Every day we come in contact with hundreds of chemicals in the products we use, and many of them are health hazards. Paying attention to what we use to clean and maintain our homes and bodies may be even more crucial than eating organic foods. Although you don’t eat cleaning products, conventionally grown fruits, and vegetables generally have small amounts of harmful residues, while conventional products frequently contain many different hazardous chemicals that make up a significant part of their overall formula.
How Everyday Products Can Harm…
Ingredients to Avoid…
- Our skin is highly permeable. Less than one-tenth of an inch thick, the skin is a porous membrane that is highly sensitive to toxic chemicals. What we put on our skin affects our health just as much as, if not more than, what we put in our mouths.
- The chemicals we use every day can also compromise air quality, contaminate the food we prepare, and eventually pollute the water supply.
- Most household products on store shelves today contain five major categories of toxic ingredients: carcinogens (cancer-causing); precursors of or “hidden” carcinogens; endocrine or hormonally disruptive; penetration enhancers; and irritants/allergens. Some cause acute, immediate hazards such as skin or respiratory irritation, skin irritation, watery eyes, or chemical burns, while others are associated with chronic, or long-term, effects such as cancer.
- Phthalates are found in almost everything that contains fragrance, from dish soap to nail polish. These endocrine disrupters mimic hormones. Health effects include damage to liver/kidneys, birth defects, decreased sperm counts and early breast development in girls and boys.
- Parabens, virtually ubiquitous in skincare products, preserve other ingredients and extend a product’s shelf life. However, these antimicrobial chemicals also have hormone-disrupting effects.
- Sulfates, such as sodium lauryl and sodium laureth sulfate, are harsh detergents that give cleansers, soaps, and shampoos richer lather. Often derived from petroleum, sulfates can also come from vegetable oils that can be contaminated with pesticides. Sulfates can cause eye irritation and skin rashes. Sodium laureth sulfate also contains 1,4-dioxane, a known carcinogen.
- Petroleum-based ingredients such as mineral oil and paraffin form a barrier when applied to the skin that does not allow it to breathe and can clog pores, and deplete nonrenewable resources.
- DEA (diethanolamine), MEA (Monoethanolamine) & TEA (triethanolamine) are hormone-disrupting chemicals that can form cancer-causing nitrates and nitrosamines. These chemicals are already restricted in Europe due to known carcinogenic effects. Americans, however, may be exposed to them 10-20 times per day in shampoos, shaving creams and bubble baths.
- Preservatives DMDM Hydantoin & Urea (Imidazolidinyl) can release small amounts of formaldehyde.
- Chemical sunscreens such as oxybenzone have been shown to disrupt endocrine activity.
- Perchloroethylene, or “perc”, found in dry-cleaning solutions, spot removers, and carpet and upholstery cleaners, is a neurotoxin. The EPA classifies perc as a “possible carcinogen” as well.
- Triclosan and Quarternary Ammonium Compounds (quats) are aggressive antibacterial agents used in soaps, detergents, and fabric softeners that can promote the growth of drug-resistant bacteria.
- Ammonia, chlorine, lye, hexane, organic solvents, volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and many other ingredients found in household products can pose health risks.
1. 15 Toxic Ingredients http://www.care2.com/greenliving/15-toxic-ingredients-in-personal-care-products.html?page=2
2. Campaign for Safe Cosmetics http://safecosmetics.live2.radicaldesigns.org/
3. Ingredients to Avoid in Personal Care, Skin Care & Beauty Products http://www.organicbeautytalk.com/ingredients-to-avoid/
4. 8 Hidden Toxins: What’s Lurking in Your Cleaning Products? http://experiencelife.com/article/8-hidden-toxins-whats-lurking-in-your-cleaning-products/
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- If there’s a label on your cleaning supplies, cosmetics, and other household products, read it before you buy it. Although some harmful ingredients do go unlabeled (phthalates are usually not listed).
- Choose products that contain fewer fragrances (unless from essential oils) and limit the use of cosmetics and other unnecessary products when possible.
- When possible, use only products with ingredient lists you can recognize and know, like plant names.
- As a safer cleaning alternative, warm water and soap often will do the trick, especially at home. Baking soda is good for scrubbing. A mix of vinegar and water can clean glass.
- When using cleaning or household products, keep the area well ventilated. Open windows and doors. Never use chemical cleaning products in a small, enclosed space.
- Products with safer ingredients: LifeTree, Seventh Generation, Earth Friendly Products, Ecover, Biokleen, Tom’s of Maine, and Nature’s Gate.