What happens to the body after the skin absorbs certain compounds day after day, year after year? What happens to the environment as chemicals from these products are washed down the drain? The average woman uses 9 personal care products daily exposing her to 168 chemicals each and every day. We absorb, inhale and ingest many of these chemicals into our bodies.
There are links between chemical exposure and reproductive health and fertility issues and breast cancer risk. According to the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit organization, that specializes in providing useful resources (like Skin Deep and the Shoppers’ Guide to Pesticides in Produce) to consumers, 9 out of 10 ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety.
The Dirty Dozen 12 chemical ingredients to avoid in cosmetics and other personal-care products.
1. Antibacterials: Overuse might be contributing to increasingly resistant bacteria, and they contaminate the environment. Triclosan is the agent used in many soaps.
2. Coal tar: Possible carcinogen in dandruff shampoos and anti-itch creams. Dyes with a coal tar base are used in toothpaste (FD&C Blue 1) and mouthwash (FD&C Green 3).
3. DEA: Stands for diethanolamine and is used in shampoos to increase lather. Can affect hormones and cell functioning and development.
4. 1,4-Dioxane: May show up as a contaminant in personal care items, including shampoo and body wash; in products that contain sodium laureth sulfate; and ingredients expressed as “PEG,” “-xynol,” “ceteareth,” and “oleth.”
5. Formaldehyde: Found in such products as baby bath soap, nail polish and hair dyes as a contaminant or break-down product of diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, bronopol and quaternium compounds. Formaldehyde is a probable human carcinogen and can have other toxic effects.
6. Fragrance and phthalates: The term “fragrance” can be hiding suspect substances called phthalates, which may affect hormones and cause reproductive & developmental harm.
7. Lead and mercury: Lead can show up in products that have hydrated silica, such as in toothpaste. Mercury, found in the preservative thimerosal, is in some mascaras.
8. Nanoparticles: Tiny particles of such things as zinc oxide and titanium oxide in cosmetics and sunscreens could cause cell damage, but they’re tough to track. Some manufacturers now advertise products that are free of nanoparticle-size ingredients.
9. Parabens: Common preservatives in toiletries, parabens grew controversial due to their weak estrogenic effects in some animals studies. Check for methyl-, ethyl-, propyl-, butyl- and isobutylparaben.
10. Petroleum distillates: Check for the terms “petroleum” and “liquid paraffin” in such products as mascara and foot-odor powder. The European Union restricts or prohibits petroleum distillates as possible human carcinogens.
11. PPD: P-Phenylenediamine can be found in hair dyes and may cause irritation and damage to the nervous system and lungs.
12. Hydroquinone: Can be found in skin creams and under-eye treatments. Limited evidence links it to cancer in laboratory animals.
LOOK IT UP At http://www.cosmeticsdatabase.com , the Environmental Working Group has a searchable database it calls “Skin Deep.” Type in the name of a product to find the ingredients on that product’s label plus an assessment of the health risks of those ingredients.
The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, a coalition of health, environmental and consumer-rights groups, offers a “compact for safe cosmetics.” Companies that sign the agreement pledge not to use chemicals that are known or are strongly suspected of causing cancer. They pledge to replace chemicals with safer alternatives. For a list, go to http://www.safecosmetics.org .