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Botox Backlash

New concerns about the potential impact on brain function, loss of facial expressions and a production process that relies upon animal cruelty are fueling a backlash against Botox and related cosmetic treatments. More than 2.7 million cosmetic Botox procedures were performed in 2007, making Botox the nation's number one cosmetic procedure. 

Despite this widespread usage, a lawsuit filed in July alleges that manufacturer "Allergan obscures that Botox is a highly lethal toxin with serious and life-threatening side effects."  Botox is injected botulinum, the same bacterium the causes deadly botulism.

In a study published in in the Journal of Neuroscience published April 2, tests on rats found that injections can migrate to brain tissue. 

As early as 2003, Paul de Freitas, a resident committee member of the British Casting Directors Guild, warned that Botox injections that paralyze the facial muscles effectively cut actresses careers short. "We waste a great deal of time weeding them out at the audition stage of the casting process; we watch them on film and when you get the close-up, there's simply no subtlety of emotion there at all."  In February, a British commentator noted "almost every American movie I see now contains a cast in the same poisoned state." 

While Botox is used to treat some neurological disorders, most of the $1.2 billion in sales last year were for temporary cosmetic improvement.  Whether for therapeutic or cosmetic applications, every production run must be tested to assess the potency of new batches of the toxin.  Allergan's testing finds the dose that kills 50 percent of the animals used.  Those who don't die immediately may languish with varying degrees of paralysis before being euthanized at the end of the three- to four-day test. One could hardly imagine a more distressful test. The Humane Society characterized Botox testing as "the poster child for everything that is wrong with animal testing."

What does the use of cosmetic Botox say about our judgement, values and humanity?  It is ironic that advertisements for these treatments note that the face is considered "the gateway to the soul."