In no period of our history have we been so concerned about the subject of toxic overload. We are seeing a completely different food, chemical, man-made radiation and social landscape than we have seen ever before. With these changes, and the positives some changes bring, we must observe that in no period of history have we eaten so poorly and been exposed to so many toxins. Heart disease, cancer, allergies, mental illness, birth defects, infertility, learning disabilities and degenerative diseases such as arthritis, digestive disorders, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, epilepsy and chronic fatigue are rising at alarming rates! Chronic illnesses formerly the purview of the very old, are now striking our children and those in the prime of their life. We are spending so much time and money on research and medical services with a lot of the time, little to show. We are not lengthening our lifespan, fewer people are surviving until 90 and those who do have an increasingly lower quality of life. Credit for today’s relatively long life span belongs to improved sanitisation and the reduction of infant mortality.
Chemical sensitivities and problems with the immune system are common and we have almost forgotten that our natural state is one of balance, wholeness and vitality. We are being bombarded with poisons and impurities in our air, food and water, many knowingly added to apparently ‘protect and strengthen us’.
We are potentially exposed to 60+ toxic chemicals daily in the household solely through cleaning and personal care products. These chemicals have been linked to asthma, cancer, reproductive disorders, hormone disruption and neurotoxicity. Some of these chemicals are bioaccumulative and gradually build up in your body over time as exposure continues (Greenpeace 2017).
Of the 80 000 or so chemicals used in the manufacture of consumer products, well over 1000 are considered endocrine disruptors or hormone disruptors (Dellavalle 2017). Endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDCs) are chemicals that interfere with the action of hormones. EDCs have been shown to contribute to various endocrine (hormone) disorders including infertility, premature puberty, endometriosis, metabolic syndrome and obesity (Janesick & Blumberg 2016).
Six chemicals to avoid in personal care and household products:
Where is it found?
Plastic food storage containers, pesticides, nail polishes, paints, furniture finishes, deodorants, perfumes and colognes, hairspray, moisturisers, plastic toys and toothbrushes.
Why it is used
Phthalates are added to PVC products to make the product flexible. Phthalates are also added to products with synthetic fragrances to lubricate other ingredients and carry the fragrance. Diethyl phthalate (DEP) is a widely used fragrance ingredient in cosmetics (David Suzuki Foundation, 2017).
Health implications of phthalates
An endocrine disruptor, phthalates have been linked to premature puberty in girls, reduced sperm count in men, and reproductive defects in the developing male fetus (when the mother is exposed during pregnancy) (Griffin 2007, Botton et al 2016). Phthalate metabolites are associated with insulin resistance and obesity in men. (Stahlhut et al 2007, CHOICE 2017). Studies have found that women who develop breast cancer have higher levels of certain types of phthalates in their system.
Where is it found?
Toothpaste, antibacterial soap, deodorants, antiperspirants, cleansers, hand sanitisers, mouthwash, cosmetics and laundry detergent.
Why it is used Triclosan is an antibacterial agent and a preservative and may be the active ingredient in household products that are advertised as ‘antibacterial’ (David Suzuki Foundation, 2017).
Health implications of triclosan
Triclosan is an endocrine disruptor and skin irritant. Results of a study, published in Environmental Research, suggest that exposure during pregnancy to triclosan is associated with adverse birth outcomes (ASPPH 2017).
Triclosan does not break down easily and can build up in the environment (European Commission 2009, Halden 2014). In the environment, triclosan also reacts to form dioxins, a toxic and bioaccumulative compound (Environment Canada 2002).
The widespread use of triclosan in consumer products may contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria (David Suzuki Foundation, 2017).
Sodium lauryl sulphate (SLS) / Sodium laureth sulphate (SLES)
Where is it found?
Shampoo, body wash, cleanser, mascara, acne treatment and dish soap.
Why it is used SLS and SLES are surfactants and an ingredient in cosmetics, particularly those that bubble and foam (David Suzuki Foundation, 2017).
Health implications of SLS/SLES Skin, lung and eye irritants (WHO 1997).
Where are they found?
Up to 75-90% of cosmetics contain parabens. It has been estimated that women are exposed to 50 mg per day of parabens from cosmetics. Parabens are also in body wash, deodorants, shampoos and cleansers, toothpaste and hand sanitisers.
Why are they used?
Parabens are a preservative and antimicrobial agent (Pycke et al 2015).
Health implications of parabens
Parabens are endocrine disruptors found to be associated with increased risk of breast cancer and disrupted male reproductive functions (DHI 2007, Darbre 2008). In addition, studies indicate that methylparaben applied on the skin reacts with UVB leading to increased skin aging and DNA damage (Handa et al 2006, Vince 2004).
Where is it found?
Moisturisers, sunscreen, cosmetics, conditioners, shampoo and hair spray.
Why it is used?
Propylene glycol is a skin-conditioning agent.
Health implications of propylene glycol Propylene glycol enhances the penetration of other ingredients and can therefore allow other harmful ingredients to be absorbed more readily through the skin (David Suzuki Foundation, 2017).
Where are they found?
Up to 3000 chemicals are used as fragrances in laundry detergents and softeners, household cleaning products, air fresheners, perfumes and colognes, cosmetics and personal care products.
Health implications of synthetic fragrances
Many are irritants and can trigger allergies, migraines, and asthma symptoms.
People with multiple chemical sensitivities (MCS) or those who are environmentally sensitive are particularly vulnerable to the effects of artificial fragrances. Individual fragrance ingredients have been associated with cancer, neurotoxicity and other adverse health effects (David Suzuki Foundation, 2017, Thyssen et al 2009, Sears 2007, Anderson 1998).
What can you do?
Unavoidably these chemicals are widespread in our environment. To minimise your exposure source cleaner household and personal care products for the benefit of your health and the environment. Choose sustainably sourced plant and mineral based ingredients over petrochemical sourced ingredients. Always obtain information from a trusted source and beware of greenwashing. These industries are largely unregulated so do your research before switching brands. There are some great ‘healthy swaps’ available for personal care and cleaning products. My favourites include Abode Healthy Home Products, http://www.cleanabode.com.au Young Living Essential Oils (ditch the artificial fragrances with great quality essential oils) https://www.youngliving.com/en_AU . Richglen Olives Estate (I swear by the soothing balm as a facial moisturiser) https://richglenoliveoil.com/ collections and the best natural soaps, scrubs etc at Bare Nature’sKin https://barenatureskin.com.au/
Reduce exposure to pesticides by buying organic produce and minimise packaging when purchasing food. Choose glass and stainless steel vessels to store food and drink. Every small improvement counts, for our health now, and the health of future generations.
Anderson, R. C., & Anderson, J. H. 1998, ‘Acute toxic effects of fragrance products’, Archives of Environmental Health, vol. 53, no. 2, pp. 138-46.
ASPPH, 2017. ASPPH Brown: Urinary triclosan concentration during pregnancy associated with birth outcomes. (Online), Available: https://www.aspph.org/brown-urinary-triclosan-concentration-during-pregnancy-associated-with-birth-outcomes/?c=1 (7 November 2017).
Botton, J., Philippat, C., Calafat A. M., Carles, S., Charles, M. A., Slama, R. 2016, ‘The EDEN mother-child cohort study group. Phthalate pregnancy exposure and male offspring growth from the intra-uterine period to five years of age’, Environmental Research, vol. 151, pp. 601-609.
Canosa, P., Morales, S., Rodriguez, I., Rubi. E., Cela, R., Gomez, M. 2005, ‘Aquatic degradation of triclosan and formation of toxic chlorophenols in presence of low concentrations of free chlorine’, Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry, vol. 383, no. 7-8, pp. 119-1126.
CHOICE, 2017. Chemicals in cosmetics – are they safe? (Online), Available: https://www.choice.com.au/health-and-body/beauty-and-personal-care/skin-care-and-cosmetics/articles/chemicals-in-cosmetics (6 November 2017).
Darbre, P. D. & Harvey, P. W., 2008, ‘Paraben esters: review of recent studies of endocrine toxicity, absorption, esterase and human exposure, and discussion of potential human health risks’, Journal of Applied Toxicology vol. 28, no.5, pp. 561-78.
David Suzuki Foundation, 2017. The Dirty Dozen: Dibutyl Phthalate – David Suzuki Foundation. (Online), Available: https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-dibutyl-phthalate/ (6 November 2017).
David Suzuki Foundation, 2017. The Dirty Dozen: Parabens – David Suzuki Foundation. (Online) Available: https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-parabens/ (6 November 2017).
David Suzuki Foundation, 2017. The Dirty Dozen: Sodium Laureth Sulfate – David Suzuki Foundation. (Online), Available: https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-sodium-laureth-sulfate/ (6 November 2017).
David Suzuki Foundation, 2017. The Dirty Dozen: Triclosan – David Suzuki Foundation. (Online), Available: https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-triclosan/ (6 November 2017).
David Suzuki Foundation, 2017. The Dirty Dozen: Parfum (a.k.a. fragrance) – David Suzuki Foundation. (Online), Available: https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-parfum-fragrance/ (6 November 2017).
David Suzuki Foundation, 2017. The Dirty Dozen: PEG Compounds and their contaminants – David Suzuki Foundation. (Online), Available: https://davidsuzuki.org/queen-of-green/dirty-dozen-peg-compounds-contaminants/ (6 November 2017).
Dellavalle, C., 2017. Childhood Cancer: More Evidence Points to Chemical Exposure EWG. (Online), Available: https://www.ewg.org/cancer/2016/09/childhood-cancer-more-evidence-points-chemical-exposure?utm_campaign=Social+Traffic&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook&utm_content=1508769876#.WgEhUbZL23I (7 November 2017).
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Halden, R.U., 2014, On the need and speed of regulating triclosan and triclocarban in the United States. Environmental Science & Technology, vol. 48, no. 7, pp. 3603–3611.
Handa, O., Kokura, S., Adachi, S., Takagi, T., Naito, Y., Tanigawa, T., Yoshida, N., Yoshikawa, T. 2006, ‘Methylparaben potentiates UV-induced damage of skin keratinocytes’, Toxicology, vol. 227, no. 1-2, pp.62-72.
Janesick, A.S. & Blumberg, B. 2016, ‘Obesogens: an emerging threat to public health’, American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, Review, pp. 559-565.
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Pycke, B. F., Geer, L. A., Dalloul, M., Abulafia, O., Halden, R. U., 2015, ‘Maternal and fetal exposure to parabens in a multiethnic urban U.S. population’, Environment International, vol. 84, pp. 193–200.
Sears, M. E., 2007. The medical perspective on environmental sensitivities. Canadian Human Rights Commission. (Online), Available: http://www.chrc-ccdp.gc.ca/sites/default/files/envsensitivity_en.pdf (7 November 2017).
Stahlhut, R. W., van Wijngaarden, E., Dye, T. D., Cook, S., Swan, S. H., 2007, ‘Concentrations of urinary phthalate metabolites are associated with increased waste circumference and insulin resistence in adult U.S.males’, Environmental Health Perspectives, vol 115, no. 6.
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