon Organic’s products are sitting on the shelf separating.”

So this leads me to question: What has Avalon Organics replaced parabens with in their products? Is it so bad that Avalon Organics wanted to keep their competitive advantage over their competitors and not reveal the ingredient or the source? Are they such a bad company if they are truly leading the way in an overhaul of the cosmetic industry as a whole by raising consciousness in cosmetics? Maybe they aren’t so bad, but let’s find out what they’re using as a preservative in their products.

Look for the follow up on our investigation as to what Avalon Organics has replaced parabens with in their products.