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Monday, April 5, 2010

Toxic Soup

Quick - what's the most dangerous room in your home? How many of you thought the kitchen? No doubt knives are a risk when you have little ones running around, but for most people the bathroom is where the real risks are and where we literally subject ourselves to a toxic soup each and every day.

Just consider a standard bathroom routine - brushing teeth, showering, washing hair, applying moisturizers or conditioners, putting on makeup, or using deodorant. On average, people use nearly 10 different products on their bodies each day, applying approximately 126 unique ingredients to their skin, hair, and teeth, according to the Environmental Working Group. But do we know (and understand) the risks of each of these ingredients to our health and well-being? How many of the ingredients in your personal care products are familiar to you? How many can you even pronounce?

Although there are literally thousands of ingredients used in personal products (approximately 10,500 according to EWG and only 11 percent of those have been tested for safety), even a few common ones are of great concern: for starters, parabens, propylene glycol, sodium lauryl sulfate, and diethanolomine. Trying to find personal care products, such as shampoo, without parabens is no small feat even with growing concern about their safety. Parabens are used as preservatives and can accumulate in the tissues of the body. Recent research has found the presence of parabens in human breast tumors leading scientists to question if a connection exists. Propylene glycol, a type of mineral oil, has been linked to dermatitis, kidney damage, and liver abnormalities although industry officials claim its use in personal care products is safe in low doses. Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), a surfactant used in cosmetics, appears to have a high level absorption into body tissue according to the Journal of the American College of Toxicology (1983) and has a degenerative effect on cell membranes. Diethanolomine or DEA, found in soaps and detergents, has been linked to causing cancer in rats according to a 1998 National Toxicology Program report. In every case, the government and industry officials claim that small doses or exposures to these chemicals do not pose a serious health risk to humans. However, what is not considered is repeated, daily exposure - sometimes from multiple sources - over a longer time period and the impact on wellness.

What to do? Seek out truly natural products without chemical compounds or research the level of toxicity in your favorite brands. Make use of the Environmental Working Group's Skin Deep database to review the risks of these products and make informed choices.

1 comment:

  1. Interesting about the mineral oil. When my son was chronically constipated, the doctor was having us, literally, pour mineral oil down him - up to 8 tablespoons a day! I felt weird about it - but did it for a bit until I came to my senses and said "enough is enough!" That is when I sought the help of an Ayervedic specialist and yoga teacher - problem solved! Thanks for your great blog!

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