Last month the worlds biggest retailer Wal – Mart Stores announced that it is asking for suppliers to remove formaldehyde, triclosan and six other substances from their products as part of an effort to eliminate controversial chemicals from household goods including cosmetics.
The reason they are making these changes is quite simple – Consumers want safer ingredients, they want to know what’s in the products they are slathering on their body, or their child’s body every day. There are internet sites such as EWG’s Skin Deep Data base where they can look up ingredients and find out if there is any reason for concern with an easy to use rating system and the latest study results.
The following is a list of some of the worst chemicals you might find in your personal care products. These chemicals are in your products because they are cheap and because to some big business companies the bottom line is not what is best for the consumer but just how much profit they can squeeze out of you.
Found in anything from cushions to carpet, underlay to paint and shampoo, formaldehyde is a carcinogenic impurity released by a number of cosmetic preservatives including diazolidinyl urea, imidazolidinyl urea, DMDM hydantoin, quaternium-15, 2-bromo-2-nitropropane-1, 3-diol and sodium hydroxyl methylglycinate these chemicals can release formaldehyde at high levels. Classified as a Group one carcinogen by the World Health Organisation International Agency for Research on Cancer. Until recently despite the considerable health concerns associated with this carcinogen formaldehyde itself was being used in the nail polish of some very big companies. Consumer pressure has forced many of these cosmetic manufacturers to voluntarily remove it from their products.
This is a petrochemical solvent and paint thinner used in nail polish. It is a neurotoxin that acts as an irritant, impairs breathing and causes nausea. Mothers exposed to toluene during pregnancy have a high chance of causing damage to the foetus. Toluene is also toxic to the immune system and there is a possible link to blood cancer such as malignant lymphoma. This delightful chemical can still be found in some nail products.
Pthalates are chemicals that outgas from plastics and solvents, they are also volatile components in perfumes, hairspray and insect repellent and can also be found in lotions. Known to be responsible for birth defects they are endocrine disrupting chemical. Pthalates have also been linked with endometriosis and early puberty in girls, and reduced fertility in males. They can also act on the thyroid, and have been linked with obesity. The European Union and Australia have banned the use of several pthalates being used in cosmetics and personal care products.
Parabens are used is cosmetics and personal care products as preservatives. Research at Brunel University in the United Kingdom have established that parabens are oestrogen mimicking chemicals. Upsetting the oestrogen balance is considered to have significant effects such as lowering sperm counts, breast cancer, osteoporosis and auto immune disease. The European Scientific Committee on Consumer Safety reviewed parabens and determined that while methyl and ethyl paraben are safe to use in cosmetics, subject to concentration limits, five other parabens were banned in cosmetic products – Isopropylparaben, Isobutylparaben, Phenylparaben, Benzylparaben and Pentylparaben. The Association of Southeast Asian Nations' (ASEAN) Cosmetics Committee recently followed suit. Parabens have not been banned in Australia.
Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA)
BHA is a preservative and antioxidant that is widely used in cosmetics and can be an ingredient of “fragrance”, it is also used in cooking oils to prevent the oils from going rancid. Usually found in lipsticks and eye shadow it can be used at up to 10%. It is carcinogenic at high doses and is also known to be oestrogen mimicking. As stated above Oestrogen mimicking chemicals have been implicated in the rapid rise of breast cancer. There are 83 products listed on the EWG Skin Deep website so if you wish to avoid using products containing this carcinogenic chemical please take a look for yourself.
Triclosan is an antibacterial agent known to cause immune system and endocrine system dysfunction. Most commonly found in dishwashing and laundry detergents, it’s also in antibacterial soaps, toothpaste, tooth whitening products, antiperspirants/deodorants, shaving cream and body lotion. Triclosan is added to these products to increase shelf life and make a product feel silky and smooth, or to give it colour.
There are of course many more chemicals that could be on this list but we simply don’t have the time to discuss all of them here.
The US-based health and environment advocacy coalition, Campaign for Safe Cosmetics, is lobbying to get the personal care products industry to phase out use of chemicals linked to cancer, birth defects and other serious health concerns, and replace them with safer alternatives – already with some success.
Don’t be fooled by the glamorous actress or model on the TV or in the magazine, read your labels and make better choices. There are Organic and or Natural Brands catering to all of your beauty needs form nail polish to eye lash extensions and they are just as luxurious and glamorous - if not more. But again – read the label.
The best website I have found to investigate ingredients is www.ewg.org There is of course “an App for that” and it can be downloaded at www.thinkdirtyapp.com – a very informative site.