BE SURE TO SEE LATEST ADDITION FROM MAY 13TH, 2009, BELOW
A reprint of the November 11th, 2008 post, and later additions, laying out the concerns we should all have about cosmetics, lotions, soaps, shampoos, etc. Share this with anyone you feel might be interested.
Grab Bag Health and Help Tip Combo: PLEASE read this entire post!
OK… this could turn out to be one of THE MOST IMPORTANT ideas shared here to date. While neither you nor I will ever know if this was the thing that saved our health, we’ll know it didn’t hurt. I’ve mentioned aspects of this concept before, but as I study it all further, there is oh, so much more to it.
Here’s the theory, boiled down from literally hours and hours of research, reading books, websites, articles and studies:
Most malfunctions in our health are of unknown origin. Aside from some confirmed genetic issues, and a few lifestyle choices (smoking, alcoholism, over-eating etc.), many serious health issues are IDIOPATHIC… we don’t know why we get them.
And… we DO know that a healthy immune system manages to battle, and beat, many health issues before they manifest into something critical. But what about the burdened, stressed system? What elements are harmful to our system? How do they affect our response? How does our environment affect our ability to fight intruding organisms, repair damaged cells, and maintain optimum function? What about COMBINATIONS of stressors? How can we possibly predict the trajectory of those?
SPOILER>>> here’s the punch line…. How long are you willing to roll the dice, betting that the chemical soup we pour into our washing machines, over our faces and spray into our air isn’t hurting us?
Our lives are bathed daily in chemical exposure from more sources than we’d like to admit. WAIT A MINUTE, you say. The EPA, FDA and all those other governmental 3-letter acronyms wouldn’t allow truly harmful stuff to find it’s way into the things I use every day, would they? Let me share this excerpt from your first assigned reading, Sloan Barnett’s Green Goes with Everything:
Don’t look to the government for help on this one. The government only requires companies to list “chemicals of known concern” on their labels. The key word is “known”. The fact is that the government has no idea whether most of the chemicals used in everyday cleaning products are safe because it doesn’t test them, and it doesn’t require manufacturers to test them, either. [In 2003] the EPA approved most applications in 3 weeks, even though more than half (of approx. 2000) had provided no information on toxicity at all.
Quite frankly, under the terms of the Toxic Substances Control Act (call her ToSCA for short), the chemical companies are “asked” to play fair…
“Any person who manufactures, [(includes imports)] processes or distributes in [U.S.] commerce a chemical substance or mixture, and who obtains information which reasonably supports the conclusion that such substance or mixture presents a substantial risk of injury to human health or the environment, shall immediately inform the [EPA] Administrator of such information unless such person has actual knowledge that the Administrator has been adequately informed of such information.”
If a former US president debated the definition of the word “is”, I’m not all that confident that a chemical company, perched on the edge of potential financial gain, would define “substantial” in the same way I would. Trust me, if you could have been looking over my shoulder these last few weeks and read what I have read, your mind would be swimming up a toxic stream, too.
So, I guess what we CAN say is that each of those chemicals in our foods, cosmetics and cleaning products have currently NOT been found to be “substantially” harmful. Yet.
Remember Cyclamates? Thalidomide? Fen-Phen? Those were found (by our bodies reactions) to be harmful only AFTER they were blessed by the government as SAFE.
And what can we say about daily exposure to MULTIPLE chemical compounds? Can anyone tell me they will make my health BETTER? Clearly not. On the flip side, eliminating them will likely benefit my overall system function. So you do the math. Here is what the people at Goodguide.com (a reference site started by UC Berkeley professors who have become increasingly alarmed by the chemicals in cleaning and personal care products) have to say:
It’s nice to take care of your skin and achieve that healthy, radiant, glowing look. But like sitting out in the sun for too long to improve a tan, many skin care products achieve the end result (nice skin) with questionable methods. Moisturizers and body lotions, in particular, come with ingredient lists that are often 40 or 50 chemicals long, and although most of those ingredients aren’t particularly worrisome (water, for example), some are. LikeBHA, an immune system and organ toxicant (and possible carcinogen), and aluminum starch octenylsuccinate, a neurotoxin that could come contaminated with heavy metals like lead or arsenic. Moisturizers also often use oxybenzone or cetereath-20, which enhance absorption and allow the other chemicals in the product to better get into your skin. You’ll also sometimes find sodium methylparaben, an organ toxicant banned for cosmetic use in the European Union, and immune system toxicants triethanolamine andDMDM hydantoin. Triclosan, an anti-bacterial chemical found in a huge variety of personal care products, also shows up in lotions and moisturizers, and is a health concern as a skin irritant, and environmental concern for the way it accumulates in the environment and is hazardous to marine life. Skin care products also use fragrance, a trade-secret blend that’s an allergy concern and could conceal other more harmful chemicals such as phthalates, which are tied to a number of human health problems. You can look for all these chemicals in the ingredients listings.
Here’s the good news (I’ll bet you were thinking there wasn’t any): there are LOTS of healthier alternatives, and more coming every day. You can start reducing the chemical burden on your body TOMORROW. If we can make more healthful choices in as many products as possible, we can then give some wiggle room for our bodies to deal with chemicals it might NEED to deal with at times… medications, chemotherapy, etc. After all, how important is your brand-of-choice for deodorant, bath oil, fabric softener when weighed against chemical burden to your body, let alone the global environmental aspect?
So, to start, change out at least one product this week… or a whole category. I found some good choices in the grocery stores, which I am sure you have all seen… 7th Generation, Ecover, Planet products ALL rate better than traditional cleaning products. That’s a great place to start. We’ll also talk in weeks to come about shampoos, conditioners, bar soaps, liquid soaps, skin care, make up, nail polish, shaving cream… are ya getting dizzy yet?
And … a word about price… if these healthier alternatives end up being more expensive, can we really afford NOT to change? Hey… the writing was really on the wall earlier this year when Clorox introduced their Greenworks line. This is the future. For our health, let’s embrace this sooner rather than later.
Sites to see:
GreenGoesWithEverything.com Fun website about the book I mentioned above. Take the quiz here to see where your chemical burdens are lurking. Be patient… website is rich with animation and takes time to load.
CosmeticsDatabase.com A favorite of mine, this site analyzes all ingredients for potential health hazards.
GoodGuide.com This site analyzes not only product ingredients, but the environmental profile of the conduct of the company as well as their social performance, combining those numbers for an overall score.
Healthytoys.org Consumer action guide to toxic chemicals in toys, like lead, cadmium, arsenic, mercury and PVC.
FROM MAY 13TH, 2009:
Isn’t science bitchen? We have come so far, so fast, it makes our pretty little heads spin. I mean, hi-tech is EVERYWHERE. But that means your COSMETICS as well :-0, and the news may be pretty cautionary here.
Nanotechnology is the manipulation of elements to make them smaller than nature ever intended. To put it in perspective, a human hair is 80,000 nanometres (nm) wide, a red blood cell is 7,000 nm wide, and a water molecule 0.3 nm wide. Nanotech deals with particles around 100 nanometers or less. That’s pretty frickin’ small. And they have already achieved some pretty incredible things (see a collection of videos on a variety of amazing applications HERE).
But…. do these little minis belong in cosmetics? Many sources out there are saying WE DON’T KNOW ENOUGH to expose our skin to nanoparticles of ANYTHING. (Our internal systems may be getting exposure as well, for nanobits may pass through the skin and beyond.) But they are already in LOADS of products (see that list HERE), and they won’t necessarily say it on the label.
They might tout “Nobel Prize-winning technology!”, but that’s not always such a great thing (Trivia Sidetrack: in 1949 the Nobel was awarded to Egas Moniz for perfecting the lobotomy, now completely discredited).
They will be found in MANY sunscreens, as pulverizing titanium oxide and zinc oxide into microscopic minutia leaves a less visible white cast on the skin…. and how we look is apparently far more important than the assured safety of our overall systems!?!? More on the sunscreen issue in posts to come.
So… my advice is to stay away from nano-cosmetic ingredients for the time being. Don’t be a guinea pig, even if you love the product. Let science really prove this out, and not on you 🙂
Update Note: Reader Samiha D. clued me in to this great article for further info.