More Questions than Answers on “Promise Me”

By Karuna Jaggar, Executive Director

Two days after Breast Cancer Action publicly announced the findings of independent lab testing of Komen’s commissioned perfume Promise Me, we want to thank BCAction members and supporters who have sent almost 1,200 letters to Komen urging them to recall the product.

Instead of directly addressing consumer concerns about the ingredients in the perfume, Komen has responded to our action with more talk; but for all their explanations, they have yet to address any of our concerns. Komen said they will not recall the product nor will they assure us that they will take the highest standards of precaution when it comes to women’s health. They did, however, talk:

  • about the money the perfume will raise, noting a minimum of $1M to be donated by TPR Holdings;
  • about the burden of responsibility for health safety resting with “intelligent consumers who make informed decisions about the use of products based on evidence;”
  • about how much they care about research and prevention;
  • about their intention to continue selling Promise Me.

Komen’s talk poses more questions than it answers:

  • In highlighting the money raised by the perfume, is Komen suggesting that regardless of any health risks, the ends justify the means?
  • How can consumers make informed decisions about Promise Me when Komen hasn’t publicly disclosed the list of ingredients on the product label?
  • Is Komen really suggesting “buyer beware” by putting the burden on “intelligent consumers” to make “informed decisions”?
  • How can Komen’s Medical and Scientific Affairs team conclude that it is okay to include Toluene in Promise Me when the International Fragrance Association bans its use?
  • The FDA has notorious loopholes in its regulatory policies. In citing FDA guidelines as a resource on the safety of cosmetics and fragrance, is Komen unaware of the work by several national breast cancer organizations, many working in coalition with the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, to close these gaping regulatory holes? (Check out their terrific “Not So Sexy” report for more information about the health risks of chemicals in fragrance.)
  • If Komen is committed to funding research on causes and prevention of breast cancer, why do they allocate less than 4% of the $1.9 billion (yes, billion) they have raised to these areas?
  • Komen says they are reformulating the perfume to be “sensitive to concerns” about the perfume’s ingredients. Unfortunately, “reformulate” does not necessarily mean “safe” (the notorious cancer-causing pesticide methyl iodide, in use as I type this, was a replacement for the ozone-depleting methyl bromide.) Does Komen also intend to adopt the highest standards of precaution when it comes to women’s health to ensure the “reformulated” perfume is not as bad as the one currently on shelves and in homes?
  • And finally, if Komen cares deeply about women’s health, about the prevention and cause of breast cancer, why won’t they commit to taking every precaution to ensure that the products they sell and endorse are safe by signing the Pledge to Prevent Pinkwashing?

Komen is asking women to trust their good intentions. In essence, Komen is asking us to look at what they say, not at what they do. To which we can only reply: Action speaks louder than pink. Komen talks a good line about “ending breast cancer” and ”funding research on prevention.” Komen has an opportunity to talk less and act more: recall Promise Me and sign the Pledge to Prevent Pinkwashing. It’s that simple.

This entry was posted in BCA Action Alerts, BCA News.

3 Responses to More Questions than Answers on “Promise Me”

  • Rosemarie says:

    Is there any provision for making public the salaries, benefits and lifestyles of the people in Komen’s organization? At the very least an accounting of where the balance of that1.9 billion goes? One million is a shameful amount and it should be criminal. Fleecing the vulnerability of women fearful of cancer and giving false hope. Quit buying those redundant pink items and donate to a reputable organization.

  • For 14 years, I have participated in research, activism & support along with millions of others whose lives & health have been destroyed by fragrance chemicals. We joined efforts to inform the US government, watchdog groups and other entities re: harmful effects caused by toxic chemicals, the predominant ingredients in products that list “fragrance” on the label.

    I had personal phone conversations with Lark Lambert of the FDA.

    Consumers are falsely led to believe by the Cosmetics, Fragrance & Toiletries Association (the lobbying group for the multi-BILLION dollar industry which maintains seats in Congress) that “fragrance” is benign, which is so far from the truth. Because there is no MANDATORY ingredients label on perfume and other products that list “fragrance” as an ingredient, most people believe the government would not allow consumers to be “intentionally” poisoned. The public believes ‘perfume’ is made from plant/flower/herbal extractions. In the late 1960’s, fragrance manufacturers learned using chemicals was much cheaper than extractions.

    The word “fragrance” listed on ANY product label is a brief description of 300 to over 1,000 chemicals per product.

    Through donations from private citizens, and surveying which fragrance negatively impacted the most people, Calvin Klein’s Eternity Eau De Parfum was chemically analyzed. Bearing in mind the ONLY ingredient on the label is “ethanol” (“denatured” (definition: to make unfit for drinking by adding an obnoxious substance) without impairing usefulness for other purposes) grain alcohol), over 40 KNOWN (meaning mandatory Material Safety Data Sheets existed as required by EPA) chemicals were identified and classified as human carcinogens (many same as in second-hand cigarette smoke), neurotoxins (cause auto-immune diseases), teratogens (cause birth defects), musk xylene (the MOST toxic chemical in the world – so toxic that it cannot be removed by wastewater treatment) and severe irritants, among others.

    Eleven chemicals could not be identified because there were NO MANDATORY MATERIAL SAFETY DATA SHEETS. Many of the chemicals were listed on the EPA’s Hazardous Waste List!

    Per Mr. Lambert in 2001, Congress denies FDA’s requests for funds to test these products for use on humans due to the fact it is applied directly to skin & immediately absorbed into the blood. FDA must rely INDUSTRY data – the fox protecting the hen house. FDA IS FULLY AWARE PRODUCTS LISTING FRAGRANCE ON LABEL CONTAIN HARMFUL CHEMICALS TO HUMANS. Yet, continues to do NOTHING. Even the EPA tried to step in, citing indoor air is more polluted than a smog-filled city, and it, too, was told to “get lost.”

    U.S. Congress has repeatedly since 1986 failed to act on various bills regarding the safety of fragrance products.

    The FDA has repeatedly ignored petitions filed EXACTLY per its regulations. The last petition filed in 1999 remains open: Consumers concerned (especially those with infants who use fragrance detergent, fragrance water softeners & fabric dryer sheets (which contain chloroform)) may SIGN the petition & comment, referencing Docket #99P-1340/CP-1. If e-mailing (, include docket # in reference line, your support of petition & why. To mail your signature: Dockets Management Branch, Food and Drug Administration, Dept. of Health & Human Services, Room 1-23, 12420 Parklawn Dr., Rockville MD 20857.

    For more facts and extensive research performed by scientists, universities and laboratories, and published in peer-reviewed journals, please read a very inexpensive & fast-reading book: “Get A Whiff of This” by author Connie Pitts. It may be purchased for as little as $2.00 on Amazon. It can also be purchased, and updated information can be found, at

    Personally, I have refused to support any breast cancer organizations because it allows sponsors, such as Avon, which manufactures products that cause breast cancer. This is called “contrition.”

    Please note: ALL COUNTRIES have banned perfume in public places, government buildings, medical facilities, etc., EXCEPT THE UNITED STATES. In all other countries, fragrance products cannot be sold without an ingredients label, free of harmful chemicals.

    The CFTA cites if it were to print an ingredients label on its products it would reveal “trade secret formulas”. This statement is false due to all the generic scents on the market. In the petition, if the ingredients are too long, list the chemicals that are most likely to affect human health, or at the VERY LEAST, a “warning” label.

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