Many of us are aware of the benefits of eating organic food both for our health and for the health of our environment. What many of us don’t realize is that what we put on our bodies largest organ (our skin) is just as important too! Such things are shampoo, body lotion, make-up, hair dye etc. are having a detrimental effect on your health without us even knowing it. Read on to discover why organic skin and body care is so important and what to watch out for when purchasing.
There are many health concerns associated with conventional body care products. In Canada there are thousands of chemicals in our personal care products that are being absorbed our body’s . Many of these ingredients are known to interfere with hormones, cause skin, lung and eye irritation, and have been shown to cause various types of cancers.
Did you know?
1/3 of all personal care products contain one or more ingredients classified as possible human carcinogens such as: parabens, synthetic colors FD & C and formaldehyde as examples.
The average adult uses 9 personal care products daily potentially exposing them to 126 chemicals every day.
89% of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products have not been evaluated for safety.
Over the last 30 years only 9 of the 10,500 ingredients used in personal care products have been banned or restricted.
Loose regulations in Canada
Health Canada has loose regulations when it comes to personal care items. Companies and products are loosely regulated only requiring the list of ingredients are submitted by the manufacturer to the governing body within 10 days of the product being on the store shelves. The products themselves are not tested or evaluated.
There is a hotlist of ingredients Health Canada focuses on with recommended use of these particular ingredients. The hot list does not take into consideration the combination of items a person uses in one day which could expose them to a dangerous amount of chemicals.
In addition there are allowable limits of ingredients known to be problematic. So ingredients that are considered a high to moderate human health concern are still allowed in personal care products. ex. BHA.
Besides the health concerns, there are 3 million tons of PPCP’s (pharmaceutical and personal care products) such as prescription drugs, cosmetics, fragrances, detergents, menstrual care products, toothpastes and sunscreens make their way into waterways each year according to the EPA and the US Census Bureau. Studies are showing that ecosystems are being adversely affect. Ex. endocrine disrupters such as phthalates affecting reproduction of fish.
What to Watch Out For:
When purchasing skin and body care take care to read the label and watch out for the ingredients below: (Taken from the David Suzuki Foundation Dirty Dozen List for Cosmetics)
BHA and BHT
In moisturizer, makeup and food packaging as a preservative. May cause cancer and interfere with hormone function. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. These are not on Health Canada hotlist.
Coal Tar Dyes
In hair dyes (mainly dark colors) and used to pave roads and seal roofing, look for P-Phenylenediamine and colors identified as CI followed by 5 digits in other products. Ex. CI7500. Potential to cause cancer and can be contaminated with heavy metals. On hotlist as a caution disclaimer and must be written on dye label.
Cyclomethicone and Siloxanes
In moisturizer, make-up, hair products and as a sealant around tub and sinks. May interfere with hormone function and damage liver. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Not on hotlist.
DEA, MEA and TEA (diethanolamine, mono, tri)
In creamy and foaming products such as moisturizer and shampoo. Can react to form cancer-causing nitrosamines. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Not on hotlist.
Found in finger nail polish, plastic toys and building materials. Toxic to human reproduction and may interfere with hormone function. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Not on hotlist.
Widely used in hair products, moisturizers, vinyl flooring, wrinkle free shirts and carpets etc. Formaldehyde causes cancer according to the US Department of Health. On the Canadian hotlist with an allowable limit.
Widely used in makeup and moisturizers to prevent bacterial growth. May interfere with hormone function and is associated with breast cancer. Not on hotlist.
Widely used even in some products marked as unscented. Mixture of chemicals that can trigger allergies and asthma. Some linked to cancer and neurotoxicity. Some harmful to fish and other wildlife. Not on hotlist.
Widely used in conditioners, moisturizers, deodorants and some pharmaceuticasl etc. Can be contaminated with 1, 4 dioxane which may cause cancer. Not on hotlist.
In hair products, lip balm, lipstick and skin care products. By product of the petroleum industry. Can be contaminated with cancer causing impurities. Not on hotlist.
Sodium Laureth Sulfate (SLES) and Sodium Lauryl Sulfate (SLS)
In products that foam such as shampoo, toothpaste and bubble bath. SLES can be contaminated with 1, 4 Dioxane. SLS may cause liver damage. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. Not on hotlist.
In “Anti-Bacterial” products such as toothpaste, soaps, hand sanitizers. May interfere with hormone function and contribute to antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Harmful to fish and other wildlife. On hotlist with allowable limits.
If you are interested in learning more about natural and organic skin products and what to avoid check out the resources below.
Dying To Look Good by Christine Hoza Farlow, D.C.
A Consumer’s Dictionary of Cosmetic Ingredients by Ruth Winter, M.S.
No More Dirty Looks by Siobhan O’Connor & Alexandra Spuntvernment focus is on what goes in our bodies
Story of Cosmetics by Annie Leonard
Dirty Dozen of Cosmetics - David Suzuki Foundation
Cosmetic Ingredient Hotlist – Health Canada
Skin Deep – Environmental Working Group