What’s your morning routine? Do you take a shower? Use soap, shampoo, maybe some conditioner, then some moisturizer, shaving cream, deodorant? You should of course also be putting on sunscreen as well. Lip balm? Some of us women folk put on make-up. Brush your teeth too I hope. Hair spray, mousse or gel? Adults in the U.S. apply about 10 personal care products to their bodies every day. This exposes you to about 125 chemical compounds, more if you add perfume or cologne.
Have you ever thought about whether or not these products are safe? I know I didn’t until recently. I made the assumption, like most people, that the government wouldn’t allow anything dangerous to be sold and used on a daily basis. Some of these 125 chemicals are benign, but many are not. The dangerous chemicals can put you and your family (and pets!) at risk for cancer, allergies, asthma, and reproductive issues; the list for our kids is longer and includes ADD/ADHD, autism, and even brain development problems. Have you heard “rumors” about known carcinogens used in baby bubble bath (http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=221; http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-03-12-formaldehyde_N.htm) or lead and fish scales in lipstick (http://safecosmetics.org/article.php?id=327)?
You didn’t realize that? You thought the Food and Drug Administration kept things safe? The FDA cannot require companies to prove the claims they make. Think about this the next time you want to buy some great anti-wrinkle cream! There are no required health studies or testing before products are allowed onto the market, except for color additives. In short, the FDA has no ability to enforce the safety of the public when it comes to cosmetics and personal care products. The “FDA has not set limits for contaminants, such as lead, in cosmetics” (http://www.fda.gov/cosmetics/productandingredientsafety/productinformation/ucm137224.htm) so what is there to enforce? And what your skin doesn’t absorb goes down the drain and into our environment.
According to Nena Baker, author of The Body Toxic, the FDA’s office of Cosmetics and Colors only employs 30 people and its operating budget had not changed in nearly twenty years (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nena-baker/being-clean-and-pretty-ha_b_657923.html). Its budget, by the way, does not include anything for product safety assessments.
Jane Houlihan, Senior VP for Research for the Environmental Working Group (http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/2011/04/13/why-this-matters/), reported that scientists found a relationship back in 2005 between phthalates (pronounced thay-lates) (chemical compound found in many fragrances – not just in perfumes and colognes but in anything that smells nice) and the feminization of U.S. male babies. Re-read that one! Parabens were found in breast tumor tissue; the possible source cited was deodorant. (I can’t give THAT up!) And all this gets washed down the drain into our environment. Nothing like a few hormone disrupters in the water for wildlife!
What can you do? Start by being aware. The Environmental Working Group has a great website http://www.ewg.org/ and cosmetics database http://www.ewg.org/skindeep/. I looked at the latter and found Rejuva Minerals make-up. So far I have tried their foundation powder and blush and really like them. I am relieved that my family uses Shaklee products as I know these undergo stringent testing and are safe for us, the kids, and the environment. Another useful place to look up your favorite products is the National Institutes of Health website http://householdproducts.nlm.nih.gov/. Don’t believe the hype – check it out for yourself. It all starts with YOU!