Although of course there are tons of incredibly toxic ingredients we as humans should try to avoid, this is a good place to start when looking at the ingredient lists on the products that we all buy. I have covered a few of them here in-depth before, but having a bunch of these must-avoid ingredients in one place is a helpful shopping tool. Have a look…
1. DEA (diethanolamine) – This is a “wetting” agent and is primarily used in shampoos and lotions to provide lather… but it can also be found in brake fluid, degreasers and antifreeze. Supposedly this chemical is not too harmful all by itself; but it reacts none-too-nicely with other chemicals in our products and can create a very potent carcinogen called nitrosodiethanolamine (NDEA), which is readily absorbed through the skin and has been linked with stomach, esophagus, liver and bladder cancers.
2. Parabens Of Any Kind – These have been linked to cancer, immunotoxicity, and organ system toxicity, and exposure of newborn male mammals to butylparaben adversely affects the secretion of testosterone and the function of the male reproductive system.Sounds lovely, no? They can mimic the hormone estrogen, which is known to play a role in the development of breast cancers, and can be found in shampoos, commercial moisturizers, shaving gels, cleansing gels, personal lubricants, topical pharmaceuticals and toothpaste. Basically, everywhere – so be sure to read those labels. More on parabens.
3. BHT (Butylated Hydroxytoluene) – Primarily used to prevent fats in foods from becoming rancid, but it is also used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, jet fuels, rubber, petroleum products, electrical transformer oil, and embalming fluid. The Cosmetics Database rates BHT as having a “high hazard to high hazard depending on product usage” and says it has been shown to be linked to cancer, developmental toxicity, allergies, neurotoxicity, endocrine disruption, biochemical or cellular level changes.
4. Propylene Glycol– This is a chemical found in personal care products that acts as a penetration enhancer that keeps products from melting in heat and/or freezing when it is cold. Oh, and it is used as anti-freeze as well as in tons of personal care products. It alters the structure of the skin by allowing chemicals to penetrate deep beneath it while increasing their ability to reach the blood stream. PG also goes by names like 1,2-Dihydroxypropane; 2-Hydroxypropanol; Methylethy Glycol; 1,2-Propanediol; Propane-1,2-Diol, and has been shown to be linked to cancer, developmental/reproductive issues, allergies/immunotoxicity, neurotoxicity and endocrine disruption.
5. Triclosan– Triclosan is normally used as a bacteria killer. Found in tons of products from deodorants to toothpaste to household cleaners, triclosan mainly acts like an antibiotic, trying to kill anything that it comes in contact with. It can also combine with chlorine in our tap water to make chloroform gas, and one study even showed that triclosan was broken down into dioxins in river water because of the presence of sunlight. Because everyone wants “antibiotic” soaps and lotions, triclosan is very popular with product makers, even though regular old soap is just as effective. Tricolsan is similar to the pesticide Agent Orange and can cause decreased fertility, birth defects and damage to major body organs. More on Triclosan.
6. Bisphenol A – Otherwise known as BPA, this is a chemical compound primarily used to harden plastic. A 2010 report from the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) raised concerns regarding exposure of fetuses, infants, and young children. BPA mimics the sex hormone estradiol when exposed to high temperatures and/or certain dish detergents, and in mice and rats there is evidence that low doses of bisphenol A can cause structural damage to the brain, hyperactivity, abnormal sexual behavior, increased fat formation, early puberty and disrupted reproductive cycles. BPA-laden plastic is used in some baby and water bottles, sports equipment, medical and dental devices, dental fillings and sealants, eyeglass lenses, CDs and DVDs, and household electronics. Look for “BPA-Free” labels on any plastic you buy. More on Bisphenol A
7. Polyethylene – Polyethylene is a plastic with an annual production of approximately 80 million metric tons, and while most of it ends up in landfills and takes several centuries to degrade, it is also used in some skincare products as an abrasive, adhesive, binder, bulking agent, and emulsion stabilizer. It has been linked to cancer, allergies/immunotoxicity, organ system toxicity (non-reproductive), skin irritation, neurotoxicity, and biochemical or cellular level changes.
8. Sodium Lauryl Sulfate – Although the jury is still out on this ingredient, I would rather err on the side of caution when it comes to stuff like this. This synthetic substance is a surfactant and is used in any task requiring the removal of oily stains and residues. For example, it is found in higher concentrations with industrial products including engine degreasers, floor cleaners, and car wash soaps. It is also used in lower concentrations with toothpastes, shampoos, and shaving foams. It can cause cause eye irritations, skin rashes, hair loss, scalp scurf similar to dandruff, and allergic reactions.
9. 1,4-dioxane – Primarily used as a solvent in manufacturing situations, it is also commonly found in personal care products because it is an accidental byproduct of the ethoxylation process that goes on when cosmetic products are made. A study by the Organic Consumers Association determined that that dioxane was inside many organic and natural products, and another study by the Campaign For Safe Cosmetics found that when laboratory animals were tested with 1,4-dioxane at the lowest parts per billion level over the animal’s lifetime they developed cancer, and that the combined effects of lifetime exposure to 1,4-dioxane and other carcinogens can create synergistic effects, so that levels from multiple compounds add up and even multiply to create greater risk. The Environmental Protection Agency classifies 1,4-Dioxane as a Group B2, probable human carcinogen, based on induction of nasal cavity and liver carcinomas in multiple strains of rats, liver carcinomas in mice, and gall bladder carcinomas in guinea pigs.
10. Butyl Cellosolve – Found in a wide variety of household cleaning agents like glass cleaners, oven cleaners, and general degreasers, it is also known as butyl glycol, Dowanol, Bane-Clene and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (EGBE), which has made it on to the list of California’s toxic air substances. Some animal studies indicate that it produces reproductive problems, such as testicular damage, reduced fertility, death of embryos and birth defects, and in humans, it can irritate mucous membranes and cause liver and kidney damage. More on Butyl Cellosolve.
Like I have said before, sometimes it is hard to avoid all toxic ingredients, but concentrating on eliminating some of the worst offenders from your products is a good way to start!