Ditch The Dirt - Part II of Eliminating Toxins From Your Life
Alright guys, ready for Round 2? Ready to change the way you read the labels on your personal and home care products? Well here we go, moving right along to five more ingredients to keep your eyes searching for the next time you find yourself in the beauty aisle at Target loading up on all of the adorable and expertly placed items on their shelves. Surely that doesn't apply to just me?
Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
What They Are: These are chemicals added to personal care and household products that allow the products to foam and form suds which contributes to its role as a "cleanser".
Specific Names: sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS), sodium lauryl ether sulfate (SLES), ammonium lauryl sulfate (ALS)
The Bad Stuff: The main concern with SLS is the byproduct of its manufacturing which is 1,4 dioxane which has possible carcinogenic effects. More commonly, SLS and it's byproducts can cause eye, skin, mucous membrane, and lung irritation in high enough concentrations. This is actually a controversial ingredient to place in my list. Research for the most part is based on possible harm from byproducts, with no studies showing much proof of harm when SLS is used in the concentrations found in everyday products. However, the concern at this time is the likelihood that SLS remains in the body long after use, stored in tissue, and its long term and cumulative effects may be hazardous but are not yet well studied. So the end result: I suggest using with caution and avoiding if possible.
Further Reading: Information obtained from the article Deadly and Dangerous Shampoos, Toothpastes, and Detergents: Could 16,000 Studies Be Wrong About SLS? and can be read by clicking here.
What It Is: This chemical is sometimes used as a preservative in cosmetics and personal care products and can also be found in products marketed to straighten and stiffen your hair. It can also be found in pressed wood flooring, adhesives, and other strong smelling products and byproducts.
Specific Names: Other than Formaldehyde, other ingredients to watch for are DMDM hydantoin, Imidazolidinyl Urea, Diazolidinyl Urea, Quaternium-15, Bronopol, 5-bromo-5-nitro-1,3-dioxane, and Hydroxymethylglycinate
The Bad Stuff: Formaldehyde is a known human carcinogen, and also an irritant to the lungs, skin and mucous membranes. This means it can cause itching, burning and redness and can include allergy and asthma like symptoms. The long term effects of formaldehyde are not yet well studied. Some research has shown a possible link between blood cancers and nasopharyngeal cancers in people who had occupational exposure to formaldehyde (Hauptmann M, 2003) (Beane Freeman L, 2009) (Hauptmann M, 2004).
Further Reading: Information obtained from the articles Formaldehyde and Cancer Risk from the website www.cancer.gov and can be read here, and Exposing the Cosmetics Cover-Up: Is Cancer Causing Formaldehyde In Your Cosmetics? from the website www.ewg.org and can be read here.
What They Are: Toluene is a chemical that is found in most nail polishes which helps the polish shine and adhere. This is also a chemical that is present in some hair dye formulations.
Specific Names: Toluene, methylbenzene, phenyl methane
The Bad Stuff: Toluene can cause lung irritation and nausea upon inhalation. It is also a known risk factor for developmental defects in fetuses and therefore use should be avoided around those who are pregnant. Toluene has also been shown to be a neurotoxin which means it can have hazardous effects on your brain and nerves throughout your body.
Further Reading: Information obtained from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration which can be found here, and the article 10 Controversial Ingredients In Your Beauty Products which can be read here.
What They Are: Petroleum based compounds added to cosmetics and personal care products to change the consistency and the texture of the products. They can soften or harden a product, make it thicker or more liquid and so forth.
Specific Names: These chemicals also go by the abbreviation PEG's, and similar ingredients are propylene glycol, and ceteareth.
The Bad Stuff: Similar to SLS, the main concern with these compounds is the possible byproducts of 1,4-dioxane, and ethylene oxide. Ethylene oxide is classified as a known human carcinogen. As stated before with SLS, 1,4-dioxane is classified as a possible human carcinogen. Ethylene oxide has been associated with lymphoma and leukemia, according to the National Cancer Institute. In addition, ethylene oxide is also classified as neurotoxic (Brashear A, 1996) and as a known developmental toxin (California EPA, 2010).
Further Reading: Information obtained from the article PEG Compounds and Their Contaminants and can be read by clicking here.
What They Are: Chemicals and nanoparticles in spray and powder sunscreens, and other sunscreen active ingredients that readily penetrate deep into the skin layers and remain for long periods of time which allow the skin to block UV rays. There are two types of sunscreen available, both chemical sunscreens and mineral sunscreens. While mineral sunscreen is not completely without health controversy, it is considered safer than chemical sunscreen at this time.
Specific Names: Of most concern are the active ingredients oxybenzone, octinoxate, homosalate, octisalate, and octocryle.
The Bad Stuff: According to the CDC, oxybenzone is present in over 90% of the US population based on a representative population sample study. Oxybenzone, and other sunscreen chemicals can cause skin irritation and hormone disruption (Rodriguez 2006) (Krause 2012). Not only are these active ingredients a concern, but the filler chemicals/inactive ingredients are also causing issues with health. One such ingredient, methylisothiazolinone, acts as a preservative and can cause skin irritation and skin allergic reaction. In fact, reactions to the chemical were so prevalent that the American Contact Dermatitis Society named it the "Allergen of the Year" in 2013. Further concerning is the fact that independent studies have shown that many sunscreens do not protect as well as they claim to, and any product labeled over SPF 50 is likely no more protective than SPF 50 itself.
With all of this information you would think, just stay out of the sun, right? Actually sunlight is very important to a person and is needed daily. Sunlight helps your body make Vitamin D which is a necessary vitamin for your body to function, and it helps regulate your circadian rhythm (sleep and awake cycle) and mood. So the best advice out there at this time is to 1) wear protective clothing 2) avoid peak sunlight hours when the sun is at its most powerful and 3) use a mineral sunscreen with zinc oxide and/or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient.
Further Reading: Information obtained from the article The Trouble With Oxybenzone and Other Sunscreen Chemicals found on the website www.ewg.org and can be read by clicking here.
And that's it! Easy enough to remember, right? LOL. As I explained in the first installment, this is a journey, and not something that comes overnight. It will take a while before you are really able to scan for ingredients and know right away which are good and bad. You can use the websites and apps that I recommended in the previous post to help along the way. But bottom line, if you know there are health concerns associated with certain ingredients, even if evidence is not yet overwhelming or governmental regulations have not been implemented, why would you take the chance? Obviously my generation and my parents generation and generations before, have survived just fine using such products in our everyday lives. But it is important to realize that it typically takes decades for the government and enforcement agencies to ban certain ingredients and chemicals and they will only do so with overwhelming evidence. By the time that evidence were to be obtained, millions of people will already be effected. All this to say, don't just assume something is healthy just because it is sold in a store. And on the flip side of that, don't always assume something is healthy because it is "all natural" or "DIY". You should research and know for yourself what is in a product and why it is in that product, and be responsible for looking out for yourself and your family! Because you and your family are worth it, right?
Beane Freeman L, Blair A, Lubin JH, et al.2009. Mortality from lymphohematopoietic malignancies among workers in formaldehyde industries: The national cancer institute cohort. Journal of The National Cancer Institute. 101(10):751-761.
Bondi Cara AM, Marks Julia L, Wroblewski Lauren B, Raatikainen Heidi S, Lenox Shannon R, Gebhardt Kay E. 2015. Human and environmental toxicity of sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS): Evidence for safe use in household cleaning products. Environ Health Insights. 9:27-32.
Brashear A, et. al. 1996. Ethylene oxide neurotoxicity: a cluster of 12 nurses with peripheral and central nervous system toxicity. Neurology. 46(4):992-998.
California. EPA. Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment. 2017.
Hauptmann M, Lubin JH, Stewart PA, Hayes RB, Blair A. 2003. Mortality from lymphohematopoietic malignancies among workers in formaldehyde industries. Journal of The National Cancer Institute. 95(21):1615-1623.
Hauptmann M, Lubin JH, Stewart PA, Hayes RB, Blair A. 2004. Mortality from solid cancers among workers in formaldehyde industries. American Journal of Epidemiology. 159(12):1117-1130.
Krause M, Klit A, Blomberg Jensen M, Søeborg T, Frederiksen H, Schlumpf M, Lichtensteiger W, Skakkebaek NE, Drzewiecki KT. 2012. Sunscreens: are they beneficial for health? An overview of endocrine disrupting properties of UV-filters. International Journal of Andrology, 35: 424–436.
Rodriguez E, Valbuena MC, Rey M, Porras de Quintana L. 2006. Causal agents of photoallergic contact dermatitis diagnosed in the National Institute of Dermatology of Colombia. Photodermatol Photoimmunol Photomed 22(4): 189-92.