Toxic Hygiene: How Safe Is Your Bathroom?
Students will learn to identify common chemicals in their household and personal hygiene products and reflect upon the potential safety and health concerns. By examining the visual images and written text used on product labels and in advertisements of household and personal hygiene products, students will engage in rhetorical and cultural analysis (of these advertisements) will engage in reflection, writing, and discussion on their own product use and on product safety standards.
Writing Outcomes:By examining the visual images and written text used on product labels and in advertisements of household and personal hygiene products, students will engage in rhetorical and cultural analysis (of these advertisements) and how to identify the target audience. Based upon the look of the package and the text they will also be able to identify cultural narratives related to or that support the language of the packaging. Students will enter a discussion forum and write essays reflecting on their own product use and on product safety standards.
Context for Use
Description and Teaching Materials
Recommended background topics/texts:
- Consumerism and Product Creation/impact
- Ryan, John C. and Alan Thein Durning. Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things.
- Northwest Environmental Watch: Seattle, WA, 1997
- Globalization, Branding and Consumerism
- Naomi Klein's No Logo
- Gender, Advertising
- Jacobson, Michael, and Laurie Mazur. "The Iron Maiden: How Advertising Portrays Women." Reading Culture 6th ed. Diana George and John Trimbur, eds. New York: Longman, 2006. 211-217.
- Bordo, Susan. "The Empire of Images in Our World of Bodies" They Say/ I Say. New York: Norton, 2005. 149-161.
- In-class viewing and chat room discussion of YouTube video "Project Prom," created by Teens for Safe Cosmetics.
- Reading "Toxic Toys" by Mark Shaprio
In the next step in the sequence, students research the chemicals in their own personal care products to help them see the relevance of the issue to their own lives. The assignment is an in-class computer lab activity but could easily be revised into two parts-with the research happening as homework and the sharing of their findings during class discussion.
- Reflection/ Research of Toxics in your Bathroom (worksheet) Resources:
- "Dirty Dozen"
- Skin Deep Database
- FDA website
- Online Discussion Forum: Toxic Chemicals
For the final step of this sequence, students will develop the thinking they've begun with the earlier assignments (chat-room, research, discussion forums). The discussion forum, for example, is often a place where many students will begin drafting ideas for this 4-6 page reflective essay and so should be encouraged to make use of this thinking/writing as they would any brainstorming or pre-writing activity. Built into this assignment is time for drafting, peer-workshop activities and teacher feedback. Students will be assessed on their ability to integrate both the research they did of their own use/experience with chemicals in personal hygiene products with the texts we've been reading in class.
- Draft and Peer-Workshop and revision for 4-6 page reflective essay.
- Collaboration with student sustainability club;
- Research of/collaboration with local businesses;
- Research campus bathroom products' safety;
- Collaborate with Chemistry Faculty to guest lecture/team teach properties of chemicals commonly found in hygiene products;
- Collaborate with Biology, Nursing, Med-School Faculty to guest lecture/ team teach effects of chemicals in hygiene products on the body; and,
- Work with product safety lobbyists or grassroots organizations.
I've broken these assignments down sequentially, following the outline given in the overview of activities (above). The examples on these worksheets are worded with students as the audience. My notes, which follow some of the sample assignments, offer ideas for adapting these assignments, offer explanation, and commentary on my rationale and success with these activities.
All of these attachments are Word documents.
Introduction: Making Observations- In Class Viewing and Chat Room Discussion of "Project Prom" (Microsoft Word 31kB Nov2 11)
Observations and Analysis- Reflection/ Research of Toxins in your Bathroom (Microsoft Word 26kB Nov2 11)
Online Discussion Forum: Toxic Chemicals (Microsoft Word 27kB Nov2 11)
Reflective Essay Assignment: How Safe are your Products? (Microsoft Word 35kB Nov2 11)
Teaching Notes and Tips
- Making detailed observations;
- Asking questions;
- Making connections between their own experiences, ideas in the texts;
- Forming their own response/ positions (though perhaps tentative). These responses should become more grounded in observations (both of own experience and textual evidence) rather than reactions throughout the sequence; and,
- Demonstrating an awareness of key terms.
References and Resources
- "Baby Shampoo Study Raises Chemical Concerns" http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22979800?GT1=10856#.TrGAZWBOrog
- Bordo, Susan. "The Empire of Images in Our World of Bodies" They Say/ I Say. 149-161
- The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics. http://www.leapingbunny.org/about.php
- Klein, Naomi. "No Logo." Reading Culture 6th ed. Diana George and John Trimbur, eds. New York: Longman, 2006. 274-283.
- "No Logo: Brands, Globalization and Resistance" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uI0itS3gQFU
- PETA website http://www.peta.org/
- Ryan, John C. and Alan Thein Durning. Stuff: The Secret Lives of Everyday Things. Northwest Environmental Watch: Seattle, Wa, 1997
- Schaprio, Mark. "Toxic Toys: Why Europe's Children Are Safer Than Ours." The Nation. November 5th, 2007. http://www.thenation.com/issue/november-5-2007
- Skin Deep: Cosmetic Safety Database. http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/ingredient.php?ingred06=702196&refurl=%2Fproduct.php%3Fprod_id%3D99792%26
- Sheela Sathyanarayana, Catherine J. Karr, Paula Lozano, Elizabeth Brown, Antonia M. Calafat, Fan Liu and Shanna H. Swan "Baby Care Products: Possible Sources of Infant Phthalate Exposure." Pediatrics Journal. 2008; 121. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/121/2/e260.full
- Teens for Safe Cosmetics (http://turninggreen.org/) and their Dirty Thirty list (http://www.teensturninggreen.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2013/03/dirtythirty-10-11-10.pdf).
- The Economist. "Whose Wearing the Trousers?" Reading Culture 6th ed. Diana George and John Trimbur, eds. New York: Longman, 2006. 283-287.
- "This is Not Sex: A Web Essay on the Male Gaze, Fashion Advertising, and the Pose." Semiotics and Advertising Website. University of Vermont: April 18, 2005. http://www.uvm.edu/%7Etstreete/powerpose/index.html
- Washington State "Children's Safe Products Act" Bill 2647. http://apps.leg.wa.gov/documents/billdocs/2007-08/Pdf/Bills/House%20Bills/2647.pdf