Protect yourself and your loved ones. Use this guide to avoid some of the most common household and cosmetic toxins. Whether you’re reading this as an industry tradesman or a stay-at-home mom, you are a consumer and should be aware.
1, 4-dioxane is a by-product of a chemical process of ethoxylation, in which ethylene oxide a known breast carcinogen, is added to other chemicals to make them less harsh. Readily penetrates the skin.
The U.S. EPA considers this chemical, a probable human carcinogen, and is suspected by the state of California to cause cancer and birth defects. Also, it is a suspected kidney toxicant, neurotoxicant and respiratory toxicant.
Found in: Shampoos, conditioners, skin care, personal care, laundry detergent, household cleaners.
Avoid: Polyethylene glycol or ‘PEG’, polyoxyethylene, any ingredient with ‘eth’ in the name such as sodium laureth sulphate, ceteareth or oleth.
Nitrosamines have been identified as one of the most potent classes of carcinogens, having caused cancer in more than 40 different animal species as well as in humans.
NDELA (nitrosodiethanolamine) is the specific nitrosamine “to which human exposure is the greatest.” Since it occurs in cosmetics and is “absorbed readily through the skin (Carcinogenesis 1985, National Cancer Institute”. Nitrosamines are created when nitrosating agents are combined with amines.
Found in: Cosmetics, skin care, personal care, hair care.
Avoid: MEA (Monoethanolamine), DEA (Diethanolamine), TEA (Triethanolamine)
e.g. Cocamide MEA, DEA Oleth-3 Phosphate, TEA Lauryl Sulfate.
Phthalates have had a lot of buzz in the past few years and more and more people are asking they be removed from products. These toxic chemicals are used as fragrance ingredients; plasticizers; solvents, masking agents; and for perfuming.
The risks: ‘Fragrance’ can contain up to 400 separate ingredients, including tluene and phthalates. Phthalates are an endocrine disruptor that can harm the developing fetus and the male testes. Long-term exposure causes liver and kidney damage. high-level exposure causes irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, and headaches.
The US EPA found that 100% of perfumes contain toluene, which could cause liver, kidney and brain damage as well as damage to the developing fetus. Synthetic fragrances are known to trigger asthma attacks. Symptoms reported to the FDA from fragrance exposure have included headaches, dizziness, rashes, skin discoloration, violent coughing and vomiting, and allergic skin irritation. Fragrance is a common skin irritant.
Found in: Air fresheners, cologne, perfumes, cosmetics, hairspray, nail polish paints, plastics, household perfume products, floor polish, window cleaning products, adhesives, toys and shower curtains.
Avoid: Fragrance (Parfum), Dibutyl Phthalate (DBP), Diethyl Phthalate (DEP).
Used as preservatives in the cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries and as a food additive.
The risks: Parabens are hormone disrupters and have been shown t be a reproductive toxin in animal studies. Parabens act as a false estrogen, which leach onto estrogen receptors in the body, and therefore have been detected in breast cancer tumors.
Found in: Deodorants cosmetics, shampoos, moisturizer, shaving gels, make-up and toothpaste, cleaning products and pharmaceuticals.
Avoid: Methyl, Ethyl, Propyl and Butyl Paraben, and Japanese Honeysuckle Extract (Plantservative).
Used as: Cosmetic biocides; denaturants; and preservatives.
The risks: Formaldehyde is classified as a Category 2 carcinogen. Low level exposure causes irritation of the eyes, nose and throat, and can cause skin and lung allergies. It is also a central nervous system depressant.
Found in: Particle board, pressed wood and other newer construction; detergents, cosmetics, shampoos, bubble baths, hair conditioners, athlete’s foot treatments, skin disinfectants and even mouthwashes!
Avoid: Sodium hydroxymethylglycinate (Suttocide), Imidazolidinyl urea (Germall 115), Diazolidinyl urea (Germall II), Quaternium-15, DMDM Hydantoin (Glydant), 2-bromo-2nitropropane-1, 3diol (Bronopol).
The risks: This hormone disruptor accumulates in our bodies and creates bacteria resistance to antibiotics and antibacterial products.
Along with its negative health effects, triclosan also impacts the environment, ending up in lakes, rivers and other water sources, where it is toxic to aquatic life.
Found in: Antibacterial soaps, deodorants, toothpaste, cosmetics, fabrics and plastics.
Avoid: Triclosan (Microban, Irgasan DP-300, Lexol 300, Ster-Zac, Cloxifenolum, Biofresh).
You can also look up chemicals on the EPA’s new ChemView, which lets you find chemical safety and regulatory data, and compare chemical use, health and environmental effects. Or, read their blog post about ChemView.
A GOOD RULE OF THUMB: If you cannot pronounce the ingredient, it probably isn’t good for you. Another suggestion: avoid products with more than five ingredients.