Babies’ foreskins used to make cosmetics. Is this ethical?

The question of whether or not to circumcise their newborn baby boy is often the first of many life-altering decisions parents makes on behalf of their baby. Whether you find yourself for or against circumcision is not the subject of this article (though it could be a subset of it). The issue in question is whether or not it’s ethical to use babies’ foreskins in the making of cosmetics.

What happens to a baby boy’s foreskin after it’s removed in the hospital? Naturally, you might think that it is disposed of with other “medical waste,” but as I recently learned, that’s not always the case. There is, in fact, big money to be made in the foreskin business, not just the money gained from the removal, but from what becomes of the foreskin after the fact. Laura Hopper, a midwife who blogs at Alternative Birth Services recently wrote that wrinkle treatments are being made using American babies’ foreskins. Hopper quotes two articles, both detailing the use of baby foreskin in the cosmetic industry. From Acroposthion:

The most disturbing and alarming [controversy] is in the unethical trafficking of neonate foreskins. Not only do parents of North American baby boys have to pay between $200 to $300 to obstetricians to circumcise their boys that no sooner are the circumcised foreskins cut off that they are sold on to bio-engineering and cosmetics companies by the hospitals.

The resale value of neonate foreskins is astronomically dizzying in that from one boy’s foreskin can be grown bio-engineered skin in a lab to the size of a football field. That’s 4 acres of new skin or around 200,000 units of manufactured skin, which is enough skin to cover about 250 people and sells at $3,000 a square foot. Considering that there are 1.25 million neonate foreskins circumcised each year in the U.S alone this translates to one of the most lucrative trades, if not THE most lucrative trade in human body parts ever in the history of humanity.

Hopper ends her post saying, “Wake up people, your children are being exploited for profit.”

I have to believe that many parents wouldn’t stand for such a thing if they knew it was going on. Although I chose to leave my son’s penis intact, I would never think to ask my doctor, “What is going to happen with my son’s foreskin after it’s removed?” But surely parents have to consent to this sort of thing, don’t they? Is it listed in the fine print somewhere on the parental surgical consent form? If it’s not, is this ethical?

Jennifer Lance at Eco Child’s Play seemed shocked herself at the news when she wrote WTF? Baby Boys’ Circumcised Foreskins Used for Wrinkle Treatments and said, “Glad my son’s foreskin is still where it belongs on his penis and not injected into some old woman’s face looking for the fountain of youth.”

According to Summer Minor who blogs at Wired for Noise, the use of baby foreskin to make cosmetics isn’t anything new. Back in 2007, she wrote Human Foreskins are Big Business for Cosmetics.

Foreskin fibroblasts are used to grow and cultivate new cells that are then used for a variety of purposes. From the fibroblasts new skin for burn victims can be grown, skin to cover diabetic ulcers, and controversially it is also used to make cosmetic creams and collagens. One foreskin can be used for decades to grow $100,000 worth of fibroblasts.

Minor reports that back in 2007 concern was growing over the ethics behind using human foreskin for cosmetic purposes. “One such cosmetic company, SkinMedica is raising a stir over their use of the growth hormone left over from growing artificial skin from foreskin fibroblasts.”

SkinMedica, which sells for over $100 for a 63-oz. bottle, was made famous by Oprah Winfrey and Barbara Walters. Winfrey in fact has promoted SkinMedica several times on her show and website. Discussions about the ethics of using human foreskins for vanity have been circulating on the web but there has not been a response from Winfrey on this debate.

According to an article by Amanda Euringer on The Tyee, “in a discussion on, one querent asked, ‘If the cream was made from the bi-product of baby afro-American clitoral skin, would Oprah still be promoting it?’ There’s no answer to that question on Mothering or Winfrey’s site, and Winfrey declined The Tyee’s request for an interview.” Go figure.

There are uses for removed foreskin that may seem slightly less controversial like using it to create bio-engineered skin for burns, persistent leg ulcers, bed sores, reconstructive surgery and other skin problems. The Foreskin Mafia writes, “Now, circumcision really does have health benefits, only it’s not the baby boys who are losing parts of their penises who benefit.”

In case you are wondering if your cosmetics were made from foreskins, it’s not as easy as looking for the word “foreskin” in the ingredients. After all the foreskin is not actually an ingredient, but is used as a culture to grow other cells which are then used in the cosmetic. The ingredient you are looking for is likely called Tissue Nutrient Solution or TNS™, human collagen or human fibroblast.

What do you think? If you circumcised your son, do you care what happened to his foreskin after it was removed? Is it ethical to use babies’ foreskins for cosmetic purposes? Is this money maker part of a conspiracy to encourage Americans to continue circumcising their sons?

Thanks to Heather Farley who blogs at It’s All About the Hat for bringing this issue to my attention in the first place.

Cross-posted on BlogHer

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Just a quick post to let you know I received the results of my MRI yesterday and they were “normal!” The nurse said, there was “no white matter, disease or evidence of MS.”

I’m very relieved to hear that my brain is normal and was so glad to have received the news before the extended Memorial Day weekend. A friend of mine said, “I’m very happy your brain is well. Now you can focus on healing your mind.” And this is so true. My brain may be well, but my mind does need to heal. I have already started that healing process (through ways I mentioned here) and will continue as long as it takes. This has been a learning experience for me and an important reminder to slow down and take care of myself. It’s so easy to get caught up in all of the things we think we could and should be doing that I think we all need that reminder to slow down every now and then.

Thank you for all of your thoughts and prayers lately. I appreciate you all. Be kind to yourselves and enjoy the weekend.

The waiting is the hardest part

On Tuesday I had an MRI (with and without contrast) on my brain. It’s not the first time I’ve had an MRI on my brain. The last one was about 8 years ago and due to all of the migraines I was having. This time, however, it’s because of all of the weird symptoms I’ve been having over the past 6 or so months – periodic double vision, tingling in my hands and feet, tightness in my throat, dizziness. All of these symptoms can be attributed to my anxiety disorder (and with my eyes, my history of strabismus and four eye muscle surgeries over the years), but part of me can’t help wondering what if that’s not what’s causing it all? What if I have multiple sclerosis (MS) or a brain tumor? My doctor agreed to schedule me for an MRI for my own peace of mind more than her concern that something could be seriously wrong with me and I’m so thankful that we have insurance that is covering the whole thing or I doubt I’d be able to do it.

Now I am waiting for the results. They said it could take four days, which could mean Friday or maybe not until Monday (or actually Tuesday because this is Memorial Day weekend – drat!). Although I feel fairly confident that my brain is fine, I just want, or really need, to know for sure. Just as I had multiple tests done on my heart when I was having heart palpitations for months to convince me that my heart was healthy, this is equally as important to me. Part of dealing with an anxiety disorder (at least I’ve found in my case) is that I have to rule out other possible causes before I can fully embrace the fact that an anxiety disorder is indeed what I have. Until I know that I don’t have some underlying cause for all of these symptoms, it’s hard to fully accept the diagnosis and then proceed on the path to recovery. It’s impossible to get better if you have this nagging concern in the back of your head that something else is responsible for what you are experiencing. The anxiety becomes a vicious circle.

I can say, however, that the way I’m feeling the past week or two is definitely an improvement over where I was a month or two ago. I think it’s been a combination of a lot of things, like:

  • Reading The Anxiety & Phobia Workbook by Edmund Bourne
  • Signing up for a membership to (thank you, Nona, for the suggestion). It’s a wealth of information and was such a good investment. I can’t recommend this site enough. Knowledge truly is power in this case.
  • Reading about Chronic Hyperventilation Syndrome (something I think I may be experiencing in addition to the anxiety)
  • Talking to a therapist every other week
  • Practicing abdominal breathing exercises several times throughout the day
  • Practicing progressive muscle relaxation before bed
  • Doing a Yoga DVD
  • Practicing biofeedback with The Wild Divine video game
  • And, of course, I think the Zoloft I’ve been on for a month is finally starting to kick in too.

I don’t think the Zoloft alone would have made this much difference though, nor do I think the effects would be long-lasting if/when I choose to go off the Zoloft. I think that really there has to be a lifestyle change in order to overcome an anxiety disorder. I’m taking it one day at a time, but am definitely working on changing my habits for the better so that I can live a more peaceful life.

But for now, I wait. I wait for the answers that will change my life one way or another. As with everything I’ve experienced in dealing with my anxiety disorder thus far, I am learning that patience truly is a virtue.

One thing I don’t have to stress about – my Stonyfield BlogHer sponsorship

It’s no secret that I’ve had a lot of stress and anxiety in my life lately. In fact, I’ve tried to write about it pretty openly in hopes that, if nothing else, my story might help someone else who may be suffering from something similar.

I decided several weeks ago, despite my anxiety at the time, that I was going to sign up to attend the annual BlogHer conference this year for my very first time. Of course I have been and still am anxious about a lot of it – traveling by myself, leaving my kids for three nights (for the first time ever since Ava was born), being unsure about what to wear (are cute shoes a must?), and meeting so many women for the very first time. But there is a lot I am excited about too like rooming with Annie from PhD in Parenting, as well as the opportunity to learn a lot, have a great time, and meet so many women who I currently only know virtually. (Yes, I’m both super nervous and totally excited about meeting everyone.)

Another thing I thankfully don’t have to stress about is how I’m going to pay for my trip. When I signed up to attend BlogHer I had considered looking for a sponsor or two to help me fund my trip, but then with everything I’ve had going on I never found the time to actively look for one.

Of course, for me the decision to take on a sponsorship means it would have to be from a company I could morally and ethically support. As with the ads I accept on my blog, I need to feel like I can honestly endorse the company without any conflicts of interest.

Luckily for me, fate stepped in and I was contacted by a PR person representing Stonyfield Farm who said they were looking for bloggers to sponsor to BlogHer! You can imagine my excitement that a) a company reached out to me and b) that the company is one I know and love, is organic and cares about the environment!

Stonyfield is a company founded on the belief that business must be part of the solution to our environmental problems. Some of the ways Stonyfield is involved in the environment that I feel are particularly noteworthy are:

  • All of their yogurts are organic.
  • In 1997, Stonyfield became the first company in the country to offset 100 percent of its CO2 emissions from its facility energy use, and has been carbon neutral since.
  • Stonyfield works hard to reduce amount of packaging they use, and use #5 plastic since it’s the most lightweight.
  • They’ve also partnered with Preserve, which takes their excess plastic cups, and the one’s their consumers return to them to create toothbrushes and razorblade handles.
  • Stonyfield Farm donates 10 percent of its profits to efforts that protect and restore the Earth. Since the program’s inception in 1993, the company has contributed $7 million to environmental efforts around the corner and across the globe.

Stonyfield recently started making Greek yogurt called Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt. I wasn’t familiar with Greek yogurt until recently, but basically its thicker, creamier yogurt with more protein than regular yogurt. One of the really nice things about finding a thicker yogurt when you have a yogurt-loving toddler in the house is that thicker means doesn’t fall off the spoon and make a huge mess the way regular yogurt does. Nice! The kids and I tried it the other day and thought it was delicious (and Julian didn’t turn into a yogurt-covered mess after eating it!).

Oikos is the only organic Greek yogurt among the three leading Greek yogurt brands, and is available in plain, vanilla, honey, blueberry and strawberry flavors.

FREE OIKOS YOGURT! If you’d like a coupon to try a free 5.3 oz. container of Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt, please leave me a comment telling me which flavor you’d like to try. I’ll randomly (using draw three names on Friday, May 22. Be sure to include a valid email address so that I can contact you.

Thank you, Stonyfield Farm. :)

**In the interest of covering all of my BlogHer expenses, I am still seeking other sponsorships. If you are interested in discussing a possible sponsorship with me, please send me an email.**

A Mother’s Day tradition – Wordless Wednesday

Now for the not-so-wordless part of this “Wordless Wednesday” post.

Every Mother’s Day since 2005, I’ve had my picture (and Ava’s, and then Julian’s) taken in front of the tulips on the Pearl Street Mall in Boulder. This year we almost didn’t go, but I’m glad we did. One of these days I’ll need to make a collage of all of my Mother’s Day pictures for myself. :)

I know I haven’t been much of a blogger the past couple weeks. I hope to get a “real” post up later this week. Please know that I’m hanging in there, trying to focus on my recovery from anxiety disorder (I read last night that recovering can take 4 times as long as the amount of time you’ve spent in the anxious state, so I likely still have quite a ways to go), trying to get good sleep, trying to take care of myself and also working outside on my little garden from last year and a new garden I’m putting in this year. Getting in the dirt is good for my soul.

I hope you are all doing well and hanging in there with me as I muddle through this thing called life. Thanks for sticking with me.

See more Wordless Wednesday posts at the original WW home and at 5 Minutes for Mom.