Jessica Alba — recently declared America’s Richest Self Made Woman by Forbes magazine — co-founded The Honest Company out of frustration with the amount of chemicals found in everyday household products. “It’s really hard to find baby products that use nontoxic chemicals that brands can trust,” she told us in 2013. “Major corporate brands that label their products ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘nontoxic’ are usually referring to the way they make their packaging, not their product.”
As Forbes notes, the passionate businesswoman even traveled to Washington D.C. in the company’s early days to lobby for an overhaul of legislation which allows 80,000 chemicals to remain untested in household products.
These days, Alba has the resources to make a more direct impact. In 2015, her $1 billion company will spend $3 million on social impact initiatives, with some of that money sponsoring a laboratory at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City.
Specifically, she’s helping to fund the research being done in a specialized “ultra-clean” room designed to keep dust and particles out. There, Dr. Philip Landrigan researchs links between household chemicals and autism by testing baby teeth.
“As every American knows, the rates of autism are up,” Dr. Landrigan told Forbes. “Some of that is due to better awareness and earlier diagnosis, but that’s only part of it. We know there’s clearly a genetic bias, but genetic change doesn’t occur quickly. There’s clearly something in the environment. What might that be?”
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses have increased dramatically in recent years, although researchers still have not been able to pinpoint what causes the disorder. The CDC reports that Hispanics have a lower incidence of autism, with one in 93 Hispanic children diagnosed with ASD compared to one in 63 white children and one in 81 black children. Studies show that although Latinos tend to be underdiagnosed (due to a variety of socioeconomic factors), they still have lower rates of autism when compared to non-Hispanic whites.
As diagnoses continue to increase, the Honest Company have made it their mission to get to the root of the problem. Dr. Landrigan praised Alba and her company for their dedication to the research. “They manifest their commitment in the way they formulate their own products,” he said. “They manifest it in their structural generosity and their pledge to give a fixed percentage of their profits back to organization that are trying to break new ground and make new discoveries about the impacts of toxic chemicals on children’s health.” Read more at Forbes.