Tag Archives: toxic chemicals

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:
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Avoiding Fishy Mercury

Mercury Bioaccumulation in Fish

Mercury Bioaccumulation in Fish

Fish consumption is generally very healthy. They contain high quality protein and other essential nutrients, are low in saturated fat, and contain omega-3 fatty acids, a type of essential fatty acid that promotes healthy cardiovascular systems.

In a recent article I discussed different fish based on their environmental impact and fishing practices and suggested Eco-friendly fish for your consumption. Today I want to consider mercury levels in fish and its health effects, especially in kids and pregnant women.

Mercury is a naturally occurring element, which is found in soil, rocks, lakes, streams and oceans. In addition to natural sources, mercury is released into the atmosphere and water from man made sources, such as coal generated power plants, mining operations and paper processing plants.

It is first released into the air and then enters the water with precipitation. Once in the water, methane-generating bacteria turn the mercury into methyl mercury, a highly toxic form of mercury. Fish consume methyl mercury through their diet and absorb it from the water. Predatory fish (fish that eat other fish) and older fish generally contain higher levels of methyl mercury than vegetarian or smaller fish.

Mercury bio-accumulates in fatty tissues. This means is that when a larger fish eats a smaller fish, it accumulates the level of methyl-mercury that the smaller fish contained. When it eats another smaller fish, it accumulates some more methyl mercury. The more fish it consumes, the more methyl-mercury it accumulates, and the level does not drop. Then along comes an even bigger fish and eats the fish that ate the smaller fish. This large predatory fish accumulates all the mercury of the fish it just ate and so the vicious circle continues.

And then when we humans eat a juicy fillet of that large fish, we consume all that accumulated mercury.

That’s why predatory long lived fish have the highest concentrations of mercury in their tissues, and those are the ones that we should avoid.

Coal Burning Power Plant (UWEC)

Coal Burning Power Plant (UWEC)

Mercury can cause damage to the nervous system if consumed in sufficient amounts over a period of time. When you eat fish that contains methyl mercury, it is absorbed through the intestine and spread throughout the body. It affects the nervous system because it easily enters the brain. In pregnant women, methyl mercury can cross the placenta affecting the growing fetus. Methyl mercury is also passed through breast milk, increasing the risk of delays in brain development. The child may experience delayed motor skills and learning problems.

Most governmental, health and environmental organization recommends pregnant women, women of childbearing age and children to limit or stop the consumption of predatory fish such as tuna, shark, grouper and swordfish. For the remainder of the population, the standard recommendation is to consume these fish no more than once every two weeks to a month (depending on body weight).

Following you’ll find a list of fish with high, medium and low levels of MERCURY:

HIGH: Swordfish(*), Marlin, Tuna(*), Shark(*), Grouper (*), King Mackerel.

MEDIUM: Bass, Cod (*), Halibut, Lobster, Mahi Mahi(*), Snapper.

LOW: Sardines, Oysters, Salmon, Crab, Tilapia, Shrimp (*), Trout, Herring, Mackerel (not king), Clams.

(*) Highly Environmentally Destructive Practices

SOURCES

EPA

NRDC

University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire

10 Toxic Chemicals that you can and should avoid

It’s almost impossible to avoid all the man made chemicals that we are exposed to.

They are present in most of our daily activities: our food, or cosmetics, furniture, cleaning products, electronics, cars, etc.

Most of us have around 150 synthetic chemicals in our bodies, which we pass on to our babies through the mother’s blood stream or lactancy.

These chemicals are responsible for reproductive problems, birth defects, hormonal distruption, nervous system anomalies and cancer.

toxicchemicalsplacard

Here’s is a list of 10 synthetic chemicals that you can avoid without changing your lifestyle:

1-Bisphenol A (BPA)

This chemical is used to make certain plastics soft and pliable and it has been linked to hormonal disruption, heart disease, type II diabetes and liver enzyme abnormalities.

It leeks from plastic containers and also gets released when microwaving food inside plastic containers.

To avoid them buy food preserved in glass bottles and containers (especially tomatos, other acidic vegetables and oils).

2-Mercury

Mercury is found in almost every fish on earth, but the higher in the food chain the higher levels of mercury (it bioacumulates).

Mercury is emitted by coal burning power plants, oil refineries, medical waste disposal facilitties, and also from the combustion of diesel, jet fuel, and heating oil, and then released to the land and oceans.

Doctors recommend pregnant women not to eat fish because it can cause mental retardation in unborn babies.

Many studies suggest that our fish consumption should be limited because mercury can also cause dephiciencies in the motor system and kidney damage.

Tuna, swordfish and marlin have the highest mercury concetrations, and sardines, wild salmon and anchovies some of the lowest.

3-Pesticides

I already wrote about the health effects of pesticides in a previous post.

Organophosphate pesticides have immediate effects on the nervous system, motor function and attention span. Other pesticides (Carbaryl) are listed as human carcinogens, and linked to a higher incidence of infant brain cancer and non-Hodgkins lymphoma.

Avoid them by buying organic fruits, vegetables, milk and meat.

4-Perfluorinated Compounds (PFCs)

A family of fluorine chemicals with unique properties to make materials stain and stick resistant.

They are found in Teflon pans, water resistant clothing, stain resistant textiles (for sofas, etc.), grease resistant packaging, and cosmetics.

Researchers are finding serious health concerns about PFCs, including increased risk of cancer.

In order to avoid them stay away from oily or greasy packaged food, avoid stain resistant treatments for fabrics, avoid cosmetics containing any “fluoro” or “perfluoro” ingredients (they are present in eye make up, dental products, moisturisers, etc) and avoid burning teflon or non stick cookware.

5-Phthalates:

Phthalates are plasticizing and softening chemicals used in a wide array of consumer products, especially those ccontaining PVC (polyvinyl chloride).

They are present in PVC products such as vinyl flooring, vinyl shower curtains, and children’s toys. Also in many personal care products, such as perfumes, nail polish, and lotions, automobile interiors and medical equipment.

In several studies they have been found to cause reproductive problems and asthma.

There have been many companies, hospitals and government agencies that are switching to other alternative safer materials, and if possible you should limit the n of pvc’s in you home.

Image from toxicnation.ca
Image from toxicnation.ca

6-Nonylphenol & Nonylphenol Ethoxylates

Nonylphenol compounds are effective and cheap solvents used in cleaning products.

There are many safer substitutes, so simply don’t accept any “nonylphenol” on the ingredient list of products in your house because they can severely affect your reproductive system.

7-Polybrominated Flame Retardants

They are used in mattresses, electronics, plastics and other materials to prevent them from catching fire and burning.

Even if some states (such as California,etc.) and Europe have banned them,studies in the U.S., Europe, and Asia have found them in fish, meat, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and infant formula.

Adverse health effects include problems in brain development and genital malformations.

Avoid polybrominates by buying clothing, bedding and furniture made from natural materials.

8-Glycol ethers

There is a whole range of glycol ethers, many of which are relatively safe. However, the dangerous ones can cause birth defects and lower quality and quantity of sperm.

Look out for methyl cellosolve, Ethylene Glycol Ethyl Ether, Ethylene Glycol Methyl Ether Acetate, and Ethylene Glycol Ethyl Ether Acetate.

They are commonly used in paints, inks, house cleaners, detergents, etc.

9-Aluminum

Aluminum is the world’s most common metal, and it’s present in many products around us.

It is used in cans and aluminum foil, as lightweight sheet metal in airplanes and other machinery, in electrical wiring and in personal care products such as deodorant and antiperspirant.

The problem with deodorants and antiperspirants is not only the aluminum, but how it works to reduce sweat and smelly odors.

Aluminum compounds or aluminum salts, such as aluminum oxide are key ingredients in almost every antiperspirant. They are powerful astringents that close pores, stopping sweat and odor from escaping the body.

Antiperspirants may leave the outside of the body smelling fresh and clean , but inside, the toxins that would have escaped the body in the sweat have nowhere to go.

What’s more, “antiperspirants are designed to be absorbed”; the aluminum and many other chemicals are taken into the body and may affect the endocrine and lymphatic systems, as well as being a potential risk factor in breast cancer.

Aluminum has not only been linked to breast cancer, but many studies have shown links between between Alzheimer’s disease and aluminum.

Avoid buying deodorants with aluminum in it, check for the ingredient list!

10-Sodium Lauryl Sulphate

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is a very harsh detergent found in almost all shampoos and a few toothpastes.

Studies suggest that “Shampoos with SLS could keep children’s eyes from developing properly”.

It can also cause cataracts in adults and delays the healing of wounds in the surface of the cornea.

It has a “low molecular weight and so is easily absorbed by the body, building up in the heart, liver and brain and can cause major problems in these areas.

Sodium Lauryl Sulphate causes skin to flake and to separate and causes roughness on the skin.

After long term applications it actually corrodes the hair follicle and impairs the ability to grow hair.

“Sodium Lauryl Sulphate is routinely used in clinical studies deliberately to irritate the skin so that the effects of other substances can be tested.”

Check the ingredients in your shampoo right now, I assure you they have Sodium Lauryl Sullhpate in it!

toxic_chemicals2

We have to learn to check the ingredients in the products that we buy and know their properties.

We trust our governments and chemical regulations, but they still have a long way to go, so staying out of these dangerous chemicals is up to you!

SOURCES:

Toxic Nation

The dirty dozen

WWF-Toxic Chemicals

Healthy Homes

Aluminum in deodorants

Health Report: SLS

10 Reasons why you should buy ORGANIC food!

Organic food may be a little more expensive than conventional products produced by industrial agriculture, but paying that little extra money is far worth it, and it may even be cheaper in the long run.

Let’s take a look at 10 reasons why buying organic is a smarter option:

organic-food-g

1-It’s better for your HEALTH

Conventional fruits and vegetables are sprayed with massive amounts of pesticides and other toxic synthetic chemicals that have been proven to be linked to cancer, damage of the nervous system and other serious illnesses.

“It has been observed that their long-term, low-dose exposure are increasingly linked to human health effects such as immune-suppression, hormone disruption, diminished intelligence, reproductive abnormalities, and cancer”.

What would you rather do, pay a little extra money for organic products, or pay medical bills for cancer or fertility treatments?

2-It’s better for preserving WILDLIFE

Pesticides are responsible for killing birds, amphibians, fish and bees (among other animals).

Rachel Carson was a pioneer in researching pesticide impact on wildlife, showing some of its dangerous consequences ( a major decline in bird population).

3-It’s better for our WATER supply

Pesticides enter surface and ground water primarily as runoff from pesticide treated crops.

Approximately 50% of the U.S. population obtains its drinking water from groundwater sources and as much as 95% of the population in agricultural areas uses groundwater as its source of drinking water.

organicsoil

4-It’s better for the SOIL

Synthetic chemicals (such as herbicides and pesticides) not only kill the pests, but also kill the microbes living in the soil. Without microbes working in the soil (eg. nitrogen fixing) plants are unable to take from the nutrients they need from the soil.

Unhealthy soil looses its hability to grow plants which leads to erosion and desertification.

organic_farmers15-It’s better for small FARMERS

Large industrial agro-business are the major pesticide consumer. The usually use large plots of land and plant only one herbicide and pesticide resistant crop to produce maxium yield at minimum cost.

They only seek the largest economic gain with no consideration for the environment, local communities or consumer’s health.

Local and small farmers who own a plot of land want and need to take care of it using the smarter and better long-term practices that will also provide them with a stable income.

6-It’s better for local RURAL communities.

Industrial agro-business are usually not local, if they destroy the soil or water supply they just move to another area and exploit it all over again.

They usually bring their workers with them and don’t create many new jobs in the community.

7-It promotes sustainable agricultural RESEARCH

If we invest in organic foods, we are promoting new environmentally friendly agricultural practices.

8-Organic products TASTE much better!

The shinny “fake” industrial apples may look better, but the organic apples taste soo much better, just try them!

9-Organic farming promotes BIODIVERSITY

Biodiversity in farm lands is shrinking fast due to modern plant-breeding programs and GMO’s (Genetically modified organisms) which increase the productivity and economic gain of industrial farm operations-these crops respond better to industrial agricultural methods such as monocrops (only one kind of crop in a large plot of land) and heavy use of fertilizers.

These GM crops can invade organic farms, since their seeds can travel long distances, and easily replace the “weaker” non genetically modified crops.

10-Organic produce has more NUTRIENTS.

Organic products contain higher amounts of nutrients and antioxidants that are essential parts of our diet.

“Organic milk contains 80%  more antioxidants -substances which reduce the risk of tumors and life threatening diseases- and organic produce have at least 20% more antioxidants than conventional fruits and vegetables”

rotator-supermarketveggies_476x357

Organic farming is the future, are you gonna be part of it?

If  your supermaket doesn’t provide organic produce there are usually organic farmers cooperatives that may sell products in your area.