Personal Care Product Hazards

Would you knowingly lather known toxins through you curly locks? No? Me either.

How about slathering on rich, thick, creamy emollient toxins, supposedly shipped all the way to your store from Sweden? After all, who knows more about dry winter skin than Scandinavians? And if they do use it, it must be good for us!

Lip balms, deodorants, aftershave, cologne, , mousse, hair gel, and make-up – the list goes on and on and on. I have to wonder how many people keep tabs on the quantity of toxins they pour into onto their skin every single day all under the guise of Personal Care Products. So, let’s take a look.

Following is a partial list of the most common ingredients which I had saved to a file I frequently reference, which shows just a few of the more than 5,000 chemicals found on the government “hazardous” listings are also found in our hand lotions, shampoos and conditioners, just to name a few.

And a warning – just because the sign above a door says “Health Food Store” doesn’t mean we shouldn’t practice discernment. Read labels!

DEA, TEA, MEA – Diethanolamine (DEA), triethanolamine (TEA), and monoethanolamine (MEA) are hormone disruptors. They are also known to combine with nitrates to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. If a product contains nitrites (used as a preservative or present as a contaminant not listed on labels) a chemical reaction can occur either during manufacturing or after a product is made. There is no way to know which products contain nitrosamines because government does not require manufacturers to disclose this information on the label.

A 1997 study by the U.S. National Toxicology Program found that these compounds themselves might also be carcinogenic.

Repeated skin application of DEA was found to cause liver and kidney damage in animals. The study also discovered that when absorbed through the skin, DEA accumulated in organs. TEA may also cause contact dermatitis in some individuals.

Dioxins – You won’t find dioxin listed on any label. It’s formed as an accidental by-product of some manufacturing processes using chlorine, especially paper bleaching and the creation of plastic. Dioxin is one of the most powerful carcinogens known and accumulates in body fat. Mainstream deodorants and anti-bacterial soaps are suspect. Chlorine bleached tissues, toilet paper and cotton balls can contain dioxin. Plastic bottles may leach dioxin into creams, shampoos and other products we use daily.

DMDM Hydantoin, Diazolidinyl Urea and Imidazolidinyl Urea – DMDM hydantoin, diazolidinyl urea and imidazolidinyl urea are preservatives that release formaldehyde. It is estimated that 20 per cent of people exposed to this chemical will experience an allergic reaction. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause joint pain, depression, headaches, chest pains, ear infections, chronic fatigue, dizziness and loss of sleep. In lab tests, formaldehyde has caused cancer and damaged DNA. Formaldehyde is a known sensitizer. Imidazolidinyl urea may cause contact dermatitis in some individuals.

FD&C Colours – Used extensively in personal care products, FD&C colours are made from coal. Coal tar colours have been found to cause cancer in animals and many people experience allergic reactions like skin irritation and contact dermatitis. They are listed as FD&C or D&C, followed by a colour and a number. Example: FD&C Red No. 6, or D&C Green No. 6.

Fragrance – Synthetic fragrance is the most common ingredient found in personal care products. “Fragrance on a label can indicate the presence of up to 4,000 separate ingredients. Most or all of them are synthetic. Symptoms reported to the FDA have included headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritation. Clinical observations by medical doctors have shown that exposure to fragrances can affect the central nervous system, causing depression, hyperactivity, irritability, inability to cope, and other behavioral changes.” (Home Safe Home, Debra Lynn Dadd). Fragrance is a known trigger of asthma. Many of the compounds in fragrance are suspected or proven carcinogens. Phthalates in perfumes are known hormone disruptors. In 1989 the US National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health evaluated 2,983 fragrance chemicals for health effects. They identified 884 of them as toxic substances. The US Environmental Protection Agency found that 100% of perfumes contain toluene, which can cause liver, kidney and brain damage as well as damage to a developing fetus.

Lanolin – Lanolin is a common allergen and because of this has been replaced in many products. But there is another reason to be cautious about lanolin. Lanolin is derived from sheep’s wool. It may contain residues of insecticides into which sheep are dipped to control external parasites. These insecticides are fat-soluble. Dr. Samuel Epstein, chairman of the Cancer Prevention Coalition, says these chemicals are likely to migrate through the skin and into the bloodstream. However, some sheep producers now control parasites by injecting sheep with insecticides, which work by circulating through the animal’s bloodstream. The best way to know if the lanolin in a personal care product is free of insecticide is to look for a certified organic product. Uncontaminated lanolin is perfectly safe, although it can cause contact dermatitis in some people. Lanolin oil, a more refined product, has been found to have little insecticide residue. Purified lanolin oil is a healthy product, as long as you aren’t allergic to it. (Lansinoh is very safe!)

Lead – Lead is a known carcinogen and hormone disruptor. It is readily absorbed through the skin, and accumulates in the bones. It causes neurological damage and behaviour abnormalities, and large accumulations can result in leg cramps, muscle weakness, numbness and depression. Lead is found in some hair dyes and lipsticks.

Nonylphenols – This estrogen-mimicking chemical is a surfactant used for its detergent properties. It can be found in some plastics, as well as shaving creams, shampoos and hair colours. It can be created when certain chemicals commonly found in personal care products break down. Nonylphenols can be a component in polyvinyl chloride (PVC), a compound often found in acrylic nails. They are persistent in the environment and of such concern that many European countries are phasing them out. Some manufacturers have voluntarily discontinued their use.

Parabens – An estrogen mimic, parabens are preservatives with antibacterial properties. Widely used in all kinds of personal care products, paraben is usually preceded by the prefixes methyl-, ethyl-, butyl-, or propyl-. Parabens can cause allergic reactions or contact dermatitis in some people. Preservatives are one of the leading causes of contact dermatitis. There are safer practical alternatives to parabens, including vitamin E, vitamin C and grapefruit seed extract.

PEG – Polyethylene glycol (PEG) is used in cleaners and some oven cleaners to dissolve oil and grease. It can also be found in many personal care products. PEG may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. Dioxane readily penetrates the skin. While dioxane can be removed from products easily and economically by vacuum stripping during the manufacturing process, there is no way to determine which products have undergone this process. Labels are not required to list this information.

Phenylenediamine – Used in permanent hair dyes, phenylenediamine can cause eczema, bronchial asthma, gastritis, skin irritation and even death. It is also a carcinogen. It can react with other chemicals to cause photosensitivity. The US Food and Drug Administration proposed legislation which would have required warning labels on products, advising that this ingredient can penetrate skin and has been determined to cause cancer in lab animals. If passed, beauty salons would have had to post warnings for their customers. Cosmetic industry lobbyists defeated the proposal.

Phthalates – Everyone in the general population is exposed to phthalates from one source or another. They are found in many products from plastics to shampoo. These hormone-disrupting chemicals are suspected of contaminating breast milk and causing damage to the kidneys, liver, lungs and reproductive organs. One type of phthalate, diethyl phthalate (DEP) is commonly found in fragrances and other personal care products. Phthalates are used to enhance fragrances, as solvents, and to denature alcohol. A study published in Environmental Health Perspectives (December 2002) found that DEP is damaging to the DNA of sperm in adult men at current levels of exposure. DNA damage to sperm can lead to infertility and may also be linked to miscarriages, birth defects, infertility and cancer in offspring. DEP is the phthalate found in the highest levels in humans. Recent product tests found the chemical in every fragrance tested in the United States. Manufacturers are not required to list phthalates on product labels, so they are difficult to avoid.

Polysorbate 60 and Polysorbate 80Polysorbate 60 and polysorbate 80 may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. Dioxane readily penetrates the skin. While dioxane can be removed from products easily and economically by vacuum stripping during the manufacturing process, there is no way to determine which products have undergone this process. Labels are not required to list this information.

Propylene Glycol – Propylene glycol is recognized as a neurotoxin by the National Institute for Occupational Health and Safety in the U.S. It is known to cause contact dermatitis, kidney damage and liver abnormalities. It is widely used as a moisture-carrying ingredient in place of glycerine because it is cheaper and more readily absorbed through the skin. The Material Safety Data Sheet for propylene glycol warns workers handling this chemical to avoid skin contact.

Quaternary Ammonium Compounds (Quats) – Listed on labels as benzalkonium chloride, cetrimonium bromide, quaternium-15 and quaternium 1-29, these compounds are caustic and can irritate the eyes. Quaternium-15 is a formaldehyde releaser and the number one cause of preservative-related contact dermatitis. There is concern about their potential as sensitizers. For about 5% of people, quats are an extreme sensitizer and can cause a variety of asthma-like symptoms, even respiratory arrest. When they are used with hot running water, steam increases the inhalation of vapours. These compounds are used in a wide range of products as preservatives, surfactants and germicides. They make hair and skin feel softer immediately after use but long-term use will cause dryness.

Sodium Lauryl Sulfate, Sodium Laureth Sulfate – This chemical is a known skin irritant and enhances allergic response to other toxins and allergens. The U.S. government has warned manufacturers of unacceptable levels of dioxin formation in some products containing this ingredient. The chemical can react with other ingredients to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. Sodium lauryl sulfate is used as a lathering agent. It is present in ninety per cent of commercial shampoos, as well as skin creams and some brands of toothpaste.

Sodium laureth sulfate may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. Dioxane readily penetrates the skin. While dioxane can be removed from products easily and economically by vacuum stripping during the manufacturing process, there is no way to determine which products have undergone this process. Labels are not required to list this information.

Talc- Talc is a naturally occurring mineral which is carcinogenic when inhaled. In addition, women who regularly use talc in the genital area are at increased risk for ovarian cancer. Airborne talc in body powders and antiperspirant sprays can irritate the lungs. Talcum powder is reported to cause coughing, vomiting, and even pneumonia. Many pediatricians now tell parents to avoid using talc on babies as it can cause respiratory distress, sometimes resulting in death. Talc is found in blushes, face powders, eye shadows, liquid foundation and skin fresheners. Used near the eyes, it can irritate sensitive mucous membranes. Talc in liquid formulations poses minimal risk.

Drop-dead Gorgeous, Kim Erikson, Contemporary Books, 2002
Not Too Pretty (phthalates information):
Cancer Prevention Coalition:
Home Safe Home, Debra Lynn Dadd, Tarcher Inc, 1997
The Safe Shoppers Bible, David Steinman and Samuel S. Epstein, M.D.

Eye and Face Make-up
Through the ages men and women have painted their faces and bodies with colour – often with deadly results. Ancient Egyptians outlined eyes with kohl, a poisonous substance made from antimony. Greeks and Romans liked the pale look, achieved by applying white lead and chalk to their faces. During the Renaissance, the pale look was again popular with a white lead and vinegar mixture applied to face, neck and bosom. Lips and cheeks were tinted bright red with vermilion, a paint containing mercuric sulfide. A heavy coating of powder, often based on talc, kept everything in place. When women noticed that their lead cosmetics cause a variety of skin problems, some applied a facial peel made from mercury. Now we recognize lead and mercury as highly toxic.
Today, most colours in conventional cosmetics are chemically synthesized derived from coal tar. While they’re less expensive than natural compounds to produce, coal tar colours have been shown to cause cancer in animals. Impurities like arsenic and lead in some coal tar colours have been shown to cause cancer not only when ingested, but also when applied to skin.

The main ingredient in most blushes is talc, a carcinogen. Colour is provided by hazardous coal tar dyes. Mineral oil, which can clog pores, and propylene glycol, a neurotoxin and skin sensitizer, are binders used to hold the formulation together. Acrylate compounds, commonly used as thickening agents, can be strong irritants.

Concealers contain numerous irritating chemicals like propylene glycol, lanolin and paraben preservatives. Imidazolidinyl urea is the second most reported cause of contact dermatitis. BHA, a preservative, is a carcinogen that can be absorbed through the skin. DEA, TEA and MEA can form carcinogenic nitrosamines that are absorbed through the skin, and may be carcinogenic in themselves.

Mainstream eyeliners contain carcinogenic coal tar colours, hormone-disrupting TEA, and PVP (polyvinylpyrrolidone). PVP is an allergen and there is some evidence that it cause cancer in lab animals. The US government has received numerous reports of allergic reaction to eyeliner.

Eye Shadow
Eye shadows are used for the colours they provide. But artificial colours like carcinogenic coal tar dyes are frequent allergens and one dye – FD&C Yellow No. 5 may cause severe reactions in people allergic to aspirin. Talc, a carcinogen, is the main ingredient in powdered eye shadows. Eye shadows may also contain mineral oil, a petrochemical derivative, dimethicone, a silicone oil, to make the powder stick to the eyelid, and binding ingredients like methacrylate, a strong irritant. Cream eye shadows are made with petrochemicals like paraffin and petrolatum, carcinogenic coal tar colours, and lanolin, an allergen which may contain pesticide residues. The glitter in cream eye shadows is created by adding pure aluminum which can cause violent allergic reactions in some people, as well as possibly entering the eye and causing injury to the cornea. The Consumer Agency and Ombudsman in Finland tested 49 eye shadows and found that all contained lead, cobalt, nickel, chromium and arsenic. Researchers say the amounts can cause occasional allergic reaction and sensitivities. However, other research shows chronic exposure to low levels of arsenic can cause hormone disruption.

Face Powder
Mainstream powder products commonly contain talc, a carcinogen. Airborne talc is particularly dangerous because it can be inhaled. Other toxic ingredients include formaldehyde (carcinogenic and a sensitizer), quartenium-15 (can release formaldehyde), lanolin (irritant), imidazolidinyl urea (irritant, can release formaldehyde), MEA, TEA and DEA (hormone disruptors, can release formaldehyde) and parabens (hormone disrupters, irritants).

Foundations are the third leading cause of contact dermatitis among cosmetics users. Because foundation is worn on the skin for many hours, products containing synthetic ingredients can cause skin problems. Mineral oil can block pores and promote cosmetic acne and isopropyl myristate, a fatty compound, can cause blackheads. Other ingredients include propylene glycol, a neurotoxin and skin sensitizer, TEA and 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol which are often found together and which, combined, may cause the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines, parabens, commonly- used hormone disrupting preservatives that may accumulate in body fat, and quaternium-15, a germicide that may break down into formaldehyde which is a carcinogen and sensitizer. Foundations also include coal tar colours and synthetic fragrances. They may also contain lanolin, a common allergen.

A woman may ingest more than four pounds of lipstick in her lifetime – even more if she wears it every day. Mainstream lipsticks are composed of synthetic oils, petroleum waxes and artificial colours. Coal tar dye colours are common allergens and also carcinogenic. Lipsticks also contain amyldimethylamino benzoic acid, ricinoleic acid, fragrance, ester gums and lanolin. Some dyes can cause photosensitivity and dermatitis.

Make-up Remover*
Makeup removers may contain propylene glycol, a neurotoxin, parabens, which are estrogen mimics, carcinogenic coal tar colours, DMDM hydantoin and diazolidinyl urea which release formaldehyde, polyethelene glycol and polysorbate 80 which may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen which readily penetrates skin, and fragrances.

Conventional mascara contains petroleum distillates, shellac, acrylates (strong irritants), phenylmercuric acetate (preservative made from benzenes and mercury that can cause blisters, skin irritation and allergic reactions), parabens (hormone disrupters, allergens), quaternium-22 (preservative, allergen), quaternium-15 (eye irritant) pentaerythrityl (resin additive made from formaldehyde). Lash-extending products can contain plasticizers, like polyurethane, that cause cancer in animals, and polystyrene sulfonate which can irritate eyes and may be a hormone disruptor.

Conventional mouthwash is alcohol-based. Products with alcohol content higher than 25 percent can contribute to cancers of the mouth, tongue and throat when used regularly. Mouthwash can contain artificial flavours and colours, formaldehyde and sodium lauryl sulfate. Some mouthwash formulations include polysorbate 60 and polysorbate 80, which may be contaminated with 1,4-dixane, a carcinogen and fluoride which is a suspected carcinogen and may cause problems for some sensitive people.

Conventional toothpastes contain artificial sweeteners like saccharin, sodium lauryl sulfate, synthetic colours and flavours, and polysorbate 80 which may be contaminated with 1,4-doxane, a carcinogen. Almost all conventional brands contain fluoride. Fluoride is linked to ca

Hair Care
Most mainstream and many “natural” conditioners rely on quaternary compounds to produce thicker, tangle-free silky hair. These compounds – benzalkonium chloride, cetrimonium bromide, quaternium 15, quaternium 18 – can be irritating to eyes and skin. Other ingredients to avoid: carcinogenic coal tar colours (FC&C), propylene glycol, cinnamate sunscreens, and polysorbate 80 that may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen.

Hair Colouring (Permanent)
A study by the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Athens Medical Schools suggested that women who use hair dyes five or more times a year have twice the risk of developing ovarian cancer. Most permanent hair dyes contain potential irritants and carcinogens like formaldehyde and ammonia. Petroleum-based coal tar derivatives and phenylenediamine cause cancer. Products containing phenylenediamine can cause blindness if the solution drips into eyes. Dr. Samuel Epstein, chairman, Cancer Prevention Coalition, says the use of hair dye places women at increased risk of certain cancers, especially leukemia, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, multiple myeloma and Hodgkin’s disease. He states there is strong evidence that the use of hair colouring products accounts for up to 20 percent of all non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma cases in U.S. women, and that there is suggestive evidence these products increase breast cancer risk. Dark and black colours are particularly toxic.

Hair Relaxers and Straighteners
Toxic ingredients: sodium hydroxide, calcium hydroxide, guanidine carbonate, guanidine hydroxide, thioglycolic acid, lithium hydroxide. A relaxer must be used with a neutralizing shampoo and conditioner whether applied at home or in a salon. Conventional shampoos and conditioners found in hair straightening kits contain the same ingredients found in conventional shampoos and conditioners, whose health effect are detailed in those sections.

Possible health effects of relaxers and activators are scalp irritation, skin burns, permanent scarring, deep ulcerations, skin drying and cracking, dermatitis, irreversible baldness, eye damage including blindness and weak, dry, broken and damaged hair.

Relaxers, whether with or without lye, have a very high pH (very near the top of the scale). In other words, they are caustic. Relaxers break the hair down. Relaxers work because they break the bonds that actually give strength to the hair. This causes the hair to straighten. Therefore, relaxed hair is, by definition, weaker than natural hair. Relaxers also deplete the hair of sebum (the oil your scalp secretes). Combine that with heat and you can really end up with a problem. Hair that has been straightened will be weaker than if it were natural and will be more prone to problems.

For years, the main chemical used has been sodium hydroxide – a powerful alkaline caustic otherwise known as lye. Sodium hydroxide is used in products like Draino to dissolve hair in drains. It’s also used in depilatories to dissolve hair.

Lately, new “no-lye” products have been introduced. While the chemicals in these products are not lye, they are very similar and have the same effect, chemically, on the hair. Advertising leads people to believe these chemicals are much safer when in fact they are only slighter better.

“People may think because it says ‘no lye’ that it’s not caustic,” says US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) biologist Lark Lambert. But both types of relaxers contain ingredients that work by breaking chemical bonds of the hair, and both can burn the scalp if used incorrectly. Lye relaxers contain sodium hydroxide as the active ingredient. With “no lye” relaxers, calcium hydroxide and guanidine carbonate are mixed to produce guanidine hydroxide.

Research has shown that this combination in “no lye” relaxers results in less scalp irritation than lye relaxers, but the same safety rules apply for both. They should be used properly, left on no longer than the prescribed time, carefully washed out with neutralizing shampoo, and followed up with regular conditioning. The FDA has received complaints about scalp irritation and hair breakage related to both lye and “no lye” relaxers.

Hair care experts recommend that if using a straightener, it be applied by a professional in a salon setting and that extra care be taken to keep straightened hair healthy.

Hair Styling
Aerosol and pump sprays produce fine droplets which can be inhaled deeply into lungs and transferred into your bloodstream. Inhalation of spray can also cause respiratory irritation and breathing difficulties. If you must use a spray, choose pump over aerosol as spray droplets are slightly larger. Hair setting lotions are a better choice.

Hair styling products can contain TEA, DEA, MEA, FD&C colours, BHA and palmidate-O, all carcinogens. Ethoxylated alcohols, PEG compounds, and polysorbate 60 or 80 may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. Conventional hair sprays coat hair with polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP), a plasticizer.

Permanent Waves
Chemicals in permanent waves can cause eye and skin irritations, swelling of legs and feet and swelling of eyelids. These products are suspected of causing low blood sugar. Hair can become damaged and weakened, resulting in hair more susceptible to chemical and ultraviolet damage. The main ingredient in permanent waves, thioglycolic acid, is also used in chemical hair straighteners. These solutions can result in first- and third-degree burns and even hair loss. Chemical straighteners contain allergens and skin irritants like TEA, polyethelene glycol and synthetic fragrance

Shampoos cause the most number of adverse reactions of all hair care products. They frequently contain harsh detergents, chemical fragrances and numerous irritating and carcinogenic compounds including sodium lauryl sulfate/sodium laureth sulfate (irritant, can form carcinogenic nitrosamines), DEA, TEA, MEA (hormone disruptors, can release carcinogenic nitrosamines), quaternium-15, DMDM hydratoin (can release carcinogenic nitrosamines), polyethylene glycol (irritant), coal tar (carcinogenic), propylene glycol (neurotoxin, dermatitis, liver and kidney damage), and EDTA. Cleaning agents and water comprise about 93% of a shampoo. The cleaning agent itself is the most important ingredient.

Nail Products
Nail products are among the most toxic cosmetics on the market, and nails can absorb the chemicals used in polishes, removers and cuticle creams. Toluene, a neurotoxin, is one of the most dangerous ingredients in nail polish. It can comprise 50% of the ingredients in some brands. The Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Pollution Protection and Toxics says that breathing large amounts of toluene for a short period of time can harm kidneys, liver and the heart. The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry of the US Department of Health and Human Services says high exposure to toluene can occur from home use of nail polish. Formaldehyde, a carcinogen and sensitizer, is also found in nail products. Some companies have removed these two toxins but another commonly used chemical has emerged as a hormone disruptor – DBP, a phthalate. This estrogen mimicking plasticizer may accelerate sexual development in young girls. Animal studies have found DBP is responsible for birth deformities like cleft palate and undescended testicles.

Nail Polish Remover
Conventional nail polish removers contain acetone. When inhaled, this chemical enters the blood and is carried to body organs. Short-term exposure causes respiratory and eye irritation, headaches, light-headedness, confusion, nausea and vomiting. Long-term exposure damages the liver, kidneys and nervous system, and increases risk of birth defects.

Acrylic Nails
Acrylic nails are bad news all around, and there are no less-toxic alternatives besides your own well-groomed nails. There are numerous short and long-term health effects from the chemicals used in these nails. Nails need to breathe to stay healthy. Covering them in plastic resin causes nails to become weak, thin and brittle. Fungal infections are a problem when moisture is trapped beneath the artificial nail. Removing the nails requires the use of a powerful solvent, usually acetonitrile. This toxic chemical can irritate the respiratory system, and may cause an enlarged thyroid.
Preformed press-on nails from the drug store are not an alternative. The glues used to attach these nails can cause contact dermatitis, eczema, dizziness and headaches.

Skin Products
Astringents and Toners
Toners and astringents are designed to get rid of any lingering traces of cleanser and dead skin cells. Toners are supposed to work by closing the pores and balancing the skin’s pH. But many toners produce that tight feeling by using placticizers like sorbitol and polyvinylpyrrolidone (PVP) that can remain in the body for months. Astringents control oily skin with high levels of alcohol that can dry even the oiliest skin immediately after use. But used daily, astringents actually increase oil production. Astringents can contain salicylic acid and boric acid, both toxic when used on skin. Other common ingredients are talc, synthetic colours, fragrance and preservatives

Bath Products
Conventional bath oils contain synthetic fragrance, as well as colours, alcohol and lanolin which can all cause allergic reactions. Other chemicals, like TEA and sodium lauryl sulfate, can form carcinogenic nitrosomines. Mineral-based bath salts are sprayed with synthetic dyes and scents, and can contain other ingredients irritating to skin and mucous membranes. Bubble baths are also full of dyes, colours, scents and preservatives, as well as sodium lauryl sulfate and parabens. They have been implicated in many cases of bladder, urinary tract and kidney infections. Soaking in hot water increases skin permeability and exposure to harmful ingredients.

Body and Massage Oil*
Conventional body oils can contain chemical fragrance, dyes and preservatives. They are often based on mineral oil, a petroleum derivative which can clog pores.

Body Powder
Conventional body powders are based on talc which is carcinogenic when inhaled. Powders may also contain chemical fragrance and dyes. A 1982 study published in Cancer found that women who use talc on their genitals and sanitary napkins had a three-fold risk of ovarian cancer.

Commercial cleansers rely on alcohol and petroleum products to dislodge dirt and dead skin. But these ingredients also remove natural oils and cause drying. To counteract this, manufacturers may add mineral oil (a petroleum product) to make the skin feel soft. Cleansing creams and lotions may also contain TEA, MEA, FD&C colours (carcinogenic), hormone disrupting parabens, carcinogens, antibacterials, irritants and sensitizers.

Deodorant and Antiperspirant
Deodorants and antiperspirants both fight odour. Deodorants work by inhibiting the growth of bacteria which cause odour. Antiperspirants actually stop perspiration by blocking the pores. In the United States, deodorants are classed as cosmetics. Antiperspirants are considered over-the-counter drugs because they change the way the body works. Much controversy surrounds the use of aluminum in most conventional antiperspirants. Aluminum may be involved in the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Until this issue is settled, some people choose to avoid the use of products containing aluminum.. Aluminum-based compounds are also one of the main causes of skin irritation in antiperspirant users. Triclosan, an anti-bacterial agent used in many deodorants, can be absorbed through the skin and has caused liver damage in some lab animals. Some health advocates argue that blocking pores prevents the body from eliminating toxins and can cause ill-health, but this theory remains unproven and controversial.

Other toxic ingredients include: FD&C colours, BHT, DEA. TEA, quaternium 18 (a sensitizer that can cause rashes beyond the area of application.) Talc is also used in many products, although if used in roll-on and solid products it is not a problem. Aerosol products containing talc and other toxins can be inhaled. Prolonged inhalation of talc can cause inflammation of the lungs, bronchial irritation and the development of fibrous lesions.

Facial Masks and Steam Baths
These products can contain numerous toxic ingredients including synthetic fragrance and carcinogenic coal tar dyes (FD&C colours), parabens (hormone disrupting preservatives), propylene glycol (neurotoxin, irritant, liver and kidney damage), and PEG (may be contaminated with carcinogenic 1,4-dioxane).

Facial Mists
Facial Mists can contain synthetic fragrance, carcinogenic FD&C colours, and carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting preservatives. These chemicals can be inhaled into the lungs and transferred to the blood stream.

Facial Scrubs
Conventional facial scrubs contain carcinogenic coal tar colours (FD&C), harsh alcohols and detergents, DEA, TEA, sodium lauryl sulfate, fragrance and preservatives like hormone-disrupting parabens.

Lip Gloss/Balm/Protector
Mainstream lip gloss and balm may contain synthetic waxes and oils. Lip balm commonly contains phenol, a poisonous chemical also used as a pesticide, that can be absorbed by the skin. Reactions include vomiting, nausea, convulsion, paralysis, and even death. Very small amounts can cause rashes, swelling, pimples and hives. Lip gloss and balm also may contain plasticizers like microcrystalline wax and polyisobutane, an allergen. Phthalic anhydride is made from naphthalene, the pesticidal active ingredient in moth balls. Short-term skin exposure to naphthalene can cause nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, confusion and convulsions, and is linked to liver and kidney damage. Lip gloss for children often contains toxic ingredients like carcinogenic coal tar colours, parabens which are hormone-disrupters and allergens, and artificial flavour.

Sunscreens are frequently added to lip products, especially the benzophenones. Benzophenones and cinnamates are hormone disruptors and may cause hives and contact sensitivity.

Lotion, Cream, Moisturizer
Lotions are basically a mixture of water and oil, with an emulsifier added to keep the product from separating. PEG is the most common emulsifier in hand lotions. It can be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane, a carcinogen. TEA is also used and has been found to be a frequent sensitizer, and cause of contact dermatitis. TEA, DMDM hydantoin and quaternium-15 can release carcinogenic formaldehyde. Parabens are commonly used as preservatives. Lanolin is often found in lotions. An animal product, it can be contaminated with pesticides and some people are sensitive to it.

Hand lotions are often just thicker versions of facial moisturizers. These petroleum-based products are unlikely to do little more than glue down dry flaky skin calls with oil, unlike plant-based products which can provide long-term benefits to skin.

Shaving Products
Conventional shaving creams are usually based on synthetic chemicals that have carcinogenic, hormone disrupting and irritating potential. Toxic ingredients include: TEA, DEA, solvents, mineral oil, propylene glycol, DMDM hydantoin, lanolin, FD&C colours, synthetic fragrance and a host of other ingredients. PVP (polyvinylpyrrolidone) a contact allergen, is often used to give the cream or gel body

Natural soap is easy to make and today there is a tremendous variety of good soap available, much of it produced locally by small crafters. Natural soap is made from either animal or vegetable fat, and an alkali such as lye. Mainstream soap contains perfumes, dyes, mineral oil and other petroleum-based chemicals that clog pores, irritate, and dry skin. Seventy-six percent of liquid soaps and 30% of bar soaps now contain anti-bacterials.

Many people pick up anti-bacterial soaps without even realizing it. Others choose anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners because advertising implies that using them will help protect your family against colds and flus. But colds and flus are viruses, and anti-bacterials have no effect on them at all.

In fact, anti-bacterials soaps and cleaners are an unhealthy choice for several reasons.
• In addition to being unnecessary, they expose us to harmful chemicals. The two most commonly used anti-bacterial chemicals are triclosan and chloroxylenol (or PCMX). Triclosan is a suspected immunotoxicant, and a suspected skin or sense organ toxicant. Triclosan is classified as a high volume chemical: over a million pounds are used annually in the US. Triclosan is a derivative of the herbicide 2,4-D. Triclosan creates dioxin, a carcinogen, as a by-product. A Swedish study found high levels of this bactericide in human breast milk. Chloroxylenol is also a suspected immunotoxicant and skin or sense organ toxicant, as well as a gastrointestinal or liver toxicant.
• Not all bacteria make people sick. Some are beneficial. Anti-bacterial soaps and cleaners kill both beneficial and harmful bacteria. By killing the beneficial ones, they actually leave us more vulnerable to the harmful
ones we encounter. Children especially need exposure to some germs, to develop their immune systems.
• Scientists are concerned that the widespread use of anti-bacterials contributes to the development of resistant bacteria, ie bacterial that will only be killed by different or stronger doses of chemicals. So when we need to kill harmful bacteria, like strep, staph and e-coli, it will be more difficult.
• Anti-bacterial soaps may be more irrititating and drying to skin.
The US Center for Disease Control says that anti-bacterial soaps are not necessary. They recommend that the simplest and most effective thing people can do to reduce the spread of infectious disease is to use effective handwashing, especially after using the bathroom and before preparing or eating food. Proper handwashing means rubbing hands under running water for 15 seconds.

Sun Protection
With the thinning of the ozone layer, protection from the sun’s rays has become more important. There are two kinds of sunscreen – one works as a physical block, the other is a chemical block. The best known physical blocks are zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, naturally occurring minerals more effective than some chemical sunscreens. They work as a barrier against sun damage.

Chemical blocks work by absorbing ultraviolet rays before they reach the skin’s surface. PABA used to be the most popular sunscreen but it proved to be so harsh that most manufacturers no longer use it. Newer chemical sunscreens use benzophonones and cinnamates. Few studies have been published on the safety of chemical suncreens and their use is controversial. One study showed that significant amounts of oxybenzone, a common sunscreen ingredient, appeared to penetrate the skin.

Two University of California scientists believe that the rise in skin cancer is linked with increased use of chemical sunscreens. They say chemical sunscreens offer a false sense of security resulting in excessive sun exposure. A study by the European Institute of Oncology shows that most people do not apply enough sunscreen to reach the level of protection indicated on the label. They say, in fact, an SFP-50 sunscreen applied at a typical less-than-recommended rate yields a practical SPF of only 2.

After evaluating studies on sunscreen use and cancer, Marianne Berwick, an epidemiologist at the Memorial Sloan-Kittering Cancer Centre in New York concluded there is no evidence that sunscreens actually prevent skin cancer. In an article published in Preventative Medicine, Dr. G. Ainsleigh proposes that sunscreen use causes more cancer deaths than it prevents. He says more cancer deaths could be prevented by regular but moderate sun exposure instead of relying on the heavy use of sunscreens.

A new study from University of Zurich in Switzerland examined six commonly used chemical sunscreens for hormone-disrupting activity. Scientists discovered that five of the six chemicals, including benzophonones and cinnamates, seemed to mimic estrogen and recommended more studies to look at possible long-term effects. The Cancer Prevention Coalition, headed by Dr. Samuel Epstein, lists cinnamates and benzophonones as hormone disruptors.

Some studies suggest sunscreen interferes with the skin’s ability to produce vitamin D and can cause hives and contact sensitivity.

Until all of the evidence is in, it would seem prudent to cover up, or minimize sun exposure between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. in the summer. Limit sunbathing and choose a mineral-based sunblock.

Conventional sunscreens can also contain fragrance, dyes, mineral oil and other petrochemicals.

  Textile help