Category Archives: Green Products

Is your skin clean? Toxic Cosmetic Ingredients you should avoid

Our skin is the largest organ in our bodies and everything we put on it gets absorbed within seconds, including toxins.

Sze Fei Wong/Istock

Sze Fei Wong/Istock

We are constantly bombarded to use the latest shampoo if we want to have voluminous and shiny hair, fragrant deodorant to attract the ladies or gents, or creams that will make our skin “healthy” and clear.

We buy all these products thinking they are “good” for us and apply them daily, trusting that the long and unpronounceable list of ingredients are not hiding anything that could potentially harm us.

But, do you really know what is your soap, shampoo, moisturizer, makeup, deodorant and lipstick? Do you know what you are applying to your body daily?

Let’s take a look at some of the most common and potentially dangerous ingredients that are hiding in our everyday personal care products:

1- Parabens (Methyl, Propyl, Butyl and Ethyl Paraben):

Parabens are one of the most common cosmetic preservatives, they are used to inhibit microbial growth and extend shelf life. Unfortunately it can cause skin rashes, and most importantly, it has been found in great concentrations in human breast tumors. There are no studies yet that confirm that parabens can cause cancer. But the fact that some cosmetic firms are stopping the use of this ingredient and labeling their products “pareben free” makes me want to get very far away from them.

2-Synthetic Fragrance:

Fragrances used in cosmetics are usually synthetic and can have as many as 200 ingredients even though we just see “fragrance” in the label. Synthetic fragrances can cause severe or chronic headaches, allergies, dizziness, rash, coughing, skin irritation and hyperpigmentation.

3-Phthalates

Phthalates are found in many soft and flexible plastics as well as in many care products such as shampoo or nail polish. They are usually a “hidden” ingredient in “fragrance” and can be identified as DBP (di-n-butyl Phthalate) or DEP (diethyl Phtalate) in a cosmetic ingredient list.

Phtalates have been found to be hormonal disruptors (specially in men). They cause infertility, low sperm count and structural abnormalities in animal’s reproductive organs. Some studies also link phthalates to liver cancer (the U.S. Center for Disease Control).

Image via Time, Inc.

4-Imidazolidinyl Urea And DMDM Hydantoin

Often used as preservatives. Both chemicals release formaldehyde, which can be toxic. They can be found in shampoos, conditioners, bubble baths, baby wipes and other skin care products. They may be listed as 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1,3-diol, Diazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl urea, Quaternium 15, etc.

Exposure to formaldehyde may cause allergic reactions, hormonal disruption, affect the reproductive health, nervous system damage and suppressed immune system among others.

5-Triclosan

Triclosan is a common antimicrobial agent that is found in antibacterial soaps, many deodorants, toothpaste and other cosmetics.

It has been linked to hormone disruption and the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria. Along with its negative health effects, triclosan also impacts the environment, ending up in lakes, rivers and other water sources, where it is toxic to aquatic life.

Triclosan has proved to be both dangerous and unnecessary. In 2005, the FDA found no evidence that antibacterial washes containing triclosan were superior to plain soap and water for protecting consumers from bacteria.

Triclosan also accumulates in fatty tissues. Studies have found concentrations of triclosan in three out of five human milk samples as a result of exposure through personal care products containing triclosan.

6-DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (monoethanolamine), TEA (triethanolamine)

These are used as foaming and emulsifying agents in lotions, shampoos, facial cleaners, conditioners, gels, moisturizer and soaps. They are used for the consistency and texture they give to these products even though they can be highly toxic.

They can cause allergic reactions, eye irritation, dryness of the hair and skin. But most importantly, there are numerous studies that associate DEA and TEA with various types of cancer in lab animals.

Look out for Cocamide DEA, Cocamide Diethanolamine, DEA Lauryl Sulfate, Diethanolamine Lauryl Sulfate, Lauramide DEA, Lauramide Diethanolamine, Linoleamide DEA, Linoleamide Diethanolamine, Oleamide DEA, Oleamide Diethanolamine, TEA or Triethanolamine on product labels.

According to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), “There is sufficient evidence of a carcinogenic effect of N-nitrosodiethanolamine — .” IARC recommends that NEA should be treated as if it were a carcinogen in humans. The National Toxicology Program similarly concluded: “There is sufficient evidence for the carcinogenicity of N-nitrosodiethanolamine in experimental animals.”

7-Sodium Lauryl/Laureth Sulfate

This is a cheap and harsh detergent used in many shampoos and soaps for its ability to foam. Often derived from petroleum, it causes eye irritation, dry scalp, skin rashes and other allergic reactions. It’s used in thousands of cosmetic products and while its level of toxicity is still debated, some claim that it contains endocrine disruptors and may be contaminated with 1,4-dioxane (a potential carcinogen). And while it may not be toxic on its own, in combination with other ingredients, it can can form carcinogenic compounds. Also,recent studies done in Japan show that it can damage DNA in cells.
By Corbis
8-Lead and Other Heavy Metals

Lead may be a contaminant in over 600 different cosmetic products, and has been found in most lipsticks and nail polish.
In October 2007, the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics tested 33 popular brands of lipsticks. The results showed that 65% of lipsticks contained lead. Lead-contaminated brands included L’Oreal, Cover Girl and even a $24 tube of Christian Dior.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a study in 2009 that found lead in all samples of lipstick it tested, at levels four times higher than those previously found.
FDA found the highest lead levels in lipsticks made by three manufacturers: Procter & Gamble (Cover Girl brand), L’Oreal (L’Oreal, Body Shop and Maybelline brands) and Revlon. Yet FDA has thus far failed to take action to protect consumers.

Mercury is also present in many eye shadows and mascaras but no detailed studies have been conducted yet.

Also, many deodorants  and anti-prespirants still use aluminum which has been linked to breast cancer in numerous studies.  Please look up your deodorant’s ingredient list and if it has any aluminum based compounds replace it for an aluminum free alternative (there are many available everywhere and are just as effective).

These are just a few of the “hidden” toxic ingredients in our every day personal care products, and just like with everything that we eat and drink, we must read ingredient labels before putting anything in our bodies.

Applying some of these chemicals everyday for 5, 10, 20 or more years must have some negative consequence to our health. We should be less trusting of ingredients that we can’t recognize or  understand.

Sources:
Advertisements

Engulfed by Plastic

Plastics are part of most of our daily activities. From the moment we wake up and use our plastic toothbrush, soaps and cosmetics from plastic containers, drink and eat foods also kept or wrapped in plastic, and go to work in front of our plastic computers and sit on our plastic chairs. We then go shopping and use plastic bags to transport stuff contained in plastic, drink from plastic bottles, and use our plastic TV’s and phones.

Only in the U.S. we use 60,000 plastic bags every 5 seconds! (By Chris Jordan)

And when we are done we just throw the plastic “away” and buy some more the next day, and the next, for the rest of our lives.

2 million Plastic Bottles are used in the US every 5 minutes (By Chris Jordan)

But where does plastic come from?

The process of making plastic begins with carbon from petroleum, natural gas or coal. Elements can be combined in different ways to achieve a  different type of plastic. The final product can range from a hard and shatter proof plastic container to a soft and flexible plastic wrap.

Plastics are durable, cheap, light and can be made into almost anything.

And it’s these useful properties which make plastics so harmful when they end up in the environment. Plastics do not degrade and stay in the environment for ever. Plastics “photo-degrade”, a process in which it is broken down into smaller and smaller pieces, all of which are still plastic particles, eventually becoming individual molecules of plastic.

It makes no sense to make disposable items such as water bottles or plastic bags that we are going to use for only a few minutes out of a material that is going to last forever in the environment.

And where does all this plastic end up?

Most of the plastic we use ends up in one of the overflowing landfills around the globe, but a lot of it ends up in the oceans. Only a small fraction gets recycled.

Plastic trash is found in the most remote parts of our oceans

Our oceans are becoming plastic dumps and marine life is taking a big toll.

Hundreds of thousands of sea turtles, sea birds, seals, whales and other marine mammals die every year from eating discarded plastic bags or plastic pieces mistaken for food.

Plastic bags look like jelly fish to most marine life

Sea turtles mistake plastics for food

Plastics are found even in the most remote parts of the ocean.

There are areas in the ocean where plastic accumulates more than in other places due to the ocean currents. One of the most studied is the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area of the Pacific Ocean created by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre. It’s a plastic soup that has concentrations in some areas of plastic 40 times greater than that of plankton. That means there is 40 times more plastic than food for the marine animals to eat. Scientists estimate its size as twice the area Texas to the size of the continental United States.

These pictures show examples of marine life impacted by plastics (the photos have not been manipulated):

Albatros Stomach filled with Plastics

Plastic Seal

Turtle in Plastic Ring

What can we do!?

It’s almost impossible to avoid using plastics, but there are a few things that we can easily do to stop dumping plastics into the environment

– Stop buying plastic water bottles, bring your own water bottle around and use water filters at home. It’s even better for your health since plastic bottles can leach nasty chemicals into the water.

You can get some cool bottles at KleanKanteen or Sigg.

-Stop using Plastic bags. Use reusable bags instead! Whether you are shopping for groceries, clothes or  anything else always bring your own bag.

You can get really nice reusable bags at any grocery store, but any bag that you have around the house will do. This are also some alternatives: Ecobags, Chicobags, Reuseit, and SnackTaxi for your sandwiches and lunches!

-Buy Less Packaged Food: Buy in bulk or get food and goods that come in the least amount of package as possible.

-Use soap bars and be mindful of the plastic containers that you buy and if possible avoid them.

-Recycle: Get a recycling bin from your local recycling program or go to Earth 911 a website that allows you to put in your zip code and any material you want to recycle. It will give you the phone number of the nearest facility in charge of collecting that material.

Sources:

Bag it the Movie

Algalita Marine Research Foundation

Chris Jordan

OCEANA

GREENPEACE

NOAA