Buyer beware: Are Americans systematically poisoning themselves Dr Stuart Jeanne Bramhall, Seattle Health News Examiner
This is well worth a read – and not just because my website gets a mention.
The US has the worst record in the industrialized world for regulating toxic chemicals thanks to the stranglehold powerful corporate lobbies have on Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is concerning that millions of Americans may be systematically poisoning themselves with common household products, toiletries and cosmetics. In this article, the most dangerous products are listed, as well as providing links to databases that suggest safer alternative. It’s also essential for all American consumers to support the 2010 Safe Cosmetics Act presently in Congress which would greatly strengthen FDA oversight for a virtually unregulated industry (see http://www.safecosmetics.org/section.php?id=74 ).
At present, Americans are at a high risk from endocrine disruptors found in most commercial cleaning and beauty products. These are chemicals that mimic estrogen and other hormones in their effect on the human body. Many epidemiologists believe they are linked to the current epidemic of breast cancer, premature puberty, and both male and female infertility. However there are concerns about evidence linking other synthetic chemical to the big increase in cancer prevalence that occurred with the “better living through chemistry” revolution that occurred after World War II. What many people forget is that cancer was an extremely rare condition prior to the industrial revolution. The current epidemic of asthma in children – and its apparent link to the use of commercial household cleaners during pregnancy, is also extremely alarming.
Why is There a Frog Disruptor in My Toothpaste?
(from www.tree.hugger.com/files/2009/1/why-is-there-a-frog-disrupter-toothpaste.php ). The phthalates and bisphenyl-A found in plastic water bottles, pacifiers, and baby toys has been pretty well publicized. Many Americans consumers seem well aware that these compounds function as synthetic estrogens and that they cause feminization of frogs and fish, and possibly breast cancer, premature puberty, and low sperm counts in men.
There is much less public awareness that nearly all commercial shampoos, hand and body lotions, deodorants, toothpaste, and sunscreen contain preservatives that function as estrogen-like endocrine disruptors. The US bans only eight of these compounds. In contrast the EU bans more than 1,000.
The problem with widespread use of these products is that the harm they cause they cause to individuals who use them for years on end (and their children and pets) is compounded when they are flushed down the drain and accumulate in our waterways. Studies of indigenous populations in both the third world and the Arctic reveal they have a hundred or so of these toxic chemicals in their blood stream and breast milk even though most of them have never even heard of Right Guard or Colgate toothpaste.
One of the worst offenders is the paraben class of compounds (mostly found as methyparaben or PABA ), which is used as a preservative in nearly all commercial toiletries. The second most common is triclosan , found in numerous so-called antibacterial products, including the following:
Neutrogena Deep Clean Body Scrub Bar Lever 2000 Special Moisture Response Bar Soap, Antibacterial CVS Antibacterial Hand Soap Dial Liquid Soap, Antibacterial Bar Soap Softsoap Antibacterial Liquid Hand Soap Cetaphil Gentle Antibacterial Cleansing Bar Clearasil Daily Face Wash Clean & Clear Oil Free Foaming Facial Cleanser Dawn Complete Antibacterial Dish Liquid Ajax Antibacterial Dish Liquid Colgate Total Toothpaste Right Guard Sport Deodorant Old Spice Red Zone, High Endurance and Classic Deodorants Vaseline Intensive Care Antibacterial Hand Lotion
Other Toxic Skin Products
Even less well publicized are potentially toxic “nanosized” particles present in many popular sunscreens and so called “natural” mineral foundations. (See 2010 Friends of the Earth study http://www.aolnews.com/nanotech/article/more-bad-news-about-sunscreen-safety-nanoparticles/195001
Nanoparticle containing skin products are strictly regulated in France , Germany the UK and the European Union as a whole -” with laws requiring safety testing and mandatory product labeling as a minimum -” and an outright ban in some places. Nevertheless, the FDA, which has known for nearly a decade that many common sunscreens contain ingredients that accelerate the growth of skin cancer cells, refuses to act on this information.
Nanoparticles are absorbed into the blood stream through skin damaged through eczema or psoriasis, a major health concern as mineral foundations are specifically marketed to women to conceal unsightly dermatitis. In addition, mineral foundation powders are often accidentally inhaled into the lungs during application. Moreover preliminary evidence suggests that nanoparticles can even penetrate healthy skin to some extent.
The potentially hazardous nanoparticles in sunscreen are nanosized zinc oxide and nanosized titanium dioxide. Because there is no scientific data whatsoever regarding “safe” levels of exposure, any absorption is worrying. Zinc oxide nanoparticles have been shown (in very small concentrations) to kill brain stem cells in mice; damage colon cells; and play some role in the development of autism, epilepsy and Alzheimer’s – as well as crossing the placenta and potentially harming the developing fetus. Nano-titanium has been show to cause cell and DNA damage (both directly and indirectly by increasing circulating free radicals). Not only are these substances totally unregulated in the US , but due to lax labelling laws, 80 percent of sunscreens that claim to contain no nanoparticles are found to contain them. Women seeking truly “natural” mineral foundations should consult one of the websites below for safe brands:
Over fifty million American women, as well as an increasing number of men, dye their hair on a regular basis. Many start in early adolescence, resulting in cumulative, lifelong exposure to some extremely toxic substances:
Phenylenediamine (PPD) – present in over two-third of chemical hair dyes and by far the most toxic. Linked (in animals) to damage of the immune and nervous system, skin, liver and kidneys. Banned in France , Germany , and Sweden and use “restricted” in Canada . Resorcinal – classified by the European Union as a harmful skin and eye irritant and dangerous to the environment. Ammonia – irritant to skin, eyes, and respiratory system (can cause asthma). Peroxide – potential toxic effects on eyes, nervous and respiratory (can cause asthma) system. Can cause DNA damage, possibly leading to cancer. Banned in cosmetic use in Japan and use “restricted” in Canada. 4-ABP – linked to cancer
Many so-called “natural” hair dyes also contain some PPD, but in lower concentrations. As with other toiletries and beauty products described above, checking labels is essential, or better still doing a little Internet research to find a safer alternative.
Dangerous Chemicals in Household Cleaners
AIR FRESHENERS – usually contain methoxychlor, a pesticide that accumulates in fat cells, as well as formaldehyde, a highly toxic, known carcinogen, and phenol, a common culprit in contact allergies.
CARPET AND UPHOLSTERY SHAMPOO – commonly contain perchlorethylene, a known carcinogen, and ammonium hydroxide, a corrosive, extremely irritable to eyes, skin and respiratory passages.
DISHWASHER DETERGENTS (number one cause of household poisoning) – commonly contain highly concentrated dry form of chlorine, which leaves a residue on dishes that accumulates with each washing and is absorbed into hot food.
FURNITURE POLISH – contain petroleum distillates, which can cause skin and lung cancer and nitrobenzene, linked with low sperm counts, anemia and liver, kidney, lung and eye damage.
LAUNDRY detergents contain the following chemicals (which remain as residue in clothes, as well as being released into waterways):
Petroleum distillates (aka napthas) – linked to cancer, lung damage and inflammation (can cause asthma) and damage to mucous membranes. Phenols – linked with damage to nervous system, heart, blood vessels, lungs (can cause asthma) and kidneys. Nonyl phenol ethoxylate – endocrine disruptor banded in Europe, owing to link to breast cancer, premature puberty and low sperm counts. Optical brighteners (convert UV light wavelengths into visible light, making clothes appear whiter without making them cleaner) – toxic to fish and can cause allergic reactions when exposed skin is later exposed to sunlight. Phosphates (banned in many states) – contribute to water “dead zones” by stimulating algae growth that depletes oxygen needed for fish and other animal life. Sodium hypochlorite (household bleach) – highly toxic chemical which reacts with organic materials in the environment to form carcinogenic and toxic compounds that can cause reproductive, endocrine and immune system disorders. EDTA (ethylene-diamino-tetra-acetate) – chelating agent that biodegrades poorly and can re-dissolve toxic heavy metals in the environment, allowing them to enter the food chain.
OVEN CLEANERS – contain highly toxic and corrosive lye and ammonia with fumes that can damage the respiratory system (especially of small children and pets) and which leave residue that is vaporized when the oven is turned on.
TOILET BOWL CLEANERS – contain hydrochloric acid, a highly corrosive irritant which can damage skin, eyes, kidneys and liver; and hypochlorite bleach, a corrosive irritant that can damage eyes, skin and respiratory tract.
Finding (and Making) Safer Alternatives
The best database for commercially produced “natural” cleaning products is http://www.mamashealth.com/doc/cleanprod.asp . Unfortunately, however, the majority of “natural” household cleaners are far too expensive for many families in the current economic downturn. An even better alternative is to make your own cleaning products and toiletries at home, using the same safe, inexpensive ingredients our grandmothers and great-grandmothers used (baking soda, vinegar, bar soap and washing soda). A family of four can save more than $5,000 a year with a food processor and a dozen or so fantastically fast and simple recipes. For more information go to http://pigtitsandparsleysauce.co.nz/