San Rafael student wins national award
for campaign against toxic cosmetics
By Matt Wynkoop, Bay City News Service
October 27, 2006
A 16-year old San Rafael girl will be honored with a national
award today for her strides to rid the cosmetics industry of harmful
The San Francisco-based Earth Island Institute will honor Jessica
Assaf, a junior at The Branson School in Ross, with the Brower
Youth Award for her efforts to campaign against daily-use cosmetic
products that contain chemicals linked to cancer and reproductive
Jessica became involved with the Marin Cancer Project three years
ago when she enrolled in The Branson School's community service
"I had read that Marin County has some of the highest cancer
rates in the country, said Assaf. "I wanted to know why they
were so high and along the way I discovered that there are lots
of cancer-causing products in products teens use everyday.''
Working with the Teens for Safe Cosmetics Campaign and the Marin
Cancer Project, Assaf created Operation Beauty Drop, where she
and a team of friends placed large bins in Bay Area public malls
to encourage teenagers to check their beauty products for toxic
ingredients and then drop them off.
Assaf and her team then sent the collected products back to their
manufacturers with a petition demanding they stop including certain
toxic chemicals in the production of their products.
"A lot of really hazardous ingredients can be labeled under
only colors or fragrances,'' said Assaf. We're never really taught
to question what's in these products and the Federal Drug Administration
has lax restrictions about how toxic ingredients can be labeled.''
Assaf and four friends also lobbied state senators and the California
governor's office to pass SB 484, a bill that would require cosmetics
manufacturers to inform the Department Health Services when products
contain carcinogens or other toxic substances.
"I believe in a precautionary principal,'' said Asaff. "Everyone
can work at even the grassroots level because it's all about consumer
power and spreading the word. Teens have as much power as adults
- and sometimes more.''
Assaf is one if six students from around the U.S. and Canada
to be honored for their achievements in social and environmental
The Brower Youth Awards were established to honor Earth Island
Institute's late founder, environmentalist David R. Brower.
The award ceremony will take place at 6 p.m. at the Yerba Buena
Center for the Arts, located at 701 Mission St. in San Francisco.
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